But Money’s Fungible! Another Planned Parenthood & Federal Funds Myth Explained

Since 1976, neither Planned Parenthood nor any other healthcare provider has received federal Medicaid funds for the provision of abortion services, except in very rare instances of rape, incest, or threat to the life of the mother.

[By the way, even in those rare instances—rape, incest, life of the mother—clinics rarely receive reimbursement, or even apply, because the process is so onerous and the reimbursement so minimal.]

Cutting federal funds for Planned Parenthood, therefore, does not cut funds for abortion. It cuts funds for other medical services, like birth control (except abortion, as we’ve mentioned), testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, cancer screening and early treatment, and even vasectomies.

But money’s fungible!

Helpful men on the internet have been saying this to me all day.

The point they are trying to make is this:

  • A group needs pens and pencils, but they only have $100, enough for either pens or pencils, but not both.
  • The federal government gives a clinic $100 for pencils.
  • They spend $100 on pencils, and $100 on pens.
  • The $100 from the government for pencils freed up the other $100 to be used to buy pens. It was all in the same bank account, and money is money. One could say, therefore, that the government money was used for the pens, because without it, the pen purchase would not have been possible.

Here’s a slightly more technical explanation.

And here’s why, in the case of Planned Parenthood and federal funding, money is not necessarily fungible.

Thanks to numerous federal and state laws and regulations saying Planned Parenthood clinics cannot spend federal Medicaid dollars on abortion, and a ruling in the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas (and some other states)* that provide abortion are separate legal entities, entirely independent of Planned Parenthood clinics that provide all other services.

They have separate tax ID numbers, separate articles of incorporation, separate insurance policies, separate everything.

Including separate bank accounts.

They do not share funds.

If you give $100 to Planned Parenthood Center for Choice, an abortion provider, it goes into a completely different bank account than $100 given to Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, and vice versa.

So, while in some instances, money can be fungible, in the instance of Planned Parenthood clinics and federal funding, money is decidedly and factually not fungible.

The argument, therefore, that any federal funding for Planned Parenthood frees up funds for abortion, so all funds for Planned Parenthood, regardless of what they pay for, should be cut, is a loser.

That’s not my opinion, that’s fact. And you can take it to the bank.

Where it still won’t be fungible.

Photo of Bea Arthur on a $10 bill taken by a olin and used without alteration in accordance with a creative commons license.

Photo of Bea Arthur on a $10 bill taken by a olin and used without alteration in accordance with a creative commons license.

*In some states, Planned Parenthood clinics that provide abortion and all of the other services do not automatically have to be separate entities in order to receive federal funds for all of the other services. They still must demonstrate, however, that no federal funds provide for/subsidize abortion services.

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