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Most U.S. Residents Want To Avoid Government Shutdown Over Planned Parenthood; House Committee Plans Hearing

Most U.S. Residents Want To Avoid Government Shutdown Over Planned Parenthood; House Committee Plans Hearing

September 15, 2015 — A large majority of U.S. residents believe it is more important for Congress to pass a spending bill than to defund Planned Parenthood, according to a CNN/ORC poll released on Monday, The Hill reports (Sullivan, The Hill, 9/14).

For the poll, researchers surveyed 1,012 U.S. residents via landlines and cellphones from Sept. 4 through Sept. 8 (Gass, Politico, 9/14).

Background

Following a series of misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood, some conservative lawmakers have said they will not support any government spending measure that includes funding for the organization. The government will shut down after Sept. 30 if lawmakers do not pass a continuing resolution to keep it funded through mid-December.

The videos, which depict Planned Parenthood staff discussing fetal tissue donation, were released by an antiabortion-rights group called the Center for Medical Progress. CMP secretly filmed the videos by meeting with Planned Parenthood staff while posing as buyers of fetal tissue.

Planned Parenthood has stated that the videos were heavily edited and that the filmed officials did not conduct any illegal activities. The organization said it does not profit from fetal tissue donations and only receives reimbursement for costs associated with such donations, which is legal. Meanwhile, supporters of Planned Parenthood said the videos are part of a decades-long campaign against the organization.

House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have indicated they oppose shutting down the government (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/14).

Poll Results

According to CNN, the 71% of U.S. adults who would prefer to avoid a government shutdown in the latest poll is even larger than the majority who did so in September 2013, when a budget dispute over federal funding for the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148) resulted in a temporary government shutdown.

Further, according to the latest poll, a majority of abortion-rights opponents who believe abortion should be illegal in all or most circumstances also said the government should focus on passing a budget to avoid a shutdown rather than cutting off Planned Parenthood funding (Agiesta, CNN, 9/14).

The poll also found that 70% of men and 71% of women favored avoiding a shutdown over eliminating Planned Parenthood's federal funding (The Hill, 9/14). In addition, 87% of Democrats, 74% of independents and 48% of Republicans also said they favor avoiding a government shutdown over eliminating funding for Planned Parenthood.

Meanwhile, a poll last month found that a majority of U.S. residents think the federal government should continue to fund Planned Parenthood (CNN, 9/14).

House Committee Plans Hearing

In related news, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee this week asked Planned Parenthood and HHS officials for information prior to an upcoming committee hearing on federal funding for Planned Parenthood, Politico Pro reports.

The Oversight Committee is one of several congressional panels investigating the organization following the release of the misleading video series (Ehley, Politico Pro, 9/15). In August, Planned Parenthood submitted a report to Congress that found CMP's videos were heavily manipulated, making them unreliable for official inquiries into the organization (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/27).

In a letter, the Oversight Committee asked HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell to detail by Sept. 28 which agencies fund Planned Parenthood or its affiliates and the amounts of those payments. Further, the secretary should "identify which of the federally supported services are exclusive to Planned Parenthood and covered by Medicaid or a health plan" sold through the ACA's insurance marketplaces. The committee also asked Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards to detail the federal funding her organization receives (Politico Pro, 9/15).

Relatedly, Oversight Committee Ranking Member Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) in August began probing whether CMP violated any state or federal laws in its video campaign against Planned Parenthood. He noted that CMP's "disturbing actions raise questions about whether [CMP] has broken federal or state laws and whether some members of Congress may have been aware of these potentially illegal activities before they were made public earlier this year" (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/20).

Meanwhile, a measure (HR 3134) that would defund Planned Parenthood for one year is expected to soon reach the House floor for a vote.

CMP Appeals Temporary Restraining Order

In other related news, CMP on Monday asked the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a temporary restraining order halting the release of footage from National Abortion Federation meetings, Politico Pro reports.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued the order (Politico Pro, 9/15). In his order, Judge William Orrick wrote that NAF could suffer irreparable harm "in the form of harassment, intimidation, violence, invasion of privacy, and injury to reputation" if the videos were released. Orrick also wrote that NAF has demonstrated a strong likelihood that it would prevail in the case because it "made it clear both in its written documents and also all kinds of other releases how important it was that everything about the meeting be confidential" (Women's Health Policy Report, 8/3).

In its appeal, CMP said the temporary restraining order violates its First Amendment rights (Politico Pro, 9/15).