HELENA – House Democrats have said it’s a “top priority” to restore to the state budget $4.6 million in federal funds for family planning clinics across Montana – but on Tuesday, as part of a deal on House Bill 2, made no attempt to do so.
The refusal of the House to consider restoring the money is “incredibly disheartening, and speaks to the backdoor dealing that has dominated the budget process this session,” said Stacey Anderson, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Montana, one of the recipients of the money.
The House on Tuesday voted unanimously for HB2, the session’s major budget bill. As part of a deal between majority Republicans and minority Democrats, no attempts were made to amend the bill on the floor.
Lindsay Love, communications manager for Planned Parenthood of Montana, said the last-minute deal caught the group and other supporters of the family planning funds by surprise.
“I don’t think that, before this morning, any of us knew that this sort of deal was going to take place,” she said.
Republicans on a budget subcommittee removed the family planning funds from HB2 in February, saying they didn’t want any public money going to Planned Parenthood, which is an abortion provider.
The $4.6 million goes to 25 clinics that serve nearly 26,000 people a year, mostly low-income women. The money accounts for an average of 30 percent of the clinics’ budget, helping finance contraception, breast exams and cancer screenings.
Planned Parenthood of Montana operates five clinics the receive some of the money. Federal law prohibits the money from being spent on abortions, and Planned Parenthood says the family planning money is audited to ensure it’s not used for abortion services.
House Minority Leader Chuck Hunter, D-Helena, said Tuesday that restoring the Title X funding remains a top priority for Democrats at the Legislature. HB2 heads now to the Senate.
Love said Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock and legislative Democrats have made it clear that they’ll push to include the money in the final version of HB2.
“We know this is a good program and that Montanans overwhelmingly support it,” she said. “We’re very hopeful we’ll see a budget that includes it at the end.”