By Karsten Strauss
Friday, March 11, 2011
Planned Parenthood won breathing room Wednesday when the Senate rejected the House Republican spending bill that would have defunded the family-planning organization. But ongoing congressional spending negotiations remain perilous.
(WOMENSENEWS)--The U.S. Senate's blockage of budget bills on Wednesday won Planned Parenthood some breathing room, but the full-service family-planning organization is not out of the woods just yet.
"As the negotiations for the spending bill continue, it's clear that social conservatives want to ban funding for Planned Parenthood in future spending (negotiations)," said Planned Parenthood Federation of America spokesperson Tait Sye.
The organization also faces a longer-term funding threat in H.R.3, the "Stupak on Steroids" bill, for which congressional subcommittee hearings are set 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.
Democrats in the U.S. Senate on Wednesday turned back the House spending bill, lifting the cleaver that House Republicans had raised over funds for Planned Parenthood through an amendment authored by Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind.
Few lawmakers mentioned the Pence amendment in press reports Thursday. Instead, they focused on the heightened risk of a government shutdown if Republicans and Democrats can't agree to a temporary spending bill.
But for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which has headquarters in New York and Washington, D.C., the Senate vote was a major political objective.
"This is such an extreme proposal that all our supporters are calling their senators," Sye told Women's eNews a few days before the vote. He said that his organization enjoys bipartisan support in the Senate but wasn't taking the threat of defunding lightly.
Pence's amendment came in the wake of hidden camera footage of a Planned Parenthood worker giving medical care information to a man posing as a pimp and asking for health care for underage sex workers. The "sex trafficking" videos were altered, Sye said.
Sye said he did not believe it was a coincidence that the videos emerged just prior to Pence tagging his amendment to the House's budget bill.
The footage was filmed by Live Action, a San Jose, Calif.-based organization that describes itself as a "youth-led movement dedicated to building a culture of life and ending abortion."
Studies show that 53 percent of voters oppose cutting federal funding of Planned Parenthood, according to a March 3 Quinnipiak poll. The same poll found 60 percent of voters who consider themselves moderates oppose cuts to the organization, versus 37 percent in favor.
Immediately after the vote Nancy Keenan, president of the Washington-based NARAL Pro-Choice America, hailed the Senate's rejection of the Republican spending bill.
"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," she said in a press statement.
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.
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.
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Karsten Strauss is a freelance journalist based in New York City.
NARAL Pro-Choice America: