On Dec. 2, the House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved 359 to 64 the so-called “Every Student Succeeds Act,” a reauthorization and amendment of the “Elementary Secondary Education Act of 1965” providing federal funds to states and cities for public schools.

As we were analyzing the text of the conference report hours before the vote, Section 8035 was brought to Americans for Limited Government’s attention that it could open up a new funding stream for groups like Planned Parenthood.

At a time the House was voting to defund Planned Parenthood via the budget reconciliation process in light of despite explosive video showing organization employees talking about selling the body parts of unborn babies, were members about to do the opposite by opening additional funding for the group?

Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning urged the House to slow down in a statement the bill, saying, “By tying funds for school-based health centers to compliance with the Public Health Service Act, which explicitly allows Planned Parenthood eligible to receive funds, the possibility of new funding is opened. Speaker Ryan needs to pull the bill from the docket immediately.” Less than two hours later, the conference report was adopted.

In response, the House Education and Workforce Committee distributed a statement refuting the charge made by Americans for Limited Government and others, saying that Section 8035 was actually a pro-life provision barring federal funding for abortions.

No argument there. We never said anything about abortions. We said Planned Parenthood.

The committee stated that “no funding under ESEA can be used to fund abortions” by linking to the Obamacare prohibition in the Public Health Service Act.

It does appear to be a broad prohibition at first in Section 8035, entitled “Limitations on school-based health centers,” it states, “[F]unds used for activities under this Act shall be carried out in accordance with the provision 399z–1(a)(3)(C) of the Public Health Service Act.”

The aforementioned provision the section of law referenced, which was from the 2010 health care law, specifically restricted funds to school-based health centers by saying you cannot be a school-based health center if you perform abortions. It states: “The term ‘school-based health center’ means a health clinic that… does not perform abortion services.”

Adding to the puzzle, the Education and Workforce Committee added in its fact sheet, “School-based health centers do not receive funding under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act.”

So then why was the provision included entitled, “Limitations on school-based health centers”? The only reason to even bother with such a narrow provision is if the student-based health centers did in fact get money under the education bill. Which was it?

Is the House Education and Workforce Committee really saying Congress went through the trouble of defunding abortions at school-based health centers in a bill that does not even fund school-based health centers and when those centers were already prohibited under federal law from doing so?

Besides, wouldn’t a federal judge read that section and the Obamacare provision and say it only applies to student-based health centers?

As it turns out, much of federal funding for the school-based health centers has historically come from Title V Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant, the Medicaid Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic, and Treatment program (specifically for women’s health) and other federal programs.

As for the education bill conference report, in section 4112, it allocates about $1.6 billion a year to states, a portion of which goes to section 4108 “Activities to support safe and healthy students.”

Section 4108 activities must be “coordinated with other schools and community-based services and programs” and “may be conducted in partnership with an institution of higher education, business, nonprofit organization, community-based organization,” among others.

Those non-profits could very well include Planned Parenthood and school-based health centers, respectively, since a direct funding from the education bill does not appear in the text of the legislation. The Education and Workforce Committee was correct in that regard. Yet, coordination and partnership with these groups within communities does appear to be mandated by the bill.

It also provides for the designation by schools of “a site resource coordinator at a school or local educational agency to provide a variety of services, such as… establishing partnerships within the community to provide resources and support for schools…”

Here is an explicit reference to funding a site resource coordinator with discretion to coordinate with organizations in the community to “provide resources and support for schools” thereby opening up federally funded school-based health centers to provide their services directly to the school, probably via referrals, information and coordination.

There is no question Planned Parenthood works with the school-based health centers that were funded partially under Obamacare, as reported by the Los Angeles Times in 2012. Planned Parenthood is also eligible for federal funds under Title X of the Public Health Service Act.

So with the funds provided, schools can coordinate with local organizations, including health-related services such as the school-based health centers and whomever they work with, including Planned Parenthood, through referrals that those services will generate cash flow from.

That does appear to be a pathway for more funding, even if it is indirect, not only for the centers but any organization they coordinate with, including Planned Parenthood. Every referral could result in even more federal funds being used from programs like Medicaid or federally subsidized private insurance plans under the health care law.

It doesn’t fully add up. Why did Congress bother defunding school-based health centers, which coordinate with Planned Parenthood, from performing abortions in a bill that it says does not even direct monies to those centers?

Either, the school-based health centers, even though they already receive federal funding, also receive funding under the bill, or Congress just defunded abortions at school-based health centers in a bill that does not even provide funds for school-based health centers.

Based on all of the above, and particularly since Section 8035 can only apply to school-based health centers, the authors of the legislation clearly anticipated that funds would indeed flow to the centers and wanted to at least broaden the prohibition against funding abortions that had been included in Obamacare.

On the other hand, the House Education and Workforce Committee contends that no funds under the education bill even flow to the centers in the first place.

Did Congress include a pro-life provision where none was even needed? What made the authors of the bill fear that abortions could otherwise be used with the funds?

From a pro-life perspective, again defunding abortions at school-based health centers, as was done in Obamacare, can be a well-intentioned effort, but only if those centers were going to receive funding either directly or indirectly as a result of the legislation or if there was a pressing need to extend the prohibition, although no sunset was stipulated when it was enacted in 2010. Otherwise, what was the point?

As for whether the education bill funds Planned Parenthood directly, the answer is no. But it also will do nothing to stop schools from coordinating and partnering and providing referrals to the federally funded school-based health centers that admittedly work closely with the federally funded Planned Parenthood, which will continue to receive any new business that comes in the door as a result.

The education funding bill conference report now stands before the Senate for a vote in the coming days.


Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.

By Robert Romano