Politics & Policy

Congress’s Zika Compromise Is a Minor Victory for Pro-Lifers

(Dreamstime photo: Michael Ross)
It’s not a big win, but Republicans at least managed to keep Planned Parenthood from directly lining its pockets with federal funds.

After months of debate and gridlock, Congress yesterday evening passed a $1.1 billion continuing resolution to fund the federal government through December 9. One of a few hold-ups was a party-line disagreement over funding for prevention, research, and treatment of the Zika virus, which was settled in yesterday’s finalized legislation.

As National Review previously reported, Senate Democrats blocked the Zika measure three times, asserting that GOP lawmakers had inserted a “poison pill” into the legislation. According to most major media sources and leading Democratic lawmakers, Senate Republicans “made Zika funding the latest hostage to their crusade to defund Planned Parenthood.”

Yet, as has been clarified time and again, defunding Planned Parenthood was never so much as on the table, let alone a goal of GOP senators during the debate. In fact, Democrats repeatedly stymied the bill because they were holding out for a specific earmark granting additional public-health funding to Planned Parenthood, on top of the $500 million the group already receives annually from the federal government. Both sides ultimately gave ground: Democrats relinquished their desired earmark, and Republicans removed language that enumerated potential recipients of the bill’s block-grant public-health funding, a list that did not include Planned Parenthood.

Under the compromise, Planned Parenthood clinics in Florida and Puerto Rico are eligible to receive federal reimbursement for services related to the Zika virus. Those reimbursements are left up to leaders in the Sunshine State and the Commonwealth, so there’s no guarantee Planned Parenthood will receive them. But since the abortion giant’s “services” have nothing to do with preventing, screening for, or treating the Zika virus itself, it is likely that if it does receive federal funds, they will go toward the distribution of contraception as a means of stopping the disease’s  spread. (The Hyde Amendment was attached to the spending bill, prohibiting any of the money from funding abortion.)

#related#Some on the right view the final measure as a loss for the pro-life movement, since it gives Planned Parenthood a clear path to federal funds. Erick Erickson, editor of the conservative website The Resurgent, wrote a piece entitled “National Right to Life Just Helped Get Planned Parenthood Funded,” arguing that the NRLC’s unconditional support for congressional Republicans, regardless of their feeble pro-life commitments, made it politically feasible to pass the compromise, which he says is a betrayal of the pro-life movement. The Federalist publisher Ben Domenech wrote a series of tweets yesterday making a similar point and urging staunch pro-lifers to separate from the Republican party in order to advance their movement more effectively.

The wisdom of that strategy remains an open question, but in the short term, this is the deal the pro-life movement must live with. In what is neither a total victory nor a total loss, Republican lawmakers managed to prevent Planned Parenthood from outright lining its pockets with more federal money, and that’s worth cheering.

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