By Tom Strode, Baptist Press
WASHINGTON (BP) – The U.S. House of Representatives voted Sept. 18 to defund Planned Parenthood in the wake of the release of undercover videos providing evidence the organization trades in baby body parts.
On the same date, the House also approved legislation to protect babies who survive abortions.
House members passed the bills in the face of President Obama’s promise to veto both measures.
Representatives voted 241-187 for the Defund Planned Parenthood Act, H.R. 3134. The bill would place a one-year moratorium on federal money for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and its affiliates while Congress investigates the organization.
The vote came after the release since mid-July of 10 secretly recorded videos that show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the sale of organs from aborted children and acknowledging their willingness to manipulate the abortion procedure to preserve body parts for sale and use. The videos also provided evidence of cutting into live babies to remove organs.
The House passed the Born-alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, H.R. 3504, by 248-177. The proposal — which builds on the 2002 Born-alive Infants Protection Act — would require appropriate care and hospital admission for a child who lives through an abortion or attempted abortion.
Russell Moore, head of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC), hailed the bills’ passage as the “absolutely right” action by lawmakers.
“These are not difficult or complicated moral dilemmas but clear cases of acting in defense of our most vulnerable and most defenseless citizens,” Moore told Baptist Press in written comments. “As long as the human rights of babies are subjected to the autonomous ‘choices’ of others or the profiteering of corporations, our national conscience will continue to cry out.”
Moore said his prayer “is that the hearts of many in the Senate, and in the White House, will be turned toward the plight of born and unborn children and their mothers.”
The White House, however, made it clear two days before the votes the president would veto the bills if they reach his desk. The administration “strongly opposes” approval of the measures because they “would have the same consequence of limiting women’s health care choices,” according to a statement issued Sept. 16.
Obama’s veto promise and the House votes provided further evidence of the Democratic Party’s commitment to abortion rights, even when it comes to the killing of unborn children outside the womb. Only five Democrats voted for the legislation to protect babies who survive abortions, and only two voted to defund PPFA.
The House votes “are evidence of just how wedded to the idea of abortion on-demand, at any time, for any reason, that the Democratic Party has become,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, in a written statement. “Where is the compassion and concern for ‘the little guy,’ the abortion survivor, whose heart is beating and alive?”
The sponsor of the abortion survivors measure expressed dismay at the president’s veto promise.
“President Obama will be remembered as the abortion President and nothing will mark his administration with more shame and dishonor than his lack of compassion and protection toward millions of innocent and voiceless little babies,” said Rep. Trent Franks, R.-Ariz., in written comments.
The battle for the proposals moves to the Senate, where Democrats appear to have enough votes to prevent their passage as stand-alone measures.
Rep. Diane Black, R.-Tenn., sponsor of the PPFA defunding bill, urged Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to give her proposal a chance.
“At least give it a vote,” she told McConnell in a radio interview on The Catholic Channel. “Don’t throw up the white flag before you’ve fought the fight.”
She will call every senator she knows to seek passage in that chamber, said Black, whose legislation would divert funds to other federally qualified health centers.
The ERLC’s Moore sent letters to Speaker of the House John Boehner on the two days prior to the votes urging adoption of both bills. He also had endorsed legislation to defund Planned Parenthood in a July letter.
House committees are conducting investigations of Planned Parenthood in light of the undercover videos. The House Judiciary Committee held the first of two hearings on the subject Sept. 9.
In early August, the Senate fell short in an attempt to defund Planned Parenthood. Senators voted 53-46 to bring such a bill to the floor. While a majority of senators favored consideration of the proposal, the attempt to invoke cloture, as it is known, fell short of the 60 votes needed to begin debate on the legislation and establish a path to its passage.
While the federal government has failed so far to defund Planned Parenthood, five states have acted to do so. Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Hampshire and Utah have eliminated funds for the organization since the video releases by the Center for Medical Progress began.
The ERLC and other opponents of government funding for Planned Parenthood have tried in previous congressional sessions to cut off money for the organization and other abortion providers but have always fallen short. In 2011, an effort to bring a PPFA defunding bill to the Senate floor received only 42 votes.
In its latest financial report (2013-14), PPFA said it received more than $528 million in government grants, contracts and reimbursements. It performed 327,653 abortions during 2013.
The only Democrats to vote for the Planned Parenthood defunding bill were Reps. Daniel Lipinski of Illinois and Collin Peterson of Minnesota. They also voted for the abortion survivors proposal, along with Reps. Matthew Cartwright of Pennsylvania, Henry Cuellar of Texas and Jim Langevin of Rhode Island.
The only Republicans to oppose the Planned Parenthood defunding measure were Reps. Charles Dent of Pennsylvania, Bob Dold of Illinois and Richard Hanna of New York. No GOP members voted against the abortion survivors bill.