In the wake of one of the most destructive tornadoes in history, Oklahoma state senators passed a bill on Wednesday that would effectively defund Planned Parenthood.
Senate Bill 900, which re-allocates family planning funds to public providers and hospitals instead of private providers like Planned Parenthood, passed by a vote of 33 to 8. The state Senate was able to pass the bill somewhat under the radar because it was not posted on Wednesday's legislative agenda.
Planned Parenthood operates five clinics in Oklahoma and serves about 8,400 men and women there a year. The family planning provider has faced scrutiny from Republicans in recent years because it provides abortions, even though it cannot use public family planning funding to pay for abortion services.
State Rep. Doug Cox (R), a family physician, said he will vote against the legislation when the House takes it up on Thursday. "To defund a program like Planned Parenthood would be a mistake," he told The Huffington Post in a phone interview. "They perform a valuable service as far as breast cancer screenings, cervical cancer screenings, parenting classes, many things that benefit our state that we're sorely in need of."
Cox said he believes that some of his Republican colleagues in the House also support Planned Parenthood, but they still feel pressured to vote for bills that would defund it. "I have people who tell me they feel the way I do, but are afraid to vote the way I do," he said.
Penny Dickey, chief operating officer of Planned Parenthood of the Heartland, said the Oklahoma state legislature's priorities are off.
“This is not what Oklahomans want the Legislature to be focusing on as session winds down," she said in a statement. "This bill does nothing to provide Oklahoma women with health care. Instead, it shifts family planning money away from specialists in reproductive health care to other agencies that don’t have the capacity or the expertise to serve the women who come to us."