A divided US House of Representatives voted Friday to block Planned Parenthood funds.
In a vote that settled almost neatly along party lines (241-187), the House passed legislation that will block federal funds to the heath care provider for a year. The bill, which has little chance of being enacted as Democrats hold enough votes in the Senate to block it, is aimed at appeasing GOP outrage over abortion before it spirals into a government shut down that could harm party appeal.
The GOP outrage is sparked by secretly recorded videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing how to take tissue from aborted fetuses for medical research. While Planned Parenthood say they have acted legally and the tapes were edited, the videos have launched abortion into a prominent issue for the coming presidential election.
Emotional clashes on the subject have also followed in Congress. Friday’s debate featured a poster-sized photo of an aborted fetus.
“In the face of these videos, with all the alternatives women have for health, why would you want to force your constituents to pay for something so evil?” asked House majority leader Kevin McCarthy, of California, according to the Associated Press.
The bill by Rep. Diane Black (R) Tennessee, would shift Planned Parenthood’s federal payments to thousands of community health centers, which Republicans say would take on displaced patients.
Democrats said those community clinics are already overburdened and far away from the women who need them.
Both sides have accused the other of using the issue for political gain.
“Some of their members are willing to risk women’s lives just to score political points,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D) of Florida, to the AP.
Planned Parenthood receives around one-third of their yearly budget from federal payments, which usually take the form of Medicare payments handling low-income patients. Virtually none of the federal money can be used for abortions. The nearly 700 Planned Parenthood clinics provide sexual disease testing, contraceptives, and abortions.
House Speaker John Boehner, (R) of Ohio, is likely hoping the bill will be a salve for his political puzzle. A long-time abortion opponent, Representative Boehner hopes to satisfy conservative lawmakers who might oust him as leader for failing to oppose President Obama, while also avoid a government shutdown, which could damage the party’s appeal in the upcoming election.
This report includes material from the Associated Press.