GOP Attempt to Defund Planned Parenthood Falls Flat in Senate

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GOP Attempt to Defund Planned Parenthood Falls Flat in Senate

Emily Crockett

Democrats led the effort to filibuster a bill sponsored by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) that would have prohibited federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood, as well as made those funds “available” to other entities that provide women’s health services.

See more of our coverage on the misleading Center for Medical Progress videos here.

A Republican-led attempt to defund Planned Parenthood was defeated in the Senate on Monday.

Democrats led the effort to filibuster a bill sponsored by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA) that would have prohibited federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood, making those funds “available” to other entities favored by anti-choice lawmakers that provide women’s health services.

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) voted with Republicans to advance the defunding bill, while Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) was the only Republican opposed to the bill who joined Democrats in the filibuster. The vote was 53-46 in favor of advancing the bill, which wasn’t enough to defeat a filibuster.

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The bill is a response to inflammatory, deceptively edited videos released by an anti-choice front group known as the Center for Medical Progress that show Planned Parenthood employees discussing a fetal tissue donation program that is legal and that most of their affiliates don’t participate in.

Republicans argued that the video shows Planned Parenthood deserves to immediately lose all federal funding, even though none of those funds can directly pay for abortion care.

Democrats argued that Planned Parenthood is a trusted provider of women’s health that sees 2.7 million patients a year, mostly low-income people. Most of their patients seek health care services like Pap smears, breast exams, contraception, and screening for sexually transmitted infections.

Some Republicans have vowed to push for a government shutdown this fall over Planned Parenthood funding.

Moderate female Republicans Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) voted to let the defunding bill proceed. NARAL Pro-Choice America has prepared attack ads against Ayotte and other vulnerable Republicans for their vote on this bill.

Collins said she was opposed to the defunding bill, partly because she didn’t think that the community health centers and other health-care providers in her state could possibly take on Planned Parenthood’s patients if the provider closed down.

The four Planned Parenthood clinics in her state of Maine, Collins said, provide 40 percent of the state’s family planning services, while the 20 community health centers provide 17 percent.

But Collins voted to let the defunding bill proceed because she wanted to introduce a different bill as a substitute, which would only defund Planned Parenthood clinics that were actually found to be selling fetal tissue in violation of the law.

The Ernst bill “would require women and other patients to find alternative health care providers even if their Planned Parenthood clinic has done nothing wrong,” Collins said. “How is that fair?”

Republicans who supported Ernst’s bill suggested that women can and should go to community health centers for their health needs instead of Planned Parenthood, but Democrats dismissed those claims as absurd and dangerous.

“Claiming that other providers can simply absorb those patients is like saying you can pour a bucket of water into a cup. It just won’t work,” Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) said.

“Pure and simple, a public health crisis would be the inevitable consequence of this measure to defund Planned Parenthood,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT).

Blumenthal noted that many of his constituents choose Planned Parenthood because it is a professional, nonjudgmental “safe space” for quality health care, and defunding it would mean depriving women of their choice of doctor.

“If Republicans succeed in defunding it, women will be without their most trusted health care providers,” Blumenthal said.

Democrats noted the irony of Republicans calling for more community health clinics being used for family planning services, given the devastating funding cuts to Title X low-income family planning providers that the GOP proposed this year.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), who was called out by reproductive rights activists for not mentioning abortion in a recent speech on progressive values, offered a blistering condemnation of Republican attacks on reproductive rights. She pointed out that patients depend on Planned Parenthood for safe, legal, compassionate abortion care as well as other health services, and she cited the fact that Republican state legislators have passed more than 50 abortion restrictions over the past year.

“Let’s be really clear about something,” Warren said. “The Republican scheme to defund Planned Parenthood is not some sort of surprised response to a highly edited video. Nope—the Republican vote to defund Planned Parenthood is just one more piece of a deliberate, methodical, orchestrated, right-wing attack on women’s rights.”