- The Washington Times - Monday, August 3, 2015

Congressional Republicans lost the first battle in the war over federal funding for Planned Parenthood on Monday as Democrats successfully filibustered to keep money flowing to the organization in the wake of videos seemingly showing its employees negotiating the sale of fetal body parts.

But Republican leaders in the states were still moving forward with plans, including Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who announced Monday that he had canceled a contract between Planned Parenthood and Medicaid, the government health care program for the poor.

Congress could well try again, as the spending bills to fund federal operations next year are due by Sept. 30. Some Republicans said they won’t vote for any measures that keep money flowing to Planned Parenthood — threats that enraged Democrats, who sought to make Republicans pay a political price for the votes.

“This is a continuation of the Republican war on women,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, California Democrat.

Republicans said this time is different from past attacks on Planned Parenthood over abortion. The debate, they say, has changed in the past few weeks after a series of undercover videos taken by the Center for Medical Progress, which said the clips show clinic employees trying to make money off the sale of fetal body parts.

“It sickens me to see what’s going on with Planned Parenthood,” said Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican. “The question is, can a civilization long endure that doesn’t respect life?”

A majority of senators did vote to advance the bill, but backers were still six shy of the 60 needed to overcome the filibuster and debate the bill. Two Democrats — Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Joe Donnelly of Indiana — backed the legislation, and one Republican, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, joined the rest of the Democrats in opposition.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, used a parliamentary tactic to preserve the chance for a do-over vote sometime in the future, though it’s unlikely, barring another major revelation, that enough Democrats would abandon their support for Planned Parenthood, which has become synonymous with the pro-choice debate.

Federal funds aren’t allowed to pay for abortions in most cases, but Planned Parenthood and its affiliates collect about $500 million a year in grants and other taxpayer-funded payments, such as for clinics that take Medicaid patients.

Republican leaders’ bill would have cut off Planned Parenthood from the money and put the funds toward other community health centers. They said there are about 650 Planned Parenthood clinics nationally, but some 9,000 other community health care centers could fill the gap.

The Congressional Budget Office said that was true in most cases, but some Medicaid services, particularly for contraceptives, would suffer if funding is cut off from Planned Parenthood.

Fewer contraceptives or abortions would mean more children conceived and born, which would mean higher costs to the government because the pregnancies and deliveries would often be covered by Medicaid, as would the children who are born, the CBO said.

Planned Parenthood, the country’s largest provider of abortions, has said the videos are taken out of context. Top officials have said they don’t attempt to make profits from fetal tissue sales.

The organization has been a target for Republicans’ budget-cutting efforts for years. In 2011, after Republicans took control of the House and ended Democrats’ post-2008 dominance of Washington, Republicans tried to defund the organization in their first spending bill.

That effort came amid an undercover video that showed a clinic manager advising a purported sex trafficker on how to obtain care for underage prostitutes.

The clinic manager was fired, but the Republican defunding efforts petered out as President Obama and Senate Democrats, who controlled the chamber at the time, held firm.

Mr. Obama has defended Planned Parenthood this time as well, and the White House called the new series of videos fraudulent. The president will resist any efforts to strip funding, White House press secretary Josh Earnest told reporters last week.

Some Republicans felt their party was going too far in trying to halt funding.

Mr. Kirk and Sen. Susan M. Collins of Maine, who voted to advance the bill Monday, said they wanted a different approach that would call for a 90-day Justice Department investigation, and then strip funding from any specific Planned Parenthood clinics deemed to be involved in the sale of fetal tissue.

Ms. Collins said none of the clinics in Maine engaged in that practice. She also said stripping funding would force other community health care centers to absorb a 63 percent workload increase.

The issue has ensnared the presidential campaign. Mr. Paul and two fellow Republican candidates, Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio, all voted to defund Planned Parenthood, while Mr. Jindal in Louisiana took unilateral steps, canceling a contract with the organization’s state affiliate to provide Medicaid services.

“Planned Parenthood does not represent the values of the people of Louisiana and shows a fundamental disrespect for human life,” the governor said in a statement announcing the move. “It has become clear that this is not an organization that is worthy of receiving public assistance from the state.”

Mr. Jindal said his state health department believes Planned Parenthood could be breaking Louisiana laws that prohibit groups that take funding from encouraging women to have abortions.

On the other side of the presidential debate, former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a video Monday, attacked Republicans in Congress — and three potential opponents, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry — for moving to strip funding.

“If this feels like a full-on assault on women’s health, that’s because it is,” she said.

Mr. Perry, in a statement, retorted that Mrs. Clinton is defending “an organization that rips apart and sells the body parts of aborted babies.” He said he was proud to have stripped Texas funding from Planned Parenthood during his tenure as governor.

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