September 18, 2015 — The House on Friday passed two antiabortion-rights bills in an effort to avoid a government shutdown over a misleading video series recently released by an antiabortion rights group, The Hill reports (Ferris, The Hill, 9/18).
The Senate has not arranged for a vote on either measure (House/Dopp, Bloomberg, 9/18). According to AP/WRAL News, President Obama has threatened to veto both measures (Fram/Taylor, AP/WRAL News, 9/18).
Following the release of a series of misleading videos targeting Planned Parenthood, some conservatives have called for Congress to defund the organization. Further, some 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. 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. In August, Planned Parenthood submitted a report to Congress that found the videos were heavily manipulated, making them unreliable for official inquiries into 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).
On Friday, the House voted 241-187 to pass a bill (HR 3134) that would eliminate Planned Parenthood's federal funding for one year (The Hill, 9/18).
Specifically, the measure would block Planned Parenthood's federal funding for one year unless the organization stops performing abortion care except in instances of rape or incest, or when the woman's life is in danger (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/17). The bill would redirect funding that would otherwise go to Planned Parenthood to community health centers. However, critics have noted that the centers typically are already in high demand and generally far from women who need their services (AP/WRAL News, 9/18).
Further, according to a recent Congressional Budget Office report, up to 630,000 patients could have reduced access to health services, such as birth control, screening for sexually transmitted infections and other reproductive care if Planned Parenthood is defunded. Meanwhile, Guttmacher Institute research found that Planned Parenthood is the sole safety-net family planning clinic in 103 out of the 491 counties in the U.S. (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/17).
The House also voted 248-177 to pass a measure (HR 3504) that would create steep penalties for abortion providers in certain situations (The Hill, 9/18). The bill would modify the Born Alive Infants Protection Act of 2002 (PL 107-207) (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/17).
Conservative Lawmakers' Strategy
House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is using the bills to try to appease certain antiabortion-rights lawmakers who are threatening not to support any government funding measure that includes funding for Planned Parenthood, AP/WRAL News reports.
In a meeting Thursday, conservative leadership shared internal polling results that showed most U.S. residents, including abortion-rights opponents, oppose a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding (AP/WRAL News, 9/17).
According to The Hill, there are five legislative days remaining for lawmakers to approve a government spending measure and avoid a potential shutdown (The Hill, 9/18).