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By DAVID NATHER & KATE NOCERA | 2/18/11 2:35 PM EST The House just approved Rep. Mike Pence’s amendment to cut off funding to Planned Parenthood, checking off a hot-button social issue even as it set up a bigger showdown over defunding the health care law. The vote was 240-185 with 11 Democrats voting for the amendment, and seven Republicans voting against. One member voted present. A group of Republicans on the floor applauded when the vote hit 218.That amendment managed to suck up three hours of often emotional debate time Thursday night, which is a big part of the reason the health care law defunding votes got pushed into today.
Pence, of Indiana, touched off a vicious back-and-forth Thursday night in which Republicans insisted the organization is too aggressive about performing abortions and several Democrats charged that the GOP was waging a “war on women.”
Pence said the amendment captures a rough public consensus that they accept legal abortions, but don't want to pay for them.
He did get House Majority Leader Eric Cantor to weigh in on his side, declaring, “The time has come to respect the wishes of the majority of Americans who adamantly oppose using taxpayer dollars for abortions.”
Democratic Rep. Jerry Nadler called the amendment a “bill of attainder”- saying it was unconstitutional as such because the legislation was targeting a specific group.
“[An attainder is] a legislative enacted penalty, in this case no funding, directed at an identifiable person or organization to punish them for something. Article I Section 9 says ‘no bill of attainder or ex post facto should be passed.’ Fundamental foundation of constitutional law. If Planned Parenthood or anyone else is doing terrible things and ought to be punished, that’s up to the courts,” said the California congressman.
A longtime anti-abortion crusader, Pence has three times previously tried to cut off legislative funding, called Title X, for any group that provides abortions.
The money cannot be used to pay for abortions, and Pence has not argued that Planned Parenthood has used the funds to do so.
But he argues that cutting off support for millions of women’s health clinics would cut off their ability to perform the procedure.
“We should end the day when the largest abortion provider is the largest recipient of [Title X] federal funding,” he said.
“What’s clear to me, if you follow the money, you can actually take the funding supports out of abortion. We then have a much better opportunity to move forward to be a society that says yes to life.”
Planned Parenthood estimates it received a quarter of the $317 million in Title X funds appropriated last year. They use the money for pelvic exams, breast exams, safer-sex counseling and basic infertility counseling, among other things.
Pence took his fight against Planned Parenthood to the next level after the release of a series of videos by the group Live Action –videos that they say show Planned Parenthood employees advising actors posing as pimps on information on how to get abortions, STD testing and birth control for their underage prostitutes.
Cantor said last night that Planned Parenthood had been caught “red-handed.”
Anti-abortion Democrat Stephen Lynch of Massachusetts said last night that in spite of his beliefs, he supports the organization.
“This is about the ability of Planned Parenthood to conduct women's health care, to offer services that are deeply needed in many communities where no other source of health care is available…. I don't have many friends in the Planned Parenthood community. They don't support me. I am pro-life. But I respect the good work that they do,” he said.
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