- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Senate Republicans agreed Wednesday to call a vote next week on a bill to defund the “scandal-plagued” Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Kentucky Republican, said the Senate will vote then on S. 1881, introduced by Sen. Joni Ernst, Iowa Republican, and around two dozen co-sponsors.

The bill will defund Planned Parenthood and redirect those millions of federal dollars to thousands of community health care centers and hospitals that provide health services.

“It would ensure that we are funding [women’s health services] and not subsidizing some scandal-plagued organization,” said Mr. McConnell.

The harvesting and selling of body parts of unborn babies, as seen in undercover videos of Planned Parenthood officials, is “morally reprehensible and vile,” Ms. Ernst said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon.

“Republicans and Democrats alike are horrified by the utter lack of compassion shown by Planned Parenthood for these women and their babies.” Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton has called the videos “disturbing,” said Ms. Ernst. “I agree,” the senator said, noting that with their defunding bill, there would be “no reduction in overall federal funding available to support women’s health.”

Planned Parenthood currently receives more than $500 million a year in federal funding.

Democratic senators — who could filibuster the bill by maintaining party unity — and the White House pushed back.

The Republicans’ bill “pretends to be for women’s health,” but it would block funding to an organization “that is the health care backbone for many American women,” Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, said Wednesday. “As irresponsible as it is offensive,” added Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat.

At the White House, deputy press secretary Eric Schultz gave a forceful defense of Planned Parenthood and decried Republican lawmakers’ efforts to defund it.

Mr. Schultz said he didn’t know whether President Obama has seen the videos because the president just returned Wednesday from a five-day trip to Africa. But he said White House officials are “familiar with the news reports, including that a lot of these videos have been edited.”

Mr. Schultz said the White House “couldn’t disagree more” with congressional Republicans who want to strip federal funding from the family planning and abortion giant.

“We believe that Planned Parenthood provides a range of important preventive care in health services — things like screenings, vaccines and checkups to men, women and families across the country,” Mr. Schultz said.

The Center for Medical Progress, a watchdog group, released a third video this week depicting a technician at a biomedical company discussing payments to Planned Parenthood clinics for fetal organs after abortions.

Planned Parenthood and its allies have decried the undercover videos as a “smear campaign”; California Attorney General Kamala Harris has said she will investigate the Center for Medical Progress, as it recorded much of its surreptitious footage in California. Mrs. Clinton, while calling the videos unsettling, said “everything” should be looked at, not just Planned Parenthood.

In the House, Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Republican, has indicated that action on Planned Parenthood could come up in September.

A Los Angeles Superior Court order this week bars the Center from releasing any more videos of StemExpress officials taken at a restaurant in May, in a case the group said Wednesday was “meritless.”

However, Rep. Diane Black, Tennessee Republican, and five other pro-life Republican congresswomen sent a letter to House Republican leaders Wednesday, urging them to “act swiftly” to block “[even one more] federal dollar for subsidizing the immoral practice of abortion.”

In the wake of the undercover videos, “We issued statements, we made passionate floor speeches, and we pledged action. Now our constituents would like to know when we’re going to follow through on that promise,” Ms. Black said in a floor speech Wednesday. She has introduced H.R. 3134, the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015, which has 149 co-sponsors.

Separately, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat, defended his decision not to order an investigation of Planned Parenthood’s Virginia clinics.

“If I get one instance, one piece of evidence, one complaint, you bet we will investigate like you’ve never seen before,” he said during WTOP’s “Ask the Governor” program Wednesday. “But without any evidence and no complaints, I just don’t think I should send our state troopers and our SWAT team into these clinics.”

In Texas, Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, told a Texas Senate committee Wednesday that his office has received an undercover video taken of a Texas Planned Parenthood clinic that is “consistent” with other videos released about fetal tissue and Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood officials declined to testify at the hearing without seeing the video. Mr. Paxton said his investigation will continue for several more weeks, according to The Associated Press.

⦁ Anjali Shastry and David Sherfinski contributed to this report.

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