Planned Parenthood Lacks Capitol Clout
Millions spent on campaign donations and lobbying since 2010, but many laws it opposed passed.
Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin, which provides reproductive and other health care services and education, has spent more than $3.4 million on lobbying and electioneering activities in Wisconsin elections.
The state group operates about 20 health care centers around Wisconsin that provide a wide range of services, including cancer screening, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases, HIV testing and education, pregnancy testing, gynecological exams, birth control, and abortion care, among others.
Planned Parenthood has been a decades-long target of many conservatives and Republicans here and across the nation because it performs abortions. During the past nine years, the GOP-controlled legislature and former Republican Gov. Scott Walker passed numerous laws to restrict abortions and try to put Planned Parenthood out of business.
Late last month, Democratic Gov. Tony Evers vetoed four bills that were opposed by Planned Parenthood and groups representing public health, social services, and medical professionals. The bills would have imposed criminal penalties on doctors who failed to provide medical care for babies who survive an attempted abortion; cut Medicaid funding for Planned Parenthood; prohibited abortions based on the race or sex of a fetus; and required doctors who perform abortions with the drug mifepristone to tell women the process may be reversed after the first dose.
Planned Parenthood’s executive director, Mike Murray, applauded Evers’ vetoes in a statement saying the bills were harmful and were “not based in medical fact or the realities of abortion care.”
Planned Parenthood operates political and electioneering arms to lobby against legislation that restricts reproductive health access and targets providers, and the group spends money to elect Democrats to legislative and statewide offices.
Since 2010, the group has used independent expenditure committees to sponsor more than $2.7 million in electioneering activities in Wisconsin elections. Most recently, Planned Parenthood spent $704,000 on spring, fall, and special elections in 2018 and 2019, including:
$220,230 to help elect Evers and his running mate Mandela Barnes
$182,147 to help elect Democratic Attorney General Josh Kaul
The group’s electioneering activities involved door-to-door canvassing, mailings, robocalls, and online advertising.
In addition to outside electioneering, Planned Parenthood employees and PACs made about $107,900 in individual and PAC contributions – all to Democrats – between January 2010 and December 2018. The top recipients included:
Democratic Rep. Chris Taylor, of Madison, $15,050
Democratic candidate for governor Mary Burke, about $10,100
Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee, about $6,600
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, which is the group’s lobbying arm, spent about $603,150 between January 2011 and December 2018 on lobbying state elected officials. But during this time, several bills opposed by the group that restricted funding or access to abortions became law under the Republican control of state government, including:
2017 Act 191 – Restricts state health plans from covering abortions except for cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother;
2015 Act 151 – Prevents the state from transferring federal dollars for family planning and health screening for poor and uninsured women to any group that provides abortions or has an affiliate that performs abortions;
2015 Act 152 – Limits how much Planned Parenthood can be reimbursed for prescription drugs through Medicaid, cutting as much as $4 million a year to the group;
2015 Act 56 – Prohibits abortions, except in medical emergencies, after 20 or more weeks of pregnancy;
2013 Act 37 – Reduces the availability of abortion services by requiring doctors to have hospital admitting privileges within 30 miles of where they perform abortions. The law also requires doctors to perform ultrasounds and show them to their patients before the procedure;
2011 Act 218 – Prohibits health plans offered through health insurance exchanges under the federal Affordable Care Act from covering abortions except for rape, incest, or to save the life of the mother;
2011 Act 217 – Adds additional requirements and information physicians must provide women who are seeking abortions and creates new felony penalties.
Only two legislative proposals supported by Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin since January 2011 became law. One bill allows victims of child sex abuse, human trafficking, and sexual assault to be accompanied by a victim advocate. The other measure overhauled and toughened the state’s human trafficking laws.