Senate weighs defunding Planned Parenthood: How are federal funds used?

Planned Parenthood would come one step closer to losing its federal funding if legislation introduced by Rand Paul passes the Senate this week.

Matt Rourke/AP
Opponents and supporters of Planned Parenthood demonstrate Tuesday, in Philadelphia. Anti-abortion activists are calling for an end to government funding for the nonprofit reproductive services organization.

Controversy around Planned Parenthood took on a new level of intensity Tuesday as US Senate agreed to vote on new legislation that would defund the health care provider.

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul (R) drafted the legislation following the release of videos showing a conversation between Planned Parenthood officials about the use of fetal tissue for medical research. Two House committees are currently investigating the organization’s actions regarding the illegal sale of aborted fetus parts.

Senator Paul called the vote itself – win or lose – “a huge victory for conservatives.” Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R), also of Kentucky, is aiming to hold the vote before legislators leave for the August recess, according to spokesman Donald Stewart.

Planned Parenthood, which claims it has not been involved in any illegal activity, receives more than half a billion dollars annually in both federal and state government funding. Government funding made up just under half its overall budget between June 2013 and June 2014, according to the organization’s annual report.

In the same year, abortions made up 3 percent of the services Planned Parenthood provided to its clients, but federal funding was not touched for most of these procedures; current laws ban the use of federal dollars for abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the mother’s life.

The legislation will need 60 out of 100 votes to pass in the Senate. With 54 Republicans in the Senate and a few anti-abortion Democrats it is difficult to predict whether or not the bill will advance.

If it does pass, it is not likely to reach a vote in the House before the August recess, which begins next week.

While the House committees investigates Planned Parenthood, some Democrats have called for an investigation into the anti-abortion group that recorded and leaked the videos, the Center for Medical Progress.

This report includes material from the Associated Press and Reuters.

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