Because this week we are asking you to call Representative Brian Mast, as well as Senators Rubio and Nelson, regarding the defunding of Planned Parenthood, we thought it might be useful to recap Mast’s position(s) on Planned Parenthood as stated by his own office as well as himself.

Brian Mast’s Website: “Strong Supporter of Right to Life”

Brian Mast’s website, MastforCongress.com states:

I’m a strong supporter of the right to life. I believe we must defend life at every stage and protect the most vulnerable members of our society. I’ll work hard to defund Planned Parenthood, to make sure we’re funding real women’s health, not an organization that performs 300,000 abortions and 0 mammograms each year.

I’m not sure what “real women’s health” is, if not what Planned Parenthood provides. Are they providing “fake” women’s healthcare”? The millions of women who rely on Planned Parenthood would likely disagree with that assessment.

What Mast fails to mention is that in 2015, the last year for which Planned Parenthood has provided statistics, they provided almost 4.5 million tests for STDs, almost a million cancer screening and prevention tests, 3.5 million contraceptive care visits, and 47,000 treatments for UTIs. He also fails to mention that federal funding DOES NOT PAY for abortion services. Yes, Planned Parenthood provides that service. But the federal government does not fund that aspect of Planned Parenthood’s medical care.

Mast wishes to defund what is, for many women, their ONLY reliable source of woman-centered care in their area. He speaks about how Community Health Centers are available to treat those women who would no longer be able to go to their local Planned Parenthood. But much has been written about just how difficult it would be for Community Health Centers to pick up the slack for millions of women. He cites a statistic often used by Paul Ryan, which says that there are 20 health centers for every Planned Parenthood clinic. These numbers were put forth by two anti-choice organizations, the Charlotte Lozier Institute and the Christan organization Alliance Defending Freedom. On the Charlotte Lozier Institute’s website, they state

The goal of the Charlotte Lozier Institute is to promote deeper public understanding of the value of human life, motherhood, and fatherhood, and to identify policies and practices that will protect life and serve both women’s health and family well-being. Our profound conviction is that the insights available through the best science, sociology and psychology cannot help but demonstrate that each and every human is not only “fearfully and wonderfully made” but blessed to be born at this time in human history.

So, safe to say they have an agenda, right? Anyway, back to the numbers. Broadly speaking, the numbers are not wholly inaccurate. There are about 650 Planned Parenthood clinics in the United States, and there are more than 9,800 health center delivery sites in the federal Health Center Program and about 4,100 in the Rural Health Clinic program. But dig a little deeper, and you’ll find that you can’t trade apples for oranges and expect the same taste. It turns out that in 2014, the health center provided about 2/3rds less contraceptive care than Planned Parenthood over the same time period. In addition, Rural Health Clinics are NOT required to serve low-income patients, NOR are they required to provide care on a sliding scale. Planned Parenthood, by contrast, serves primarily low-income patients, and for a reason.

“While many RHCs [rural health clinics] have a sliding fee scale and see patients regardless of financial implications, some RHCs would not see patients if the patient was uninsured or low income due to financial constraints,” said Nathan Baugh, government affairs director for the National Association of Rural Health Clinics.

To learn more, please read the Washington Post’s elucidating article on this topic, which provided many of the statistics and information I cite herein.

Mast Seems Confused about the Hyde Amendment

Here he is speaking at the February Town Hall in Fort Pierce. At point 2:01 into the video, Mast says that ‘our area’ has 8 women’s health care facilities.

I am not sure exactly what he is talking about (and if anyone does, please let me know) buy my guess is that he is including religious, anti-abortion ‘care’ offices in that number. He also states that he does not want federal money to go towards abortion. Despite the audience clarifying that NO federal dollars pay for abortion, Mast continued to insist that “all dollars are fungible”, to which the questioner says, “You know that is simply not real!”

And she’s right. According to numerous sources (New York Times, 2011; Washington Post, 2011) the Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions. Specifically:

SEC. 301. (a) None of the funds appropriated in this Act, and none of the funds in any trust fund to which funds are appropriated in this Act, shall be expended for any abortion. (b) None of the funds appropriated in this Act, and none of the funds in any trust fund to which funds are appropriated in this Act, shall be expended for health benefits coverage that includes coverage of abortion….

SEC. 302 The limitations established in the preceding section shall not apply to an abortion— (1) if the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest; or (2) in the case where a woman suffers from a physical disorder, physical injury, or physical illness, including a life endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, that would, as certified by a physician, place the woman in danger of death unless an abortion is performed.

So it seems Brian Mast is implying that Planned Parenthood uses those funds however it likes, and is violating the Hyde Amendment. By stating that the “money is fungible”, my guess is he’s saying something along the lines of “Well, you know, Planned Parenthood uses that money however they like, including for abortions”. I actually started to look up the exact definition of “fungible” in Google, and lo and behold, what was the second “suggested search” that came up from Google? ‘fungible planned parenthood’. Hmmmm–was there something I didn’t know about this word fungible?

So I did a little digging, and it turns out the idea that money is “fungible” when it comes to Planned Parenthood is a long-standing Republican trope. According to a 2015 article at Slate:

[Fungible] implies that while Planned Parenthood is supposed to be getting money for contraception, it’s actually going to subsidize abortion. The problem is, it doesn’t work that way…Republicans who tout the “money is fungible” line want you to imagine that Planned Parenthood draws on one big pot of government money for all its services. But since medical services are billed and funded individually, that’s not actually how this works.

Maybe this is something you all knew about, but I certainly didn’t. A certain sub-section of Republicans wholly believes that any money given to Planned Parenthood could very well be going to abortion, despite the Hyde Amendment. And Brian Mast is one of them.

Hopefully this blog post gives you more ammunition when calling Mast to discuss the importance of Planned Parenthood.

Where does Brian Mast Stand on Planned Parenthood?
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