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Amid continuing controversy over fetal tissue harvesting at abortion clinics, the U.S. House of Representatives voted Friday to defund Planned Parenthood and to reroute funding to community health centers.
“Women have the most to gain from congressional action to reroute these tax dollars to community and rural health centers, which provide comprehensive health care services to women, but do not abort the lives of unborn children and harvest their body parts,” the pro-life political action committee the Susan B. Anthony List said Oct. 23.
The bill also guts key parts of the 2010 Affordable Care Act, including the repeal of the law’s individual health insurance mandate and the employer health insurance mandate. This ultimately drew the opposition of Democratic pro-lifers.
“We fully support reallocating Planned Parenthood’s Title X funding to the 13,000 community health centers and rural health care clinics,” said Kristen Day, president of Democrats for Life of America.
However, she objected that linking the defunding of Planned Parenthood to gutting the health care law “will cost votes and defeat the bipartisan effort to prevent federal funds from going to the largest abortion provider in the nation.”
The Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015 passed the House Friday on a party line vote, 240-189. Only one Democrat, Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota, voted for it.
The act is a budget reconciliation bill that temporarily blocks any mandatory funding of abortion providers while the House continues to investigate Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. The bill would also block any Medicaid dollars from going to Planned Parenthood affiliates.
Planned Parenthood receives over $500 million in public funds per year. Most of this funding comes through Medicaid payments and funds from Title X, a federal health program for low-income Americans.
The House bill also invests $235 million into community health centers, touted by pro-life advocates as a women’s health care alternative to Planned Parenthood. For example, many federally qualified health centers offer mammograms that Planned Parenthood clinics do not. These health centers do not perform abortions.
There are around 9,000 federally qualified health centers in the U.S. that serve almost 23 million patients yearly, according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the Susan B. Anthony List. There are also 4,000 rural health centers across the country.
Planned Parenthood has become embroiled in controversy after the release of a series of undercover investigative video reports by the citizen journalist group Center for Medical Progress. They showed Planned Parenthood’s involvement in the offering of fetal body parts of aborted babies to harvesters for compensation.
The series of videos showed Planned Parenthood doctors in California, Colorado, and Texas discussing how clinics partnered with different tissue harvesters.
Those producing the videos claimed the transactions were illegal under laws that allow only a “reasonable” compensation to cover operational expenses incurred in fetal tissue harvesting.
Planned Parenthood has denied that it broke any laws and accepted illegal compensation. The organization has announced that it would no longer accept any compensation for fetal tissue from harvesters.
Kristen Day said that support for Planned Parenthood funding declines “once people know the truth, that Planned Parenthood will continue to harvest body parts from aborted babies.”
In a Reuters poll released in August, support for federal funding of Planned Parenthood fell 20 percentage points after poll respondents heard a description of the videos.
About 54 percent of respondents initially supported federal funding of Planned Parenthood. According to the Reuters poll, after respondents heard about the videos only 34 percent said federal funding should continue. Another 39 percent backed an end to government funding.
Chuck Donovan, president of the Charlotte Lozier Institute, argued that even if Planned Parenthood clinics close because of lack of funding, the federal health centers will easily handle an influx of their clients.
At present, federally qualified health centers serve almost 23 million people per year, while Planned Parenthood serves under three million, Donovan said. If the organization lost its federal money and a proportional number of clinics had to close, the federal health centers could still easily handle the influx of women patients, he continued.
Also on Friday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) announced the members of a special panel to investigate Planned Parenthood. Two House committees have already launched separate investigations into the organization but have not concluded that it took part in illegal activity.
The Select Investigative Panel includes Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Joe Pitts (R-Pa.), Diane Black (R-Tenn.), Larry Bucshon (R-Ind.), Sean Duffy (R-Wisc.), Andy Harris (R-Md.), Vicki Hartzler (R-Mo.), and Mia Love (R-Utah).
Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser praised the panel, saying it includes “all-star” pro-life members. “This select panel is an encouraging restart to an investigative process that is long overdue,” she said. “We are encouraged to see such passionate and articulate pro-life women and men – including doctors and a nurse – lead the charge to expose the abortion industry’s exploitative practices.”
By Matt Hadro
Washington D.C., Oct 23, 2015 (CNA/EWTN News)