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Abortion battles waged by Texas legislators, U.S. House members, Texas AG

While high-profile, politically charged abortion battles are being waged in the Texas Legislature and Congress, the Texas Attorney General quietly issued a pair of legal opinions late Thursday afternoon that could lead to the loss of millions of dollars in funding for Planned Parenthood.

On Thursday, the Texas Senate passed a bill (for the third consecutive session) that would require physicians to have sonograms performed on women seeking abortions. The physician would have to describe sonogram images to the women, and also amplify the sound of the fetal heartbeat if present. Bill author state Sen. Dan Patrick (R-Houston) says women can choose not to look or hear if they wish.

Though the sonogram bill has attracted criticism from doctors for invading the physician-patient relationship, it is expected to have an even easier path to approval in the heavily GOP-dominated Texas House. Gov. Rick Perry has designated pre-abortion sonograms as priority ‘emergency’ legislation.

Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., the new Republican majority in the U.S. House is leading debate on an amendment that would bar Planned Parenthood from receiving Title X funds, a $327 million program for family planning and reproductive health services (but not abortions). A vote on the amendment is expected today, the Washington Post reports.

Back in Texas, Texas AG Greg Abbott issued a pair of legal opinions that are, according to the Texas Tribune‘s Emily Ramshaw, “expected to force Planned Parenthood out of the state’s Women’s Health Program, which provides family planning, but not abortions, to Medicaid patients.”

Forty Planned Parenthood clinics have received $17.6 million total from the Women’s Health Program since 2007, according to the Tribune. Those clinics receiving the funds do not perform abortions, though other Planned Parenthood clinics do.

In a nutshell, Abbott’s opinions determined that: 1) the Health and Human Services Commission may not contract with ‘affiliates’ of abortion providers; and 2) HHSC has the power to define what an ‘affiliate’ is.

According to the Tribune: “With such strong Republican leadership at the helm, it’s likely HHSC will define affiliate in a way that excludes Planned Parenthood.”

Planned Parenthood officials told the Tribune that about half of the Women’s Health Program participants — who must be Medicaid patients — obtained services from Planned Parenthood clinics.

In both the congressional debate and the AG’s opinions, the funding at stake for Planned Parenthood is not used for abortions, but rather for family planning and reproductive health services.

The Associated Press has produced a chart — using figures from Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s annual report for 2008-2009 — breaking down services provided and sources of revenue for Planned Parenthood at the national level.

According to AP, about 35 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services expenditures goes toward contraception; 34 percent goes to testing/treatment of diseases/infections; 17 percent goes to cancer prevention/screening; and 10 percent to other women’s health services. Abortions account for three percent of Planned Parenthood’s expenditures on services.

Planned Parenthood receives 37 percent of its income from health center income, 33 percent from government grants and 28 percent from private contributions, according to AP.

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