“The goal here is not to shut down the government,” Speaker of the House John Boehner told Politico last Thursday. “The goal is to stop these horrific practices of organizations selling baby parts. So that’s the goal here.”
Republicans drove a bill blocking Planned Parenthood’s federal funds through the House on Friday, hoping to contain demands by conservatives for a politically risky showdown.
On Tuesday, Senators voted to move ahead on legislation 54-42, falling short of the 60 votes that were needed to advance the bill. The House voted 241-187 following a dramatic debate that included a graphic, poster-sized photo of a scarred, aborted fetus.
Boehner has been under pressure from House Republicans who are reacting to videos allegedly depicting agents of Planned Parenthood discussing fetal tissue sales. The videos were apparently recorded secretly and the organization says that they show signs of doctoring and no evidence of malpractice. House Democrats back the organization’s statements.
Planned Parenthood gets around $450 million yearly in federal payments, mostly Medicaid reimbursements for handling low-income patients. That’s around one-third of the organization’s $1.3 billion annual budget. Practically none of the federal money can be used for abortions.
Dr. Sandra Barney, of Lock Haven’s history and political science department, says of the inflammatory claims against Planned Parenthood: “The New York Times and other reputable news agencies have questioned the authenticity of these videos. That the Republican leadership in the House would use such tainted artifacts, as rationale for shutting down the government is disturbing. More importantly, perhaps, is that this move is just one more assault on efforts to protect women’s health initiatives. It feels like this is just the next salvo in the never-ending war on women’s reproductive rights. This time, the whole nation might be held hostage.”
Some Republicans say that they are willing to shut down the government using the power of the purse to completely defund Planned Parenthood. Thirty-one Republicans have signed onto a July 30 letter from Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-South Carolina, pledging opposition to any measure that doesn’t defund Planned Parenthood. The conservative House Freedom Caucus has promised the same. Beyond Friday’s bill, some conservatives want to attach language halting Planned Parenthood’s payments to broader legislation financing other government agencies, which will otherwise run out of money next Thursday.
Boehner has been under scrutiny from other GOP leaders for being “non-committal” about defunding. Some Republicans have threatened to force a House vote, which would remove him from his post as Speaker of the House if he does not back them during upcoming battles over government borrowing and spending.