Senate vote to be first round in drive to defund Planned Parenthood

Washington – Connecticut’s Democratic senators may help fend off an attempt in the Senate to defund Planned Parenthood on Monday, but that’s not the end of a GOP campaign that could include the threat of a government shutdown.

Senate Republicans are rallying around an attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, which they say receives more than $500 million in federal funds each year.

“It could invite a fight, but I think most Americans do not believe that their tax dollars should be used to fund the kind of grotesque procedures we’ve seen authenticated,” said Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz..

McCain was referring to videos series of videos recorded secretly and released by a group called the Center for Medical Progress.

The videos show Planned Parenthood officials discussing their collection of fetal tissues for private laboratories and the prices they charge for the service.

To Murphy, the campaign against Planned Parenthood is an early volley in the GOP presidential race.

“…the Republican presidential primary campaign is playing out right now on the floor of the United States Senate, I think to the detriment of the institution,” Murphy said on the Senate floor last week.

The Center for Medical Progress says Planned Parenthood is making a lot of money selling fetal tissue obtained through abortions, which is illegal under federal law. Other anti-abortion groups have joined the attack on Planned Parenthood, a longtime foe.

The Family Institute of Connecticut says the videos show “how they allegedly use the illegal and gruesome partial-birth abortion procedure to harvest and sell body parts of aborted children.”

Planned Parenthood says donation of fetal tissue to research centers is a standard medical practice and they have not benefitted financially from the practice. If a woman gives her permission, federal law allows for the collection of fetal material. Charging fees to offset “reasonable expenses” is also allowed.

New Haven-based Planned Parenthood of Southern New England, which overseas clinics in Connecticut and Rhode Island, says it does not collect fetal tissues.

‘’It’s just something we are not choosing to do at this time,” said Judy Tabor, president of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England.

Nonetheless clinics in Connecticut and Rhode Island would be impacted by defunding, losing about $2 million a year in federal grants and much more money in Medicaid payments for treating their poorest patients.

Tabor said the campaign to defund Planned Parenthood is “the latest political attack on women’s health.” She also said a loss of federal funding would hurt her organization’s ability to charge lower fees for many of the nearly 70,000 women it treats each year.

“Many of our patients come to us on a sliding fee scale and this would make it impossible to keep that scale,” Tabor said.

The Senate vote on defunding legislation Monday is not expected to garner the 60 votes needed to advance. Nearly all Senate Democrats – and perhaps a few Republicans – are expected to vote against it.

But no one expects that to be the end of the story.

When Congress returns from its August break, Republicans are expected to attach a Planned Parenthood defunding measure to a massive budget bill that must be approved by Sept. 30 to avoid a government shutdown.

Murphy said there is already a ban on using federal dollars for abortion, so the money Planned Parenthood receives is used for family planning and medical treatments like breast exams and PAP smears.

“And so we’re going to shut down the government in order to take health care away from 64,000 women in Connecticut,” Murphy said. “All in order for a handful of people to make an ideological point that may get them some additional votes within a Republican presidential primary.”

CT funds bioresearch

Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy also denounced plans to defund Planned Parenthood.

“The people in the Congress of the United States who are moving to defund this organization should be ashamed of themselves,” Malloy said Friday. “What they would do is deny women and poor people the ability to get the same treatments that they would want their daughters or mothers or wives to get.”

Supporters of fetal tissue research say it’s valuable for a range of medical advances. And it’s not a new scientific technique. The 1954 Nobel Prize in medicine was awarded for work with fetal tissue that led to developing a vaccine against polio.

But even supporters of Planned Parenthood, including Hillary Clinton, have said the attitude of some organization officials captured on video is jarring. They discuss fees for body parts between sips of wine or joke about purchasing Lamborghinis with the money.

In one video released late week, Sarinta Ginte, a Planned Parenthood official from Denver, said in some instances “graspers” were strategically placed during an abortion to protect against harming fetal hearts, livers and lungs.

Federal law requires doctors to perform abortions with only the health of the women in mind.

The fight over fetal tissue research mirrors a similar fight by anti-abortion conservatives over stem cell research.

Connecticut Department of Health spokesman William Gerrish said Connecticut is one of a handful of states that funds both embryonic and adult stem cell research through its Regenerative Medicine Research Fund.

Connecticut Innovations — a quasi-public agency — now administers the fund, formerly called the Stem Cell Research Fund. Connecticut’s legislature has appropriated about $10 milllion a year since 2005 for this fund.

Connecticut Innovations could not be immediately reached for more information abot the grants.

Yale is the recipient of many of the state grants. Yale spokesman William Hathaway said Friday he is  researching whether the university is involved in fetal tissue research.

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