Senate Committee votes not to re-instate Title X money into budget

The Senate Finance and Claims Committee meeting Friday

The Senate Finance and Claims Committee meeting Friday

The Senate Finance and Claims Committee voted Friday not to add back into the budget $4.5 million in federal family planning funds. The money was removed from the budget earlier in this process and was not added back in when the budget bill went through the House. Republicans have opposed the funding because some of it goes to Planned Parenthood, which also provides abortion services with other funding.

“I know there’s a lot of sensitivity about what this money is used for and let’s make it clear from the outset, none of this money can be used for abortions,” said Senator Dave Wanzenried (D-Missoula), referring to legal stipulations placed on the federal funding. But he says the funds are used for services such as preventing premature births, reducing infant mortality rates, and even reducing abortions through providing contraceptives.
Senator Alan Olson (R-Roundup) was the only Repubican to vote for Wanzenried’s amendment to add the funding back in. All Democrats voted for the amendment. It failed on a 12-8 vote.

Montana Right to Life State Director Greg Trude says Republicans know the federal funds cannot be used for abortions—but says that money frees up other resources for Planned Parenthood that could go toward those types of services. Trude says that federal funding is important, however, and he supports it if it is not distributed to Planned Parenthood.

“I’d actually like to see that money put back in but redirected to the county healthcare centers,” said Trude, who mentioned he is working with some Republicans on getting the money back in the budget in some modified way.


Why Democrats didn’t fight for family planning money on the House floor

HollenbaughRepresentative Galen Hollenbaugh (D-Helena) said the shock of Tuesday’s unanimous House budget vote still hadn’t worn off even after the body took their final, and again unanimous, vote to send it to the Senate on Wednesday.

Members of both parties agreed not to bring up the dozens of proposed amendments to the $9 billion budget plan, letting discussions over those move to the Senate.

Supporters of some of those amendments outside of the legislature are crying foul, and one gaining much of the attention would have added back about $4.5 million dollars in federal money back into the budget to be used for family planning services. A Republican-dominated subcommittee removed that money earlier in the budget process because some of the money goes to support Planned Parenthood of Montana. Planned Parenthood of Montana does provide abortion services, but none of the federal money has been used to that end–in accordance with the law.

Democratic House members who spoke firmly and frequently in support of restoring those funds were silent when the chance came to bring that amendment to the budget debate Tuesday.

“We were disappointed at the failure of the House as a whole to at least have an open discussion,” said Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana Communications Director Lindsay Love. She calls the House budget vote the result of “backdoor dealings that have dominated the budget process this session.” She says the transparency of the process does matter.

“The transparency of the process does matter and Montanans who are watching or listening in from their home communities who care about these programs to be able to see what’s going on up front and out in the open I think is very important,” Love said.

Rep. Hollenbaugh says the budget vote was not crafted in backrooms, but through open discussion between the parties. He’s the Vice Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, which puts together the main budget bill (HB2), and says he first pitched the idea of putting the budget through without amendments.

“We’re not letting the perfect get in the way of the good,” he said, “because this budget has an awful lot of very good items in it.” He says the risk for the Democratic side was if one amendment was brought up on the heavily Republican House Floor, all the other proposed amendments would probably follow suit–many of which would have cut resources.

“Rather than take that chance on the House Floor, The Appropriations Committee and leadership were looking at it and saying ‘We actually have a very good product here and we can be comfortable in sending that over to the Senate.”

“the good will…engendered by moving the budget in a unanimous fashion as we work with the Senate is to say look there’s lot’s of agreement,” Hollenbaugh said, and “that we would look for inclusions of very few things.”

And of course, he said, the family planning money is one of those very few things.

Komen Montana trying to move past national controversy; keep fundraising totals up

Komen Montana Executive Director Nancy Lee

The Montana affiliate of Susan G. Komen for the Cure is trying to move past controversy surrounding the national branch. The country’s largest breast cancer foundation stirred up a political firestorm after cutting funding to Planned Parenthood at the end of last month.

That decision was quickly reversed and Planned Parenthood is once again available to receive Komen grants. But the director of Komen Montana hopes it all doesn’t result in less funding for the women who need it most.

Not too surprising, Executive Director of the Montana Komen branch Nancy Lee works in a Helena office highlighted by pink. Pink notebooks and pink wall hangings; her desk is covered with stacks of pink brochures. The organization’s biggest event is coming up.

“Last night we sent out a notice for folks who had participated in the Race for the Cure in the past letting them know the registration time was starting up,” she said.

She’s looking at the pile of emails that have come back in response. It’s all hate mail.

“Both sides are angry, so there’s not a win,” Lee said.

The messages split about 50/50. Half say they’re pulling support because they can’t believe Komen would give money to an organization that also offers abortion services. The other half support Planned Parenthood and say the whole national funding debacle is turning them away from Komen.

Lee says she is responding personally to each message—saying Montana is a long way from the national issue between Komen and Planned Parenthood, “an issue Komen Montana had no input on, we had no involvement in. It didn’t affect within our state.”

She says the Montana chapters of Komen and Planned Parenthood have never had any formal connection.

“We’ve never received a grant request from Planned Parenthood. So we’ve never funded them at the Montana affiliate,” she said.

Lee says the two organizations have always had a positive relationship, because they have the same focus when it comes to breast cancer.

“It is something that is close to our hearts,” said Planned Parenthood of Montana President Stacy James, “We have many survivors that work for us.”

The two groups are holding a press conference this week in Billings. James says it shows a shared focus on women’s healthcare. Planned Parenthood Montana provides about 4,000 breast health screenings in its five clinics across the state. Some low-income women who receive these screenings have no other options to get tested. Funding for those screenings doesn’t come from Komen now, but James is glad it could still be an option later on.

“And I’m hoping we can work on projects together to help cover services for women that maybe do fall through the cracks,” she said.

Komen Montana Executive Director Nancy Lee says ultimately her foundation raises money to fight breast cancer. To do that in a rural state like Montana, you have to keep your options open.

“We can’t do it alone. Komen Montana can’t do it alone,” she said. “Planned Parenthood does not fill the gap alone. We have a lot of healthcare providers in the state, they can’t do it alone. We find that we all work together and maybe we can get something done.”

Lee says breast cancer doesn’t pick and choose who it affects, so Komen shouldn’t pick and choose who gets early screening.

“You get early screening, 98 percent survival rate. That’s what it’s about,” she said.

Komen Montana is holding their annual Race for the Cure on May 19th in Helena.

Also on Tuesday, Missoula’s Partnership Health Center announced a breast health grant of more than $45,600 from the Avon foundation. The Health Center says it has received support from the foundation for 6 straight years.

Grant funds will be used to educate women on the benefits of early breast cancer detection. The Partnership Health Center program operates in Missoula, Mineral and Ravalli Counties.