Charlotte Cooper / CC BY 2.0

The House of Representatives has approved a bill, by a 241-187 vote, that would freeze federal funding for Planned Parenthood. The bill isn’t expected to pass in the Senate, and President Obama has said he would veto any bill that blocks funding to the group.

Last year, Planned Parenthood received about $528 million in government funds through two federal programs aimed at lower-income Americans: Medicaid and Title X.

On Friday, the Republican-majority House passed both the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015, which would halt federal funding to the women’s health-care provider for one year unless it stops providing abortions, and the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which would impose criminal penalties on doctors who do not attempt to save a fetus that “survives an abortion.”

From The Guardian:

Before approving the measures on Friday, representatives on both sides of the political divide engaged in a theatrical debate, incorporating gruesome photographs and dramatic testimony to hammer their message.

“Our response as a people and a nation to these horrors shown in these videos is vital to everything those lying out in Arlington cemetery died to save,” said Representative Trent Franks, a Republican from Arizona.

Franks, who sponsored the bill that would punish doctors, delivered his remarks next to a poster showing a burned fetus that had survived an abortion attempt positioned to his left.

“That’s not what this bill does,” said Representative Judy Chu, a Democrat from California. She said there are already laws in place to punish doctors who don’t act to save an infant born alive during an abortion.

Instead, she said, “the real purpose of this bill is to intimidate abortion providers out of practice.”

Several Democrats accused Republicans of leading a “witch-hunt” against Planned Parenthood and said it was a “sideshow” that distracted from the more pressing issue of passing a budget and averting a shutdown.

“I want to say this as respectfully as possible,” Representative Lois Frankel, a Democrat from Florida, said of the bill to defund Planned Parenthood. “This bill is dumb, it’s foolish, and it’s mean-spirited with only one purpose, and that is to punish one of our country’s premier health organizations because it provides women access to an array of services that we need to lead healthy lives.”

Planned Parenthood receives about $500m a year in government funding, mostly through Medicaid reimbursements and grants, none of which can be used to fund abortion services, which represent just a small fraction – 3% – of the services it provides to women nationwide.

Instead, the funds mostly subsidize cancer screenings, contraceptives and other women’s health and family planning services.

In a statement following the votes, Planned Parenthood called the bills a “callous attempt to insert politics into women’s health” and noted that they would almost certainly be stopped in the Senate and, if not, by the president.

“Nothing that politicians in Congress did today will change the fact that our doors remain open to everyone, in every part of this country, who needs high-quality, compassionate reproductive healthcare,” the organization said on Friday.

The videos have angered prominent Republicans and pushed the issue of abortion to the forefront of the presidential race at a time when candidates of both parties are trying to woo female voters.

During Wednesday night’s Republican presidential primary debate, former Hewlett Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina delivered a dramatic attack on the organization and dared the president and Hillary Clinton to watch the videos. Critics, however, noted that Fiorina’s diatribe was misleading as she described gruesome scenes that were not actually shown in the videos.

US senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, who are also seeking the Republican nomination, have led campaigns to defund Planned Parenthood, but a vote on the issue in the Senate failed last month.

Democratic challenger Hillary Clinton has defended Planned Parenthood, and called the efforts by congressional Republicans an attack on women’s rights. Vermont senator Bernie Sanders, who is also seeking the Democratic nomination, has called the action a “long-term smear campaign” to deny women access to the procedure.

Read more here.

For more information, read 8 Things The GOP Debate Got Wrong About Abortion And Planned Parenthood, from The Huffington Post.

–Posted by Roisin Davis

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