Tony Perkins Implies Government Should De-Fund Major Hospitals
As we’ve covered before, the religious right’s campaign to de-fund Planned Parenthood rests on the shaky ‘fungibility’ argument. In short, conservatives argue that even though the federal funds Planned Parenthood receives are legally prohibited from paying for abortion services, every dollar they get for basic health care, cancer screening and contraception services “frees up” a dollar they can use on abortion. Instead, proponents of this argument want a standard that any organization that provides abortion services — even with only private money — should be disqualified from receiving any government funds at all.
Tony Perkins made this exact case in an interview with Eliot Spitzer this week. But Spitzer was quick to identify the key problem with this radical redefinition of federal funding: it sets a dangerously broad precedent. Spitzer specifically challenged Perkins to explain how his proposed policy would not lead to federal de-funding of major hospitals, which share the same funding structure as Planned Parenthood:
PERKINS: What’s being said here is a very bright line is being drawn, where if you want to provide these health care services and receive government money, you can…But you cannot be doing abortions, too, because these are being done in the same facilities. You can have the same receptionist. The same overhead is being covered. Dollars are fungible. And so what was happening is government tax dollars are being used to underwrite the overhead of Planned Parenthood doing abortions.…
SPITZER: …In today’s world, the laws and rules that apply to every major hospital permit hospitals, and in fact, hospitals do exactly what Planned Parenthood does. They keep all the funding for abortion separate. They provide the entire panoply of medical circumstances and they keep all the federal money away from the abortions exactly the same as Planned Parenthood. And just as a matter of fact, I am a correct that these are identical situations?
PERKINS: Well, I would say that I’m not certain that they are in part because Planned Parenthood, and what has brought them to the forefront and has made them the focus of the work of legislators across the state, is because they’ve been implicated in improper funding, as well as covering for child prostitution, not reporting underage women or girls coming in for abortions. They have some legal trouble.
According to a 2008 Guttmacher study, there are over 600 hospitals in the United States whose federal funding would be in jeopardy under Perkins’s proposal. As you can see in the interview, Perkins has no response to the question and is left trying to change the subject to false smears about Planned Parenthood being involved in criminal activity. These allegations, based on highly-edited, untrustworthy video from right wing activists have been thoroughly debunked already.
If Perkins wants to argue that Planned Parenthood should be de-funded because of these smears, he’s welcome to try. But it’s a completely separate issue from the fungibility debate. And if he wants to make that argument, he’s obliged to answer Spitzer’s question and explain whether or not he wants to end federal funding of major hospitals around the country.