Gov. Baker prepared to boost state funds for Planned Parenthood

BOSTON (AP) — Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s administration is prepared to increase Massachusetts state assistance for Planned Parenthood clinics should Congress block Medicaid funding for the organization, administration officials said Friday.

Baker strongly supports women’s health and believes the state has a responsibility to guarantee access to services provided by Planned Parenthood, “and the administration is prepared to fund these services should the federal government pursue changes that would block care for women and families in Massachusetts,” said Elizabeth Guyton, a spokeswoman for Baker.

A draft of a proposal from House Republicans to replace President Barack Obama’s health care law would stop Medicaid payments to the clinics, which provide a variety of health services to women, including abortions. The proposal has not been finalized.

Under the federal proposal, state officials said, low-income women covered by MassHealth, the state’s Medicaid program, could be prevented from receiving services from Planned Parenthood, including cancer screenings, contraception and treatment of sexually-transmitted diseases.

Medicaid funds cannot be used for abortions under existing federal law, but many Republicans have called for defunding Planned Parenthood entirely because it performs abortions.

According to the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, about 30 percent of the 31,000 patients it provides services for each year at its five clinics rely on MassHealth.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Democrat, included language in his proposed state budget stating that any services provided by family planning clinics that become ineligible for federal matching funds because of a change in the laws could be funded by the state.

Neither governor has yet sought a specific appropriation from legislators.

Members of Massachusetts’ all-Democratic congressional delegation were among those scheduled to attend a rally on Boston Common on Saturday to protest potential federal funding cuts for Planned Parenthood.

Dr. Jennifer Childs-Roshak, president and chief executive for Planned Parenthood in Massachusetts, thanked Baker in a statement for committing to protect women served by the clinics.

“Yet no governor should be put in a position of trying to mitigate attacks on women in his or her state made by Congress,” she added.

A moderate, Baker is pro-abortion rights and has supported Planned Parenthood in the past, a position that puts him at odds with more conservative members of his party in Washington. He was not scheduled to attend the Boston rally.

Democrat Jay Gonzalez, a former state budget director who recently announced plans to run for governor in 2018, said he “applauded” Baker’s commitment to closing any funding gap for Planned Parenthood, but urged him to go further by guaranteeing that women would not face co-payments for birth control and by pledging to only nominate judges to the state’s highest court who were on record as supporting abortion rights.

Democrats have faulted Baker for reducing state funds for family planning services by $180,000 during a round of budgetary cuts in December.

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