Senate Democrats block Planned Parenthood defunding bill

Washington — Senate Democrats on Monday blocked a Republican effort to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood following the release of undercover videos that have raised questions about the organization’s harvesting of fetal tissue for research laboratories.

A largely partisan vote on the legislation that would defund Planned Parenthood was 53-46, short of the 60 votes needed for the legislation to move forward.

Connecticut Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy were “no” votes.

Speaking on the Senate floor before the vote Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, a co-sponsor of the bill, said, “The question before us today is clear. Who do we want to be as a nation?”

“It is hard for anyone to defend these morally reprehensible videos as Planned Parenthood callously harvested the organs of unborn babies to be sold at a price.”

Planned Parenthood says it has done nothing wrong and only charged fees to laboratories to cover the cost of processing and shipping the tissue, which is allowed by federal law.

Blumenthal countered Ernst’s charges, calling the effort to defund Planned Parenthood “nothing more than a ‘political charade.’”

“Even in the Senate, the greatest deliberative body in this nation and, likely, the world, there are moments of profound sadness and regret, and this moment is one for me,” Blumenthal said. “I am deeply dismayed that the Republican leadership is engaging in an effort, an effort doomed to fail in just a couple of hours, to defund probably the most trusted provider of health care for women in the United States of America.”

Under the bill, Connecticut’s Planned Parenthood facilities would lose about $2 million in grants and millions more in Medicaid payments.

The Senate vote is not the end the issue, however. Republicans have called for a defunding measure to be added to the budget Congress must approve by Sept. 30, at the risk of a government shutdown.

The issue will also be a raised in the race for the White House and in congressional campaigns.

Minutes after the vote, NARAL Pro-Choice America released a new TV ad campaign in New Hampshire, Ohio and Wisconsin hitting Republican senators for their votes.

“These senators have chosen to stand with anti-choice extremists instead of their constituents who rely on Planned Parenthood for life-saving cancer screenings and critical health services,” said Sasha Bruce, senior vice president at NARAL Pro-Choice America. “Cutting off vital health care funding for women to placate the extreme elements of the Republican Party is shameful.”

Meanwhile, the Center for Medical Progress, which has surreptitiously taped Planned Parenthood executives speaking cavalierly about the procurement of fetal tissue for research labs, said it will release more videos.

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