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Obama vetoes bill defunding Planned Parenthood

WASHINGTON (BP) — President Obama squandered no time in killing legislation that would have largely defunded the country’s No. 1 abortion provider.

The president vetoed Friday (Jan. 8) a budget-related bill that would have cut nearly 90 percent of federal money in the next year for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its affiliates. The legislation also would have essentially gutted the controversial 2010 health-care law opposed by nearly all pro-life organizations.

Obama, a strong backer of both Planned Parenthood and the health-care law, had promised to veto the legislation. He followed through only two days after the House of Representatives approved the bill, titled the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act.

While an override vote is expected in at least the House, neither chamber of Congress has the votes for the two-thirds majority required to overcome the president’s action. Passage of the proposal by both houses remains something of a victory for pro-life advocates, since it apparently marks the first time a bill to cut funding for Planned Parenthood has reached a president’s desk.

Obama’s veto protected the interests of an organization that performs more than 300,000 abortions a year, receives more than $500 million from the government annually and continues to be plagued by scandal. The latest in a growing list of black eyes to Planned Parenthood’s reputation came in last year’s revelation through undercover videos that it trades in baby body parts.

Supporters of defunding Planned Parenthood expressed disapproval, but not shock, at the veto.

“The President’s veto and his support of Planned Parenthood are not surprising moves, but they are sobering reminders of how much more there is to do for the cause of women and the unborn,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), in a written statement.

“The tax-supported human trafficking of Planned Parenthood is deeply entrenched in our cultural conscience, and it is grievous to see this administration’s continual denial of the most basic of human rights to the most vulnerable among us,” he said.

Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, said Obama “wasted no time demonstrating to the American people just how beholden he and his party are” to Planned Parenthood.

“[N]o scandal is too big to overlook when it comes to the Democratic Party’s chief ally in the abortion lobby,” she said.

Obama’s veto came a day after Planned Parenthood endorsed Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Supporters of the effort to defund Planned Parenthood used what is known as the reconciliation process in their latest effort to cut funds for the organization. Reconciliation enables the Senate to pass a budget-related measure without the need for 60 votes to overcome a filibuster attempt.

The Senate approved the measure in a 52-47 vote in early December, while the House passed it in a 240-181 roll call Jan. 6.

The House had approved a non-reconciliation bill to defund PPFA in September, but the legislation was dead on arrival in the Senate because of the need for a super majority. In August, the Senate had fallen short on a defunding bill despite a 53-46 majority, because it failed to gain the 60 votes needed to invoke cloture, as it is known, and block a filibuster.

The legislation vetoed by Obama would have redirected funds to approved community health centers instead of Planned Parenthood.

PPFA and its affiliates received $553.7 million in government grants and reimbursements, according to its latest annual financial report (2014-15). Planned Parenthood affiliates performed 323,999 abortions during 2013-14, the most recent year for which statistics are available.

The latest congressional effort to cut federal funds for PPFA came after secretly recorded videos released beginning in July showed various Planned Parenthood officials in different locations discussing the sale of organs from aborted children. The videos included acknowledgements by Planned Parenthood employees of their willingness to manipulate the abortion procedure to preserve body parts for sale and use.

The ERLC’s Moore and 37 other pro-life leaders wrote congressional leaders in October to encourage them to use the reconciliation process in an attempt to defund PPFA.

The reconciliation bill would have crippled the 2010 health-care law, eliminating penalties for individuals who refuse to buy health insurance and employers who choose not to provide it. The legislation also would have repealed other taxes in the law.

Pro-life organizations opposed the health-care law because of its support of subsidies for abortions. A federal regulation implementing the law also requires employers to provide coverage for contraceptives with potentially abortion-causing properties.