By Guy Page
The state of Vermont will give an estimated $750,000 of Vermont taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood of New England, to offset the federal Title X funding it lost by choosing to continue to perform abortions. This replacement funding was budgeted by the 2018 Legislature as a contingency measure, Vermont Health Commissioner Mark Levine said August 19.
As printed in edited form in the Chester Telegraph, Levine’s statement reads: “Following new federal limits on how federal Title X funding can be used, Health Commissioner Mark Levine, MD has notified the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that the state of Vermont will stop using those funds provided to Planned Parenthood of Northern New England for family planning services in Vermont. Instead, the Vermont Department of Health will use state funds that have been reserved to ensure these services can continue.”
“Complying with the changes to Title X would disrupt the state’s network of health services and providers’ obligation to give patients the range of options,” Levine said. All Title X money at present is allocated to Planned Parenthood and spent at its 10 Vermont clinics. Planned Parenthood already receives $300,000 in state funding. The new allocation would boost the total transfer of Vermont taxpayer-generated money to Planned Parenthood to over $1 million.
The decision by state officials to spend Vermont tax money when federal funds are available has some Vermonters upset. “The state should look for an alternative service provider,” Carol Frenier of Chelsea said this morning. “We are deep in debt in Vermont and cannot afford to turn down the Title X money. To do so is to make a political statement in support of Planned Parenthood at the expense of Vermont taxpayers.”
Instead, couldn’t the State of Vermont administer federal Title X funds to other, non-abortion advising/performing community health clinics or crisis pregnancy centers? It’s not as if Planned Parenthood is the only organization capable of screening for cancer or dispense contraception.
According to Levine, the State of Vermont’s compliance with the new federal guidelines would violate Act 47, the law passed by the Vermont Legislature last year to protect abortion by state statute – better known as H-57. Levine explains:
“Complying with the restrictions would also violate state law. In 2019, Vermont enshrined in law ‘the fundamental right of every individual who becomes pregnant to choose to carry a pregnancy to term, to give birth to a child, or to have an abortion’ and prohibited interference with ‘regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services or information, the choice of a consenting individual to terminate the individual’s pregnancy.’”
Get that, Vermont? The law that its supporters in the Legislature repeatedly said would “change nothing” and “would only protect the status quo” is now the sole reason why Vermont taxpayers must give hard cash to an already well-funded, politically-powerful organization like Planned Parenthood. What’s more, these same legislators must have known this day was coming – that’s why they (as Levine noted) set aside the money a year earlier.
Vermonters shouldn’t expect any financial prudence on this issue from Gov. Phil Scott. Apparently, he knew about the 2018 set-aside too, and agrees with it, as he stated in the August 19 press release: “It’s important that we maintain women’s rights and access to health care,” said Gov. Phil Scott. “It’s unfortunate we are at this point, but I appreciate the collaboration with the Attorney General and legislature to put aside contingency funding in the 2018 budget. Vermont joins Hawaii, Illinois, New York, Oregon, Washington, Massachusetts and Maryland in foregoing Title X.”
But for other Vermonters, this is a case of zealots unnecessarily throwing money that doesn’t belong to them at ‘their issue.’ As Brookfield farmer John Klar noted this morning, “Most Vermonters are sick of financial waste — for whatever cause. They are once again throwing away money and common sense for an ideological zealotry, in one of the poorest states in the nation.”
Lawrence Zupan of Manchester added, “Call me quaint, but wouldn’t dealing with the opiate epidemic successfully be a higher priority than financing abortions? Or strengthening law enforcement as part of the same matrix of solutions?”
Statehouse Headliners is intended primarily to educate, not advocate. It is e-mailed to an ever-growing list of interested Vermonters, public officials and media. Guy Page is affiliated with the Vermont Energy Partnership; the Vermont Alliance for Ethical Healthcare; and Physicians, Families and Friends for a Better Vermont.