Although the Republican party has historically taken a pro-life stance and opposed abortion providers, the party’s revulsion with Planned Parenthood reached a tipping point in September when Republican lawmakers made clear they would risk the federal government shutting down in order to stop Planned Parenthood from providing its services.
[C]ongressmen vowed to oppose any bill, even a bill necessary for funding the federal government, if it includes any funding for Planned Parenthood.
Throughout the month of September, 28 House Republicans, all male, pledged to take whatever steps necessary to defund Planned Parenthood by the end of the federal fiscal year on September 30, including shutting down the federal government. Because the funding for the government runs out at the end of September, if the House Republicans refused to vote for any funding bill that includes money for Planned Parenthood, the federal government would have shut down due to lack of funding.
In a letter sent this summer by Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), the congressmen vowed to oppose any bill, even a bill necessary for funding the federal government, if it includes any funding for Planned Parenthood. The letter specifically stated: “[W]e must act to fully defund Planned Parenthood. Please know that we cannot and will not support any funding resolution – an appropriations bill, an omnibus package, a continuing resolution, or otherwise – that contains any funding for Planned Parenthood, including mandatory funding streams.”
The letter cited the main reason for the congressmen’s actions as certain heavily-edited, undercover videos released this summer by anti-abortion activists. The videos purported to show Planned Parenthood doctors and officials discussing the sale of fetal tissue and abortion procedures while they did not know they were being filmed. The letter further stated that the congressmen were “deeply disturbed” at recent news of Planned Parenthood allegedly selling tissue of unborn babies for profit. Explaining that as “firm believers in the sanctity of life, beginning at conception” the reports were “horrifying.” The letter then calls for “Congress do everything within its power to investigate these reports and take immediate action to stop them.”
In addition to the House Republicans, Senate Republicans sent a similar letter to Mitch McConnell, the Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate. The letter stated that “[t]he callous view that those in the abortion industry, like Planned Parenthood, take toward women and unborn children is an affront to natural rights and human decency. The letter goes on to Planned Parenthood uses 94 percent of its billions of dollars in funding to provide abortions to women. The letter ends with a bold statement: “The American people should no longer be forced to fund the abortion industry; therefore we will oppose any government funding legislation that would authorize or provide federal funds for Planned Parenthood.”
If Congress were to comply with the Republicans’ demands to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funding, the damage to the organization would significant.
The National Abortion Federation, acting in a representative capacity on behalf of abortion care service providers, recently filed a lawsuit against the Center for Medical Progress, the anti-abortion group responsible for the taping and release of the misleading videos. The lawsuit was brought in an attempt to prevent the future release of other misleading videos similar to those released this summer that sparked the outrage of many Republican lawmakers, contributing to their push to defund Planned Parenthood.
If Congress were to comply with the Republicans’ demands to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funding, the damage to the organization would significant. Planned Parenthood receives close to $500 million annually in federal payments to help provide women with comprehensive health care services, which represents nearly one-third of the organization’s total budget of $1.3 billion.
The majority of the funds Planned Parenthood receives from the federal government go to Medicaid reimbursements to enable the organization to provide services to low-income patients. After Medicaid reimbursements, the rest of the federal funding is used primarily for contraceptive counseling and pregnancy testing among other health care services.
The Hyde Amendment, a legislative provision passed in 1976, bars Planned Parenthood from using any federal funding they receive to perform abortions. Under the Amendment, the expenditure of federal funds is prohibited for the use of any health benefits coverage that includes abortion. However, federal funds are not prohibited to be used to fund an abortion if the abortion is a result of rape or incest or the woman suffers from a “physical disorder, injury or illness, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself, that would place her in danger of death unless an abortion is performed, as certified by a physician.” According to Planned Parenthood, abortion services only account for 3 percent of the services the organization provides.
Despite the fact that no money that comes from federal funding is used in performing abortions at Planned Parenthood, Republican lawmakers continue to attack the organization, which spends most of its funds providing basic health care necessities such as pap smears and pelvic exams to women who cannot afford them.
[D]espite the bill’s success in the House, it is unlikely to ever reach the President’s desk, as the Senate is not expected to take action on the bill.
Earlier in September, the House Republicans were able to make the first steps towards defunding Planned Parenthood. The House passed a bill that would block Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funds for one year by a 241-187 vote. The House also passed, with a 248-177 vote, a bill that would impose sentences of up to five years in prison, plus fines on abortion doctors who do not make attempts to save infants who are born alive during abortions. However, despite the bill’s success in the House, it is unlikely to ever reach the President’s desk, as the Senate is not expected to take action on the bill.
Even with the House Republicans’ resolute to do everything within their power to defund Planned Parenthood, just hours before funding for the federal government ran out on September 30, the House passed a bill that will fund the federal government through December 11, 2015. The bill passed with a 277 to 151 vote, with House Democrats providing the majority of the support. Fortunately, the bill will allow for the continuance of federal funding to Planned Parenthood.
President Obama commended the House for its vote to avoid a government shutdown, but also reprimanded the House for its last minute decision-making. In a statement, he said:
With today’s bipartisan vote, Congress has taken a step away from the brink – and the President will sign the bill into law once he receives it. But the American people deserve far better than last-minute, short-term legislating. That’s why Congress should pass a budget that reverses harmful spending cuts known as sequestration to allow for critical investments in our military readiness, infrastructure, schools, public health, and (research and development) that keeps our companies on the cutting edge.
Although a government shutdown over the funding of Planned Parenthood has been temporarily avoided, the GOP’s attack on the women’s health care provider is still heating up. Republican lawmakers have already begun to discuss other strategies besides threatening a government shutdown in order to defund Planned Parenthood. In an interview with The Huffington Post, Rep. Reid Ribble, a Republican representative from Wisconsin, suggested that Republican lawmakers may attempt to make a deal with Democratic lawmakers, such as giving Democrats funding toward another project or organization in return for stopping federal funding to Planned Parenthood.
Although it would be beneficial for the parties to reach a compromise, hopefully they will realize that they are bargaining with the health of the thousands of women across the country who use Planned Parenthood’s services.