UPDATED: Nebraska governor signs bill to defund Planned Parenthood

The Trump administration gave states the green light to deny abortion providers Title X funds, so Nebraska did.

(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
(Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts (R) has repeatedly tried to deny federal family planning funds to Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, and on Wednesday he signed a bill into law that does just that.

“This is what happens when states follow in the steps of the Trump-Pence administration — women suffer,” said Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President, Planned Parenthood Federation of America in a statement.


Lawmakers passed a budget bill, 38 to 6, on Tuesday that blocks health clinics from participating in the Title X federal family planning program if they perform, counsel, or refer patients to abortion services. If signed, the law would be effective immediately on July 1st. According to the Lincoln Journal Star, Planned Parenthood would have to provide 30 days’ notice to its Title X patients to inform them that that it can no longer serve them — that’s 8,000 Nebraskans.

Ricketts’ first introduced the restrictive family-planning measure into the budget, but it was later amended to include referral exceptions for “emergency situations.” Clinics will also need to show physical, financial, and legal separation from abortion services.

Title X is a competitive grant program and the only federal family-planning program dedicated to offering reproductive care to low-income people. In Nebraska, the state’s health department is the main recipient of the grant and distributes federal dollars to 13 health care providers, including Planned Parenthood. And the Planned Parenthood affiliate sees roughly one-third of the 28,000 patients served by these federal dollars. The money does not go to abortion but to services like breast exams, pap smears, and birth control.

Meg Mikolajczyk of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland in Nebraska, told the Lincoln Journal Star that the law would cause 80 percent of Lincoln Title X patients to lose the provider of their choice.

By excluding qualified health care providers, Nebraska lawmakers may be running afoul of Title X federal law. “While Title X says that no Title X funds can be used for abortion, to suggest that means that a facility receiving Title X funds cannot also do abortions with other funding is a distortion of the federal statute they are citing,”  National Health Law Program (NHeLP) Reproductive Health Director Susan Berke Fogel recently told ThinkProgress.

The Trump administration in April gave states the green light to exclude Planned Parenthood or other abortion providers from receiving family planning federal funds after the president quietly signed legislation that rolled back an Obama-era rule protecting those funds. So far in 2018, several states have taken aim at the provider’s Title X funding but none have been quite as successful as lawmakers in Nebraska.


For example, South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster (R) signed an executive order in August, targeting Planned Parenthood. The move was viewed as political and inconsequential as the state affiliate was never a subrecipient of the Title X grant. And last year, the Arizona legislature passed a bill that required the state’s health department to apply for the family planning grant as it hasn’t in the past. If Arizona successfully bids for Title X funds, Planned Parenthood would “effectively be ruled out of competing as a subgrantee,” said spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Arizona.

Conservatives have been trying to exclude abortion providers from federal family planning funds for years and, in Nebraska, they finally found success. It’s unclear whether other providers, like community health centers, can fulfill Planned Parenthood’s role in Nebraska, but a recent Kaiser Family Foundation national survey suggests that doing so will be a challenge.


UPDATE (4/5/18): This piece was updated to reflect Ricketts’ signing the bill into law and comments from Planned Parenthood.