Today Senate Democrats rallied enough support to block a bill that, if passed, would eliminate Planned Parenthood’s government funding. Good news, indeed — but we’re not yet out of the woods. GOP leaders are steadfast in their resolve to defund the organization, even if their efforts lead to another government shutdown.
In order to proceed, S.1881 required 60 favorable votes which would have in turn trumped the Democratic filibuster obstructing debate. The final tally was 53-46.
Nonetheless, celebration tonight is cautious. Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards who, in a Monday evening press release, calls the bill “cruel and nonsensical” urges supporters to steel themselves for continued attacks.
According to the Washington Post, “more than a third of Planned Parenthood’s $1.3 billion revenue last year came from government sources.” But congressional debates over federal agency funding will resume in the fall, and the GOP has made severing ties with Planned Parenthood the crown jewel in their legislative agenda. CNN.com reports:
“Conservatives in both the House and the Senate are demanding that their leaders attach a provision to any spending bill to block additional federal funds from going to Planned Parenthood.”
Doubling down on a series of videos released by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress, Conservatives point to “footage” of the organization selling fetal parts as the most immediate basis for defunding. And although Planned Parenthood has firmly denied these allegations, Republicans continue the crusade. The videos, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says, “literally shock the conscience.” At a July 28 anti-abortion rally, presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), “[calls] on the Department of Justice to open a criminal investigation into the people who appear in the undercover videos.”
Cruz has also taken to Twitter in light of Monday’s outcome. He is not subtle in his message.
Some say this legislative turmoil may result in a government shutdown à la October 2013 (didn’t that work well?). Senator Rand Paul (R.Ky.), yet another presidential candidate and one of the bill’s co-sponsors, pussyfoots around the issue. “I support any legislation that will defund Planned Parenthood,” he tells CNN during an August 2 interview, “But I don’t think you start out with your objective to shut down the government.” Then comes an attempt to reorient responsibility: “I mean, if President Obama wants to shut down government because he doesn’t get funds for Planned Parenthood, that would be President Obama’s determination to shut down government.”
It is true that the president does not support Republicans’ assaults on Planned Parenthood. White House press secretary Josh Earnest emphasizes that President Obama “would veto any legislation that tried to advance a wholesale defunding for [the organization].”
And thank goodness for that. Were Planned Parenthood to lose its funding, the impact would be dire, especially for those who rely on public health services. Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, says of today’s unsuccessful bill, “If [it] went into effect, blocking our health centers from serving patients who rely on publicly funded programs for health care, millions of people would struggle to access quality reproductive health care — period.”
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