I was able to attend Representative Adam Kinzinger’s Q&A yesterday in Pontiac, Illinois.  It is good that I work for myself, because Mr. Kinzinger only provided 20 hours’ notice that the Q&A was going to take place.  He also scheduled it at a time that most constituents would be at work.  Nonetheless, there were about 75 people in attendance including myself.

Adam Kinzinger Q&A

David Giuliani, a reporter with the Ottawa-based The Times newspaper, noted in his coverage of the event that Mr. Kinzinger in the past has blamed the “radical left” (Kinzinger’s words) for disrupting town halls.  Mr. Giuliani also talked to the sheriff’s office, who had officers on the scene, as to why they were there.  The answer he received was, “we try to do what they request.”

I did not seen anyone in the audience that I would describe as “radical left.”  I’m unsure as to what that term means specifically, but there were no (a) anarchists, (b) rioters, or (c) Joseph Stalin impersonators present that I personally witnessed.  All I saw were concerned constituents that wanted a chance to see their representative to Congress in-person and ask questions of him after an extraordinary few months in federal politics.

This Q&A was similar in structure to the Q&A held by the League of Women’s Voters in Rockford last month.  Questions could not be directly posed to Mr. Kinzinger.  Instead, questions could be written down on a note card and submitted via a wicker basket.  Mr. Todd Wineburner, a newsman from WJEZ, acted as moderator.  He chose questions from the basket and allowed Mr. Kinzinger whatever time he needed to answer.

With no criticism to Mr. Wineburner, this format for a town hall does not allow constituents – or even a moderator – to hold Mr. Kinzinger’s feet to the fire publicly on issues important to those in attendance.  There were a few questions directed to the American Health Care Act – the “repeal and replace” bill that the House passed last month that Mr. Kinzinger voted in favor of – but Mr. Kinzinger just glossed over it.  His explanation for most bills involved his concern over the increase in deductibles and premiums under ObamaCare plans and that the AHCA is simply “misunderstood.”

(Sidebar: experts have stated that the Republicans themselves, not the ACA’s structure, are causing premiums and costs to rise because the GOP is patently lying about the ACA and is not clear on continued premium subsidies, causing chaos in the market).

I was really, really hoping for more substance in his answer.  Maybe something about his thought processes in deciding how to vote; what the bill will specifically do to premiums and deductibles (and that Mr. Kinzinger had actually thought about those nuts and bolts); and what his constituents were telling his office and whether that mattered in his final decision.  (Mr. Kinzinger noted that he had “thousands” of comments come into his offices from the phone and email but he did not elaborate further).

This is why Mr. Kinzinger’s preferred format is terrible.  The format is almost worse than not having any Q&A or town hall at all.  Whenever a (pre-screened, softball) question is not answered nobody can press for a clearer answer or in the case of a patent falsehood press for the truth.

Enter another of Mr. Kinzinger’s statements.  Mr. Kinzinger stated, twice, when asked about continued federal funding of Planned Parenthood that he would not support funding because he “does not support tax money used to fund abortions.”

Because this is a bald-faced lie, and it is irrelevant to the federal monies used to fund Planned Parenthood, and because there was no way for me or anyone else to correct the record yesterday:

Planned Parenthood receives federal money BUT THIS MONEY IS NOT USED TO FUND ABORTIONS. 

I’m actually going to say that one more time, because abortion is a hot-button topic and when public servants like Adam Kinzinger sit on a stage and blatantly lie in such a way that would inflame the passions of his constituents to where a reasonable discussion based on facts and not feelings cannot occur, it makes me mad.

So once again, say it all together:

Planned Parenthood receives federal money BUT THIS MONEY IS NOT USED TO FUND ABORTIONS. 

In reality, when the GOP states they want to withhold money from Planned Parenthood they are saying something that is much more complicated than merely stopping (imaginary) government checks from being sent to Planned Parenthood’s mailbox.  There is no line-item for Planned Parenthood in the federal budget.  Rather, federal money that gets to Planned Parenthood is from government reimbursement for preventative care.

This is how that works.  Planned Parenthood is a not-for-profit organization that provides all sorts of low-cost services to women that encompass all kinds of preventative care in addition to procedures such as those that terminate pregnancies.  Because of Planned Parenthood’s lost cost / not-for-profit nature, 60% of patients that seek preventative care are recipients of government aid such as Medicaid.

A is a low-income woman who receives Medicaid benefits.  A desires a pap smear and birth control (whether for contraceptive purposes or for hormone regulation) because she understands her health requires these things.  She goes to Planned Parenthood because it is convenient and she does not need to make a co-pay for necessary preventative services.  A gets the preventative services; these services are billed to Medicaid (just like private insurance would be billed); the state A lives in pays the bill; and eventually the federal government reimburses the state for the Medicaid costs. 

Here is a handy chart (from the good folks at Planned Parenthood Action Fund) to explain how the federal monies that do get to Planned Parenthood actually get to Planned Parenthood.  Let’s repeat our bold text from above once again: Planned Parenthood receives federal money BUT THIS MONEY IS NOT USED TO FUND ABORTIONS.

So to recap: federal money is eventually used to repay Planned Parenthood for preventative services much like private insurance would pay for services at a healthcare provider’s office.

But wait!  If Planned Parenthood does in fact perform abortions, would A or any other low-income patient be able to receive a procedure and then use Medicaid to pay for it?

The answer is no because federal law prohibits it.  The Hyde Amendment, a 1976 law that prohibited federal funds from being used to fund abortions and was modified in 1994 to allow an exception for cases of rape, incest, and where the mother’s life is in danger, prohibits Medicaid funds from being used for abortion procedures.

The policy behind such a prohibition should be debated in another blog post, but let’s say it together one last time for Mr. Kinzinger’s benefit: Planned Parenthood receives federal money BUT THIS MONEY IS NOT USED TO FUND ABORTIONS.

Chris Minelli