Senate Fails to Pass Bill to Defund Planned Parenthood; Group Stands By Videos, Release Another Online

( [email protected] ) Aug 05, 2015 04:23 AM EDT
The Senate voted and failed to pass a plan to defund Planned Parenthood of $500 million in federal funding on Monday. The group behind the videos that triggered the vote in the first place has released a fifth video online Tuesday.
A Planned Parenthood clinic is seen in Vista, California, August 3, 2015. Planned Parenthood will be the focus of a partisan showdown in the U.S. Senate on Monday, as abortion foes press forward a political offensive against the women's healthcare group over its role in fetal tissue research. Congressional Republicans are trying to cut off Planned Parenthood's federal funding, reinvigorating America's debate about abortion as the 2016 presidential campaign heats up. REUTERS/Mike Blake

The Senate voted and failed to pass a plan to defund Planned Parenthood of $500 million in federal funding on Monday. The group behind the videos that triggered the vote in the first place has released a fifth video online Tuesday.

According to Alan Fram of the Associated Press, Monday's vote was 53-46 to halt stalling tactics from the Democrats to kill the Republican-sponsored bill. The measure required 60 votes in order to move toward passage.

"Democrats Joe Donnelly of Indiana and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, and Illinois Republican Mark Kirk, who faces a tough re-election fight next year, crossed party lines in the roll call," Fram wrote. "So did Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., who voted with victorious Democrats because it will let him force a fresh vote later."

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Center, told the Associated Press that Congress "must take the next step" and end Planned Parenthood funding after Congress returns from recess next month. In the meantime, both sides have reinforced their political positions on abortion.

"Within minutes of Monday's Senate vote, abortion-rights groups were releasing TV ads attacking GOP supporters of the measure for stomping on women's health care needs," Fram wrote. "Conservatives were accusing Democrats of voting to protect taxpayer funds for an organization whose campaign contributions tilt lopsidedly to Democratic candidates."

Janell Ross of the Washington Post looked at how Planned Parenthood actually used its federal funding. She found that as recently as fiscal year 2014, the women's health organization received $528.4 million in government funds, which come from local, state, and federal dollars.

"Those federal dollars were the single largest source of money coming into the organization and its local affiliates, by far," Ross wrote. "Another $305.3 million came from nongovernment sources, about $257.4 million reached the organization after private donors and foundations made contributions and bequests. The organization also raised another $54.7 million in fees charged for its services."

Ross contended that government funding was "absolutely critical to Planned Parenthood's total operation." She was adamant that the nonprofit organization did not use federal dollars to pay for abortions.

"That's been banned by law in almost all cases since 1976," Ross wrote. "Instead, the organization uses money from other sources - private donors and foundations as well as fees - to fund its abortion services."

Ross cited data from Planned Parenthood stating that abortions comprised about 3 percent of all its services. Most of its funding, according to Planned Parenthood data, was allocated to testing and treating sexually transmitted diseases as well as providing contraception, which are both funded by federal dollars.

"While it's true that the Planned Parenthood's political opponents would quite likely strike a major blow to the organization if it was stripped of all federal dollars, it's far less likely that such a change would significantly reduce the number of abortions the agency's doctors perform each year or how those procedures contribute to the total number of pregnancies terminated in the United States," Ross wrote.

However, Eugene Scott of CNN reported that the anti-abortion group The Center for Medical Progress released a new undercover video a day after the Senate blocked the Planned Parenthood defunding bill. The edited video showed Melissa Farrell, director of research for Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, discussed how abortion procedures were altered to retrieve intact organs and tissue from aborted fetuses.

"If we alter our process and we're able to obtain intact fetal cadavers, it's all a matter of line items," Farrell said in the undercover video.

Farrell pointed out in the secret video that Planned Parenthood worked with academics and researches studying fetuses.

"It's something that we can look at exploring: How we can make that happen so we have the highest chance," Farrell said in the video. "It will probably also require a little bit of input from the doctors. Doctors are the ones asking, directly doing that."

Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood's executive vice president, defended Farrell in a statement on Tuesday, claiming to CNN that the video had "at least 20 substantial and unexplained edits."

"Previous tapes released by this extremist group were heavily edited in order to distort what the people on the tapes actually said," Laguens said. "These videos are intended to shock and deceive the public. For example, one video was edited to make it look like a doctor said she would 'sell' fetal tissue for a profit -- when in fact, she said the exact opposite, 10 separate times, and nearly all instances were edited out of the tape."

However, David Daleiden, the person behind the group releasing the videos, stood by his organization's claims on Tuesday. On CNN, he accused Planned Parenthood of illegally using partial-birth abortions "to harvest higher quality fetal organs for sale."

"The videos have had impact because of the casual descriptions by the Planned Parenthood officials of the abortion procedures they use to obtain tissue, and because they show close-ups of fetal organs in laboratories," Fram wrote.

According to the Associated Press, abortions cannot be funded by federal dollars with the exceptions of rape, incest or when a woman's life is in danger.

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