March 19, 2019
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House passes anti-abortion bills in Planned Parenthood funding fight

A sign is pictured at the entrance to a Planned Parenthood building in New York recently.

WASHINGTON — The House voted Friday to block federal payments to Planned Parenthood for a year, though the action didn’t satisfy some Republicans who are prepared to shut down the federal government over the issue.

Some conservatives criticized the 241-187 vote on the defunding measure as little more than a symbolic gesture with no chance of advancing. Those members have been willing to force a shutdown if defunding isn’t linked to a federal spending bill.

“The result here, unfortunately, is we won’t get this bill into law,” said Rep. John Fleming of Louisiana, a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus of about 40 conservative Republicans.

The bill, HR 3134, would bar federal funds for Planned Parenthood and its affiliates for a year unless they certify that they won’t perform abortions.

Rep. Bruce Poliquin, R-Maine, voted in favor of the measure. He pointed out bill would redirect $235 million to federally qualified health centers that provide health services for women.

“As a single father who raised my son after my wife died tragically, I have concerns about the need to ensure women receive health care services, especially mothers caring for children,” Poliquin said in a statement.

“As a Franco-American Catholic and a father, I also find the Planned Parenthood videos released to the public shocking and deeply disturbing. I’m very concerned about the serious allegations that Planned Parenthood is using Federal taxpayer dollars for elective abortion procedures in order to harvest and sell, for profit, body parts of unborn babies, including performing partial birth abortions, which is illegal. I believe this needs to be fully and fairly investigated.

However, Andrea Irwin, executive director of the Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center in Bangor, criticized Poliquin’s vote. She decried Poliquin’s vote as “a vote against women’s economic security.”

The House also passed, 248-177, a second measure that would impose criminal penalties on doctors who fail to provide medical attention to live babies delivered during abortions. That bill is HR 3504.

Rep. Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, criticized attempts to defund the organization.

“Let’s be clear about who is really behind the attempts to defund Planned Parenthood: radical anti-abortion groups who want to shut down Planned Parenthood and deny women access to safe and legal abortion. These are groups who want to deny women the right to make private, personal medical decisions. And in the process they want to take away their access to birth control, family planning services and even basic health care,” Pingree said on the House floor.

The votes represented efforts by House Speaker John Boehner and other Republican leaders to satisfy conservatives who are outraged by undercover videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing reimbursement for providing tissue from aborted fetuses to researchers.

Planned Parenthood, the women’s reproductive health service, has said it doesn’t sell fetal tissue for profit, and instead receives the cost of collecting and delivering it. Bloomberg Philanthropies provides financial support for Planned Parenthood.

Boehner is trying to get enough support from rank-and-file Republicans to pass a stopgap spending bill to prevent a partial government shutdown when the new fiscal year starts Oct. 1. If the conservatives can’t be brought along, Boehner might have to seek votes from House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi of California.

Pelosi may seek concessions from Boehner in exchange for her party’s help.

“I cannot say he can count on votes of Democrats,” Rep. Chris Van Hollen, a Maryland Democrat, said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast Friday.

If Boehner needs Democratic votes to pass a spending bill, “we would like to see something like” a measure reviving the U.S. Export-Import Bank attached to it, Van Hollen said.

Some conservatives in Boehner’s party said Friday’s votes weren’t enough to bring them on board, particularly because President Barack Obama has said he would veto both abortion measures if they reached his desk. The Senate hasn’t scheduled action on either of the measures.

“Our constituents rightly hold us accountable for results,” Fleming said. The stand-alone proposal to defund Planned Parenthood “won’t get through the Senate, and the president won’t sign it even if it does,” he said.

Fleming said that’s why he and at least three dozen other House conservatives are insisting that defunding language be included in the spending bill.

That would force the Senate to consider it and Obama to choose between signing a bill with the defunding language or shutting down the government, Fleming said.

Rep. Matt Salmon of Arizona said House Republicans need to find out if Obama would follow through on his veto threats, instead of backing down before trying to force his hand.

Rep. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina said conservatives aren’t trying to goad Boehner into making a deal with Democrats on a spending bill so they can build their case to remove him from the party’s top spot.

Fleming said, “This has nothing to do with the speaker.” He described the abortion strategy as an issue of conscience, while adding, “That’s not to say his actions aren’t being watched closely.”

Not all conservatives agreed.

Rep. Trent Franks, an Arizona Republican and sponsor of the measure that would impose criminal penalties on doctors, said, “The speaker’s having to walk an impossible line right now.”

Franks said Boehner’s difficulties are compounded by Senate Democrats’ ability to block legislation from advancing in that chamber although they are in the minority.

“I think he’s doing about the best a human being could do,” Franks said. Passing a short-term spending bill, along with Franks’s separate measure, is a better path that will leave Republicans on high ground, he said.

Erik Wasson and Laura Curtis contributed from Washington.


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