(WOMENSENEWS)--Democrats in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday turned back a House spending bill, lifting the cleaver hanging over funds for Planned Parenthood and other family-planning programs while intensifying suspense about whether Congress can pass a budget in time to keep the federal government open.
"We commend fair-minded senators for rejecting the anti-choice House leadership's efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and dismantle the nation's family-planning centers," said Nancy Keenan, president of the Washington-based NARAL Pro-Choice America, in a press statement following news of the vote.
"Unfortunately, the Senate action coincides with a War on Women in the House that continues to escalate. This extreme and far-reaching agenda is a wake-up call to Americans, who are realizing just how much time and energy anti-choice lawmakers are willing to expend attacking a woman's right to choose instead of focusing on the jobs agenda that they promised Americans," she added.
Keenan reported that the House Ways and Means subcommittee has scheduled a hearing on H.R.3, the "Stupak on Steroids" bill, for March 16. That bill blocks private insurance plans from covering abortion care in the new health-care system and imposes tax penalties on small-business owners and many other individuals who purchase private insurance plans that cover abortion care. The legislation now has 219 co-sponsors, enough votes to pass the House.
The Senate vote also saves, or at least stalls, deep cuts in U.S. international aid to family planning, which faced a 32-percent lop from 2010 spending levels, according to a Feb. 14 report by Ms. Magazine.
The rejected budget bill included a $210 million cut in Maternal and Child Health block grants and $1.83 billion cut in Head Start from 2010 spending levels. The Violence Against Women Act would have seen its funding slashed by $170 million this year.
Bill Spurs Rallies
Pro-choice rallies peppered the country in protest on Feb. 26, days after the House voted for the spending bill. A New York rally to "stand with Planned Parenthood" drew 5,000 people. See Women's eNews' photos from the rally on our Flickr page. Other rallies took place in Buffalo, N.Y., Ohio, Boston, Washington, D.C., Chicago and Los Angeles.
Anti-choice activists pushed back with a series of demonstrations on March 7 supporting the defunding of Planned Parenthood.
But while pro-choice advocates got relief at the federal level, the attack on abortion access in state legislatures continued unabated this week.
The latest move comes out of Minnesota, in the form of a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks, reported Pioneer Press in Saint Paul, Minn., March 8.
The proposed Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act is based on disputed scientific evidence that fetuses can experience pain, similar to the bill introduced in Idaho on March 4.
Currently no Minnesota facility performs abortions after 23 weeks in response to a law that bans abortions past the stage when a fetus is considered viable outside the mother's womb.
Slew of State Anti-Choice Bills
But a slew of other anti-choice bills are moving through state legislatures in…
People for the American Way, a progressive advocacy group, provides an overview of these bills and others with facts on their downsides.
For information on choice-related laws, check out an interactive map provided by NARAL Pro-Choice America.
A March 2 Washington Times Op-Ed on alleged wrongdoings of Planned Parenthood, written by Steven Wagner--president of the Renewal Forum, a nonprofit group combating U.S. human trafficking--was criticized sharply in a March 3 report by MediaMatters, the self-described progressive media watchdog.
Wagner cited video footage made by anti-abortion activist group Live Action as evidence that the organization was a party to underage sex trafficking. MediaMatters called this foul play because "before any of the hoax videos were released, Planned Parenthood contacted the FBI to report the possibility that sex trafficking was occurring."
For background coverage by WeNews on the wave of anti-choice initiatives, read a physician's bleak assessment of the outlook for abortion rights; the rise of anti-choice state legislators in the midterm elections; and John Boehner's outlook on Congress. Also bear in mind the threats to Social Security, upon which older women disproportionately depend.