Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers awarded multiple Planned Parenthood locations a collective $2.4 million, resurrecting legal questions surrounding the distribution of federal funds. More specifically, 21 Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin (PPW) locations received $1.4 million as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act funding. Another $1 million went to the state affiliate as part of the Equitable Grant Recovery Program, which focused on eliminating disparities in health, child development, and other areas.
Politifact reported on the funding Friday as part of a fact check in which it alleged that former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch falsely claimed that Evers bailed out Planned Parenthood and funded its abortions. Planned Parenthood has similarly denied that the funding went towards abortions, although pro-life groups often claim that the corporation’s funding is fungible and can therefore relieve pressure on other aspects of their budget.
The Wisconsin Institute for Law and Liberty (WILL) has also alleged that Evers violated state law by funding an organization that provides abortions. In a letter to Evers, WILL pointed to a portion of state law that prohibits funding that directly or indirectly involves a “pregnancy program” that “[p]rovides abortion services,” “[p]romotes, encourages or counsels in favor of abortion services,” or “makes abortion referrals.”
The firm’s February letter also alleged that the governor was sidestepping the legislature in creating a new grant program.
“There is no such thing as a ‘COVID-19 Pandemic Response Nonprofit Grant Program’ in the Wisconsin Statutes,” read WILL’s February letter to Evers. “You created this new program out of thin air.”
While reporting on the letter, the Associated Press noted that Evers’ spokeswoman did not directly address the complaint. Instead, “she accused Republicans and their allies of ‘continuing to play politics while failing to support our state’s economic recovery and trying to obstruct efforts to get resources to folks across our state.’”
PPW suggested that WILL was “misreading” state and federal law. “The assertion by organizations with a clear political agenda that Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin is ineligible for CARES or ARPA [American Rescue Plan Act] grant funding, or needs to return any such funding, is a misreading of both Wisconsin and federal law,” the organization said in a statement to Wisconsin Public Radio.
It also said the coronavirus relief funds “supported our ability to operate our family planning health centers and provide essential health care services, such as birth control, (sexually transmitted infections) testing and life-saving cancer screenings during the pandemic and aim to reduce health disparities.”
Planned Parenthood currently holds 41% of the U.S. abortion market share, reporting its highest abortion total of 354,871 abortions in its 2019-2020 annual. The corporation receives $618 million taxpayer dollars annually.
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