The U.S. House voted Friday to defund Planned Parenthood, but not without some pushback from Connecticut’s congressional delegation.
The House voted 241-187 in favor of legislation to strip Planned Parenthood of all federal funding for a year, while allegations over the organization’s handling of fetal tissue can be investigated. This summer, an anti-abortion group released nine videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood executives discuss how aborted fetus tissue is transferred to scientific researchers. Planned Parenthood and its supporters say the videos have been edited to make the organization look bad.
Only three House Republicans voted against the measure — Rep. Charlie Dent, R-Pa., Rep. Robert Dold, R-Ill., and Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y. — while two House Democrats, Rep. Rep. Dan Lipinski, D-Ill., and Rep. Collin Peterson, D-Minn., voted to suspend funding for Planned Parenthood, as Politico reported.
Many of Connecticut’s representatives in Washington have spoken out against defunding Planned Parenthood, but two — Rep. Elizabeth Esty, D-5th District, and Rep. Jim Himes, D-4th District — proposed amendments Friday designed to sustain the organization’s services.
Himes’ amendment hinged on the findings of a forthcoming study by Department of Health and Human Services. No funds would be removed if that study shows that removing funding would result in an increase in abortions, HIV rates, or breast cancer.
“It doesn’t take a huge logical leap to see that if you have less contraception, you’ll have more abortions,” Himes said in a release. “If you have fewer breast cancer screenings, you’ll have more women die of breast cancer. If you cut funds for STD prevention and education, you’ll have a higher HIV rate.”
Like Himes, Esty noted that no federal tax dollars go toward funding abortion — and none have since 1976 when the Hyde amendment was passed, which prevents the use of federal funds to money to pay for abortions, except in circumstances like rape and incest.
Esty’s amendment would have allowed any qualified women’s health organization to receive federal funding.
“It’s simple and it’s fair,” she said on the floor of the House. “We need more access to quality health care, not less. We need to stop trying to restrict access to lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, and well-woman exams. We need to stop re-fighting 40-year old battles on women’s rights.”
According to Esty, Planned Parenthood conducts more than 1.1 million pregnancy tests, nearly 400,000 Pap smear tests, and nearly 500,000 breast cancer exams annually.
Republicans have threatened to shut down the government over the issue. Legislation funding federal agencies requires approval by Oct. 1.
A similar attempt in the Senate earlier this year failed, and Majority Leader Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told the Associated Press that a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood might not be the best course of action.
“The president’s made it very clear he’s not going to sign any bill that includes defunding of Planned Parenthood,” he said.
“If you’re going to shut down the government, your reason for doing it better be pretty good,” Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy said on the floor of the Senate in June. “The reason a couple years ago was a miserable one — taking health care away from millions of Americans who are getting it because of the Affordable Care Act. But this one is just as insidious. I don’t know where women in my state would be without Planned Parenthood.”
Esty hit a similar note in her remarks Friday on the floor of the House.
“We should be focused on avoiding a reckless and unnecessary government shutdown,” she said. “Remember the last shut down? The one that cost us $24 billion? No wonder some don’t think America is great right now.”
Esty and Himes were not alone in their support for Planned Parenthood — several Connecticut representatives have spoken publicly of their support for the organization, among them Rep. Rosa DeLauro, who said that suspending funding for Planned Parenthood “creates chaos, and in that chaos people’s lives will be put at risk.”
DeLauro continued, “This bill is spiteful, it’s mean-spirited and it is cruel. It tells millions of low-income Americans, ‘forget your health, you can just die.’”
Jordan Fenster can be reached by or @JordanFenster on Twitter.