House Republicans voted Friday to provide legal protections to babies who survive abortions and place a one-year moratorium on taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood pending the outcome of investigations into the organization’s alleged sale of fetal body parts.
The bills are the first significant pieces of pro-life legislation to pass either chamber of Congress since July, when the Center for Medical Progress began releasing a series of undercover videos that suggest Planned Parenthood clinics profit from the sale of fetal body parts and violate other laws, such as the partial-birth abortion ban.
Two Democrats joined the GOP majority in voting for the moratorium, which was opposed by three Republicans, and five Democrats backed the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act.
“Only five Democrats — five out of 188 — could bring themselves to vote to protect a baby who survived a failed abortion,” Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser said following the votes. “Last week in the House Judiciary Committee hearing, we heard from two beautiful women — Melissa Ohden and Gianna Jessen — who survived the abortion procedure as infants. Their contributions to their families, communities, and our country are meaningful. Those who fail to stand up for these women and those like them are not leaders.”
In previous years, the bills might have been the most significant abortion-related legislation passed during the congressional term. As it is, the passage of the bills marked the opening of a legislative process that will not end until Republicans decide whether to use the September 30 deadline for funding the federal government in the coming fiscal year as leverage to try to strip Planned Parenthood of all taxpayer funding immediately.
That intra-party debate was apparent Friday in Iowa Representative Steve King’s decision to vote “present” on the one-year moratorium. “This bill takes a huge step backwards from the initial conservative position that Planned Parenthood should not be receiving federal funds,” he said in a Wednesday statement on the bill. “The funding fight starts now — this is our marker. . . . I expect much stronger language than this in the CR coming up in the next few weeks.”
#share#King’s views track with the Center for Medical Progress, which has driven the furor through its steady release of undercover videos. “Planned Parenthood runs their abortion and baby parts business in open disregard for the law and should be prosecuted immediately,” David Daleiden, Project Lead for CMP, said Tuesday. “Their taxpayer funding should be reassigned to Federally Qualified Health Centers, which provide more and comprehensive health services at locations outnumbering Planned Parenthood 20 to 1.”
Not all pro-life activists want to try to defund Planned Parenthood if it comes at the cost of a possible government shutdown. “I don’t know that any government shutdown could accomplish what we want,” Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, told the New York Times on Wednesday. “What we have to do is get a new pro-life president in, and we’d have a much better chance of actually taking away their money.”
#related#Representative Steve Russell, a pro-life freshman from Oklahoma, made a similar argument. “A shutdown will have little-to-no impact, as they draw their government funds through Medicaid under Title X,” he said Friday. “We must guard against any attempt to shipwreck pro-life efforts and make the issue something else. We must also remain steady and not become easily encumbered as we press our investigations and expose evidence.”
The House Freedom Caucus, a group of 30 to 40 conservative representatives, has pledged not to back any government funding bill that includes money for the abortion giant, meaning that House Speaker John Boehner will likely need Democratic assistance if he tries to pass such a bill. If that decision leads to another coup attempt, his career will depend on how many House Republicans agree with lawmakers such as Russell rather than King.
— Joel Gehrke is a political reporter for National Review.