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Senate Votes to Defund Planned Parenthood in Obamacare Repeal Package

Nicole Knight Shine

The repeal passed 52-47 as part of budget reconciliation package, which required only 51 votes for approval. President Obama is expected to veto the package.

Senate Republicans on Thursday led a successful vote to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding in a legislative package aimed at repealing significant parts of the Affordable Care Act.

The repeal passed 52-47 as part of budget reconciliation package, which required only 51 votes for approval. President Obama is expected to veto the package.

The vote comes after the U.S. House passed two anti-choice bills in September—one to gut Planned Parenthood’s federal funding for one year unless the reproductive health-care provider stops performing abortions, and another that pro-choice advocates say would have a chilling effect on providers.

Action on the controversial package dragged into Thursday evening, as senators worked their way through more than a dozen proposed amendments, including one co-authored by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) to retain federal funding of Planned Parenthood. Collins said on the floor before the vote that gutting the organization’s funding would force “millions of women across the country to have to find new health-care providers.” The amendment was narrowly rejected, with 52 senators voting in opposition.

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Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) also offered an amendment to strike the defunding provision and include language to create a security and safety fund for reproductive health-care clinics. A shooting rampage on Friday at a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood has prompted calls for reform as women’s health clinics are increasingly subject to anti-choice violence.

The chamber voted to table the amendment on a 54-46 vote.

In a tweet after the vote, Murray said, “My Republican colleagues have just pushed [women’s health care] aside.”

Planned Parenthood received $528 million in federal money last year, according to Planned Parenthood’s latest annual report. The Senate bill would gut for one year the organization’s federal funding, which supports preventive health-care services, including HIV testing, cancer screenings, and birth control.

Republicans have been on a mission to strip Planned Parenthood of funding following the release this summer of misleading videos that purported to show the health-care provider trafficking in “baby parts.” The heavily edited and widely discredited videos were produced by a group called the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-choice front group that has worked with Republican lawmakers to smear Planned Parenthood.

Investigations in at least eight states have found no evidence of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood, as Rewire has reported.

Public polls indicate strong support of the health-care provider, with 60 percent of respondents saying that any budget deal must maintain Planned Parenthood funding, according to a September Pew Research Center poll.

Thursday’s vote marked the latest volley in Republican’s quixotic campaign to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The House has voted 56 times to repeal all or part of the administration’s signature domestic reform, as the Hill reported, but those Republican-led efforts have died in the Senate, until now.

With the elections looming, Republicans said they are eager to notch what amounts to a symbolic victory.

“We made a promise to [voters] that if they gave us the majority last November we would have this vote and we would place this squarely in front of the president,” Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn of Texas said before Thursday’s vote.

The Senate bill would repeal taxes on medical devices and funding for subsidies that help consumers buy insurance, among other provisions.

News Politics

Congresswoman Pushes Intersectionality at Democratic National Convention

Christine Grimaldi

Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) charges that reproductive health-care restrictions have a disproportionate impact on the poor, the urban, the rural, and people of color.

The members of Congress who flocked to the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia this week included a vocal advocate for the intersection of racial and reproductive justice: Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ).

Watson Coleman’s longstanding work in these areas “represented the intersection of who I am,” she said during a discussion in Philadelphia sponsored by the Center for Reproductive Rights and Cosmopolitan. Reproductive health-care restrictions, she stressed, have a disproportionate effect on the poor, the urban, the rural, and people of color.

“These decisions impact these communities even more so [than others],” she told Rewire in an interview. “We don’t have the alternatives that middle-class, suburban, white women have. And we’d rather they have them.”

Watson Coleman has brought that context to her work in Congress. In less than two years on Capitol Hill, she co-founded the Congressional Caucus on Black Women and Girls and serves on the so-called Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, a GOP-led, $1.2 million investigation that she and her fellow Democrats have called an anti-choice “witch hunt.”

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Coleman said she’s largely found support and encouragement among her fellow lawmakers during her first term as a woman of color and outspoken advocate for reproductive rights.

“What I’ve gotten from my Republican colleagues who are so adamantly against a woman’s right to choose—I don’t think it has anything to do with my being a woman or an African American, it has to do with the issue,” she said.

