Planned Parenthood funds fueled budget rift

Abortion services made it a target

By Donna Cassata
Associated Press / April 9, 2011

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WASHINGTON — Republicans portray Planned Parenthood as primarily focused on performing abortions and — intentionally or not — using American taxpayer dollars to do it.

Not so, say Democrats who counter that the group’s 800-plus health centers nationwide provide an array of services, from screenings for cancer to testing for sexually transmitted diseases. Abortion is just one of many procedures, and the law bars Planned Parenthood from using tax money for it.

In the budget maelstrom yesterday stood Planned Parenthood Federation of America, a 90-year-old organization now part of a decades-long congressional battle over abortion. Republicans wanted any legislation keeping the government operating to bar federal dollars for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest provider of abortions.

“The country is broke and the vast majority of Americans don’t want tax dollars to take the life of unborn children,’’ said Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, the chairman of the Republican Study Committee.

Democrats said they saw a radical agenda against women’s health, especially poor and low-income women, and would not allow it, even if it meant shutting down the government.

“It is appalling that Republicans would hold our economic recovery hostage for a ransom of denying millions of women Pap tests, breast exams, and birth control,’’ said Representative Nita Lowey, Democrat of New York. “It shows their top priority is not keeping our economic recovery on track — it is reviving divisive social issues.’’

Late yesterday, the White House and congressional negotiators reached a deal on the budget and a compromise on Planned Parenthood funds. Under the agreement, the Senate will hold a vote on the money, and it is likely it would reject the House effort to cut off the cash.

Abortion nearly scuttled President Obama’s health care overhaul in the final hours of debate last March. A year later, the stakes were higher, the political rhetoric fierce, and the claims in need of clarification.

Representative Mike Pence, Republican of Indiana, said the legislative fight is “Big Abortion vs. American taxpayers.’’

Planned Parenthood said it performed about 330,000 abortions last year, 3 percent of its total health care services. The organization said its doctors and nurses annually conduct 1 million screenings for cervical cancer, 830,000 breast exams, and 4 million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted diseases.

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement: “Attacking Planned Parenthood’s preventive health care hurts women, does not cut the deficit or fix the economy, and must be stopped.’’