How Planned Parenthood controversy killed a US veterans fertility bill

A bill that would have helped wounded American vets start families was withdrawn after new amendments that would bar the Veterans Affairs from working with 'organizations that take human aborted babies' organs and sell them.'

Carolyn Kaster/AP/File
Patty Murray, D-Wash., looks to members of the media as she speaks to media after a policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington on July 8, 2015.

The ongoing controversy over Planned Parenthood’s fetal-tissue practices has temporarily killed a bill that would have helped military veterans receive fertility treatments and counseling.

Democrat Sen. Patty Murray from Washington State abruptly pulled her bill from the Senate Veteran’s Affairs Committee after her Republican counterpart Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina proposed some amendments to the bill, Washington Post reported.

The Women Veterans and Families Health Services Act of 2015, introduced by Senator Murray last February, is a bipartisan bill that offers "fertility treatment and counseling, including through the use of assisted reproductive technology, to a spouse, partner, or gestational surrogate of a severely wounded, ill, or injured member of the Armed Forces who has an infertility condition incurred or aggravated while serving on active duty in the Armed Forces."

The bill was expected to proceed through the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday, but Murray withdrew the bill after Senator Tillis proposed amendments, including one that Tillis said would bar the Department of Veterans Affairs from working with "organizations that take human aborted babies' organs and sell them."

While it was not mentioned explicitly, Tillis was clearly referring to Planned Parenthood, which is in the midst of a controversy after an anti-abortion group accused the organization of profiting from fetal tissue.

An undercover video, made by anti-abortion activists, shows Planned Parenthood's senior director of medical services discussing procedures for providing fetal tissue to researchers. Planned Parenthood, which donates the tissue for scientific research, says the only money it receives are small reimbursements for processing and transportation costs.

On Wednesday while presenting his amendments, Tillis said issues such as veteran unemployment, veteran suicide prevention, and exposure to toxic substances are the most pressing problems for veterans. "It may make sense to add another half-a-billion dollars for this medical treatment,” he said, referring to Murray’s bill. “But not until we're absolutely certain that the promises we've already made are going to be fulfilled."

Murray on the other hand accused Republicans of trying to “attack women’s health care” with “just a few poison pill amendments,” Fusion reported.

“Don’t pull veterans into the middle of it,” she said according to Washington Post. “Don't take something that should be above politics, our sacred duty to our veterans, pull it down into the muck of petty politics. It is not fair to veterans and their families who have been hoping and praying for the opportunity to have children.”

After the bill’s withdrawal from the Senate, the nonprofit “Paralyzed Veterans of America” expressed its disappointment in a statement:

Shame on those who have placed political ideology ahead of the needs of veterans with catastrophic disabilities, particularly those with spinal cord injury or disease.... If a member of Congress wants to debate the moral issues they believe supersede the need to do the right thing for these men and women who have sacrificed so much, we suggest that they meet these men and women face-to-face and explain to them why they cannot support this legislation.

The proposed bill would have ended the 23-year ban on the Veterans' Authority covering in-vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures.

Murray vowed to keep fighting on behalf of veterans.

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