Congress has forced President Barack Obama’s hand on federal funding for the country’s No. 1 abortion provider.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed Jan. 6 in a 240-181 roll call a budget-related bill that would cut nearly 90 percent of federal funds in the next year for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its affiliates. The legislation also repeals fundamental sections of the controversial 2010 health-care law opposed by nearly all pro-life organizations.
The Senate approved the same measure by 52-47 in a Dec. 3 vote.
Obama, a strong backer of both Planned Parenthood and the health-care law, has vowed to veto the legislation, which apparently marks the first time a bill to cut funding for the organization has reached a president’s desk. Neither house of Congress, however, has the votes for a two-thirds majority to override a veto.
President Barack Obama
The approval by both houses of an effort to eliminate most of Planned Parenthood’s federal funding amounts to a long-awaited victory. For years, members of Congress have sought to hold accountable 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. Planned Parenthood’s latest black-eye – which fueled the current congressional defunding action – was last year’s revelation through undercover videos it trades in baby body parts.
Pro-life leaders applauded the House action.
Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), called the vote to cut funds for PPFA “a just decision that we should celebrate.”
“There is no moral justification for sponsoring the human trafficking of Planned Parenthood clinics with our tax dollars,” Moore said. “Justice for the unborn and for women demands much more than this one vote, but it is a step in the right direction.”
Casey Mattox, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said the House did “the will of the majority of Americans.” He said in a written statement, “It is time to end this immoral partnership that has been forced upon the American people.”
Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life, said in a written release, “While we know that it’s unlikely that the President will respect the majority of Americans who do not want to be forced into business with the abortion industry, this vote shows that the framework is there to defund Big Abortion with a pro-life president.”
A single Democrat – Rep. Collin Peterson of Minnesota – voted for the proposal, while only three Republicans – Reps. Bob Dold of Illinois and Richard Hanna and John Katko, both of New York – voted against it.
Supporters of the effort to defund Planned Parenthood used what is known as the reconciliation process in their latest effort. Reconciliation enables the Senate to pass a budget-related measure without the need for 60 votes to overcome a filibuster attempt.
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 approved by Congress does not name Planned Parenthood but specifies it prohibits funds to organizations and affiliates that receive federal and state Medicaid expenditures exceeding $350 million annually. The bill does not eliminate those funds but redirects them to approved community health centers.
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.
PPFA sought to blunt the defunding campaign by announcing in October its centers no longer would accept federal reimbursement for expenses accrued in tissue donations from aborted babies. Its critics, however, said the action served as an admission of guilt and should not halt the effort to eliminate federal money for the organization.
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 cripples 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 repeals 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.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Tom Strode is the Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, news service of the Southern Baptist Convention.)