HARRISBURG (WSKG) -- A bill that could potentially eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood facilities in Pennsylvania has passed a state Senate committee.
Sponsored by Republican Senator John Eichelberger, of Blair County, Senate Bill 300 would create a hierarchy for federal and state funding of family planning and women's health services.
The memo for the measure says it prioritizes "conventional" healthcare. Eichelberger said that means clinics and hospitals that provide a wider range of services will get more money. Planned Parenthood, which provides services targeted at reproductive health, will get lowest priority.
Eichelberger said his bill will essentially defund the service.
"People that defend Planned Parenthood are saying 'well we need money,'" he said. "Well why? They should be justifying why they deserve this tax money if they're not helping people in these communities to the extent that other agencies can help them."
Planned Parenthood state executive director Sari Stevens took issue with the senator's assertion that the organization doesn't provide high-quality care.
"We're a gateway to the healthcare network," she said. "We're also a specialty provider. We are a reproductive healthcare provider."
Asked if he was familiar with the way Planned Parenthood's counseling and sex education services compare to those in other clinics, Eichelberger said no.
"What do they offer in comparison to what these other people offer? I don't know. I don't know what, on a clinic-by-clinic basis, how they counsel people, what they do with people in the office," he said. "Certainly these other providers do similar services."
The measure isn't brand new to the legislature. Eichelberger said it's modeled on a similar House bill that died last session.
The hearing for this latest iteration drew a large crowd of Planned Parenthood advocates, who strongly oppose it. The Democrats of the Finance Committee, out of which the bill passed, also spoke out against it.
"This is a direct shot on Planned Parenthood," Montgomery County Senator Vince Hughes said. "This limits access to health care services in communities all across the state of Pennsylvania--in urban communities, in rural communities."
Democratic Governor Tom Wolf also came out against the bill, pledging to veto it and calling it an "ideologically driven attempt to disrupt health services for thousands of women in Pennsylvania."
The bill also includes language that bans the use of state money to fund abortion providers--something that's not currently allowed under Pennsylvania law.
It now goes to the full Senate for consideration.