East County News Service
August 4, 2015 (Washington D.C.) – A Republican-backed bill to stop all funding for Planned Parenthood nationwide has been blocked by Senate Democrats, falling seven votes short of the 50 needed or passage. Next up, the Republican leadership is threatening to shut down the government if funding the budget includes funding for Planned Parenthood, which provides birth control, mammograms, Pap smears and other women’s health services in addition to abortions.
Republicans introduced the bill after secretly filmed videotapes showed Planned Parenthood staff discussing the use of tissue from aborted fetuses for research. The practice of using fetal tissue for research is legal in the U.S. provided only costs are recovered, not profit. Planned Parenthood has said it did not violate the law and that permission was obtained from women to use their aborted fetal tissue for medical research aimed at helping to find cures and treatments for serious medical conditions.
Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), a Republican presidential candidate, led the floor debate, adding, “It’s about time we said enough is enough.”
The videos were filmed undercover by an anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress. California Attorney General Kamala Harris has opened a probe into the videos, since filming or recording someone without their permission is illegal in California, except for law enforcement with a warrant. In Congress, meanwhile, two House committees have opened investigations into Planned Parenthood.
Planned Parenthood’s president, Cecile Richards, has apologized for the sometimes insensitive tone of some employees in the video but insists that no laws were broken. Over a third of the organization’s funding is federal.
Republicans have accused Planned Parenthood of selling body parts, though no evidence of profit has been shown. Democrats accuse Republicans of attacking women’s health and note the irony of some Republicans who voted for fetal tissue research now attacking Planned Parenthood for making tissue available to researchers.
California Senator Barbara Boxer, a Democrat, has said shutting off funding for Planned Parenthood would actually lead to more abortions, since it would deny women a key source of birth control and reproductive counseling. Planned Parenthood operates 700 clinics that served an estimated 2.7 million people nationwide.
With a September 30th deadline looming for the federal budget, a showdown appears likely. President Barack Obama has vowed to veto any measure that defunds Planned Parenthoood. Each party is laying blame at the other for the prospect of a shut-down—but the real losers could be the American public.
Last time Republicans forced a shut-down, the action shut down national parks, took some air traffic controllers off the job, left many federal workers without pay, and caused concerns for people dependent on federal checks for everything from food stamps to Social Security.