WASHINGTON (BP)–The U.S. House of Representatives voted Feb. 18 to eliminate all federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the country’s No. 1 abortion provider, during the remainder of this fiscal year.
It is apparently the first time a chamber of Congress has ever voted to defund the organization, which recorded more than 324,000 abortions at its clinics in 2008, the most recent year for which statistics are available.
In a 240-185 roll call, the House acted to cut off all federal government money for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its 102 affiliates through Sept. 30. Planned Parenthood and its affiliates received $363.2 million in government grants and contracts during the 2008-09 fiscal year. Some of that total came from state and local governments.
Representatives added the Planned Parenthood amendment to a continuing resolution to extend funding for federal agencies in the absence of a 2011 budget. Congress failed to pass a budget last year, adopting instead a resolution that continued funding for the federal government through March 4.
Pro-life advocates applauded passage of the amendment.
Rep. Mike Pence, R.-Ind., the amendment’s sponsor, described the vote as “a victory for taxpayers and a victory for life. By banning federal funding to Planned Parenthood, Congress has taken a stand for millions of Americans who believe their tax dollars should not be used to subsidize the largest abortion provider in America.”
Douglas Johnson, the National Right to Life Committee’s legislative director, said the “landmark vote demonstrates that most House members now recognize Planned Parenthood is a hyper-political, under-regulated, out-of-control mega-marketer of abortion as a method of birth control.”
A long-time legislative strategist in Washington, Johnson said it is the first time he recalls a congressional vote to cut all federal funds for Planned Parenthood.
Pence’s amendment, as well as the continuing resolution it is a part of, faces an uphill battle in the Senate.
The House still had more than 100 amendments proposed to the continuing resolution the afternoon of Feb. 18 before a vote on final passage could be taken. Republicans are seeking to cut $100 billion from the budget in the resolution. In amendments approved Feb. 18, the House voted to withhold funds for implementation of last year’s health-care reform law.
The roll call on Pence’s amendment was largely along party lines. Ten Democrats reportedly joined 230 Republicans in supporting the proposal, although the official roll call had not been posted on the House’s website by 4:30 EST.
In a Feb. 17 floor speech on his amendment, Pence said he was not conducting a “war on Planned Parenthood…. Sadly, abortion on demand is legal in America. This debate is about who pays for it.
“Nobody is saying that Planned Parenthood can’t be the leading advocate of abortion on demand in America,” he said, “but why do I have to pay for it?
“Nobody is saying that Planned Parenthood can’t continue to be the largest abortion provider in America, but why do tens of millions of pro-life taxpayers have to pay for it?”
House approval of the amendment followed nearly three weeks of damaging publicity for Planned Parenthood. Hidden-camera videos secretly recorded at the organization’s clinics and released Feb. 1-8 showed employees demonstrating an apparent willingness to aid sex traffickers whose prostitutes are in their early teens.
Live Action, which is led by young pro-lifers, released video footage from secret investigations at six clinics that showed Planned Parenthood staff signaling cooperation with a self-described pimp in providing birth control, testing for sexually transmitted diseases and/or abortions for his alleged, under-age sex workers. The pimp and a prostitute who, in some cases, accompanied him to the clinics were actors doing undercover work for Live Action. An undercover audio from another Planned Parenthood clinic in Washington, D.C., and released Feb. 10 revealed a similar response from a staff member.
The clandestine videos were shot at Planned Parenthood clinics in New Jersey, New York and Virginia from Jan. 11 to 14, according to Live Action.
Pence has been working to cut federal funding for Planned Parenthood in recent years. Two previous attempts to eliminate grants for the organization under the Title X program failed. His proposals to that effect failed by a 231-189 vote in 2007 and by 247-183 in 2009.
Title X is the federal government’s family planning program, and Planned Parenthood is the leading recipient of Title X funds. Although Title X funds do not go directly for abortions, pro-life advocates contend federal money frees up other contributions to Planned Parenthood for the promotion and performance of abortions.
Southern Baptist ethicist Richard Land wrote the House leadership Feb. 16 to urge support for Pence’s amendment and other pro-life legislation in the continuing resolution. “We do not believe the government should be in the business of supporting the nation’s leading abortion provider with taxpayer dollars, no matter how Planned Parenthood allocates the money,” said Land, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC).
The ERLC sent an e-mail alert to constituents earlier Feb. 18 to encourage calls to House members for support of the amendment.
Pence introduced in January the Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, H.R. 217, which would prohibit Title X funds from going to all abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood.
The Government Accountability Office reported only $53 million of the $363 million in government funds Planned Parenthood received in 2008-09 came through Title X, Pence said.
Planned Parenthood recently issued new rules requiring at least one clinic per affiliate to perform abortions, signaling it is prepared to gain a greater market share of the abortion business.
The Republican leadership placed several pro-life measures in the continuing resolution. Among those are:
— Reinstatement of the Mexico City Policy, which would bar federal money for organizations that perform or promote abortions overseas.
— Restoration of the prohibition on funds for the United Nations Population Fund, which has been found to support China’s coercive population control program.
— Re-establishment of the ban on the use of federal and congressionally approved local funds for elective abortions in the District of Columbia.
Live Action’s newly released video stings are the latest in a series of undercover investigations of Planned Parenthood clinics released during the last four years.
A previous hidden-camera project by Live Action caught Planned Parenthood employees in Alabama, Arizona, California, Indiana and Tennessee seeking to cover up alleged child sexual abuse, prompting some state investigations. Another video sting showed a counselor at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Wisconsin providing erroneous information about fetal development.
In an undercover investigation Live Action conducted by telephone, Planned Parenthood workers in seven states were caught on audio tape agreeing to receive donations designated for abortions of African-American babies.
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press.