House Republicans have increasingly pushed anti-choice policies in advance of the ongoing August recess and November’s presidential election. The House this month passed the Conscience Protection Act, which would give health-care providers a private right of action to seek civil damages in court, should they face supposed coercion to provide abortion care or discrimination stemming from their refusal to assist in such care.

Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) lauded passage of the bill and the House’s thus-far unsuccessful effort to prove that Planned Parenthood profited from fetal tissue donations—allegations based on widely discredited videos published by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-choice front group that has worked closely with GOP legislators to attack funding for Planned Parenthood.

On the other side of the aisle, Watson Coleman joined 118 other House Democrats to co-sponsor the Equal Access to Abortion Coverage in Health Insurance Act (HR 2972). Known as the EACH Woman Act, the legislation would overturn the Hyde Amendment and ensure that every woman has access to insurance coverage of abortion care.

The Hyde Amendment’s restriction of federal funding for abortion care represents a particularly significant barrier for people with low incomes and people of color.

The Democratic Party platform, for the first time, calls for repealing the Hyde Amendment, though the process for undoing a yearly federal appropriations rider remains unclear.

For Watson Coleman, the path forward on getting rid of the Hyde Amendment is clear on at least one point: The next president can’t go it alone.

“The president will have to have a willing Congress,” she said. She called on the electorate to “recognize that this is not a personality contest” and “remove some of those people who have just been obstructionists without having the proper evidence.”

In the meantime, what does a “willing Congress” look like for legislation with anti-choice roadblocks? A majority voting bloc helps, Watson Coleman said. But that’s not everything.

“There are lots of bills that Republicans will vote for if their leadership would simply bring them up,” she said.

News Politics

Democratic Party Platform: Repeal Bans on Federal Funding for Abortion Care

Ally Boguhn

When asked this month about the platform’s opposition to Hyde, Hillary Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said that he had not “been informed of that” change to the platform though he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde Amendment.”

Democrats voted on their party platform Monday, codifying for the first time the party’s stated commitment to repealing restrictions on federal funding for abortion care.

The platform includes a call to repeal the Hyde Amendment, an appropriations ban on federal funding for abortion reimplemented on a yearly basis. The amendment disproportionately affects people of color and those with low incomes.

“We believe unequivocally, like the majority of Americans, that every woman should have access to quality reproductive health care services, including safe and legal abortion—regardless of where she lives, how much money she makes, or how she is insured,” states the Democratic Party platform. “We will continue to oppose—and seek to overturn—federal and state laws and policies that impede a woman’s access to abortion, including by repealing the Hyde Amendment.”

The platform also calls for an end to the Helms Amendment, which ensures that “no foreign assistance funds may be used to pay for the performance of abortion as a method of family planning.”

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Though Helms allows funding for abortion care in cases of rape, incest, and life endangerment, the Obama administration has failed to enforce those guarantees.

Despite the platform’s opposition to the restrictions on abortion care funding, it makes no mention of how the anti-choice measures would be rolled back.

Both presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) have promised to address Hyde and Helms if elected. Clinton has said she would “fix the Helms Amendment.”

Speaking at the Iowa Brown and Black Presidential Forum in January, Clinton said that the Hyde Amendment “is just hard to justify because … certainly the full range of reproductive health rights that women should have includes access to safe and legal abortion.” In 2008, Clinton’s campaign told Rewire that she “does not support the Hyde amendment.”

When asked this month about the platform’s opposition to Hyde, Clinton’s running mate Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) said in an interview with the Weekly Standard that he had not “been informed of that” change to the platform though he has “traditionally been a supporter of the Hyde amendment.”

“The Hyde amendment and Helms amendment have prevented countless low-income women from being able to make their own decisions about health, family, and future,” NARAL President Ilyse Hogue said in a statement, addressing an early draft of the platform. “These amendments have ensured that a woman’s right to a safe and legal abortion is a right that’s easier to access if you have the resources to afford it. That’s wrong and stands directly in contrast with the Democratic Party’s principles, and we applaud the Party for reaffirming this in the platform.”