WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama "strongly opposes" and would veto a pair of House bills that would strip federal funds from Planned Parenthood and impose new restrictions on abortion, the White House said in a statement on Thursday.
The administration said the GOP-backed bills "would have the same consequence of limiting women’s health care choices." The Planned Parenthood bill, in particular, would cut access to health care services for as many as 630,000 people, the Congressional Budget Office estimated Wednesday.
"Planned Parenthood uses both Federal and non-Federal funds to provide a range of important preventive care and health services, including health screenings, vaccinations, and check-ups to millions of men and women who visit their health centers annually," the White House said. "Longstanding Federal policy already prohibits the use of Federal funds for abortions, except in cases of rape or incest or when the life of the woman would be endangered. By eliminating Federal funding for a major provider of health care, H.R. 3134 would limit access to health care for men, women, and families across the Nation, and would disproportionately impact low-income individuals."
The anti-abortion bill, called the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, would impose criminal penalties on doctors who do not try to save a baby who "survives an abortion." The high-profile case of Kermit Gosnell, who was convicted of murder in 2013 for killing infants born alive after illegal late-term abortion procedures, garnered massive outrage, but there is no documented evidence of legal, regulated abortion clinics slaughtering live newborns. The landmark Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade only legalizes abortion before the fetus would be able to survive outside the womb, around 22 to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
The White House said the anti-abortion bill "would impose new legal requirements related to the provision of abortion services in certain circumstances, which would likely have a chilling effect, reducing access to care."
Republicans in Congress have escalated their attacks on Planned Parenthood and legal abortion in the wake of the release of a series of heavily edited undercover videos that purport to show the family planning provider selling fetal tissue. Planned Parenthood denies the charge and says it only donates fetal tissue after abortions for medical research, legally and at the request of the patient. Planned Parenthood does receive reimbursements for the costs of preserving and transporting the tissue, which is explicitly allowed under federal law.
Republican leaders in the House are hoping to appease the party's conservative base by holding a vote on the standalone bills to defund Planned Parenthood and limit abortion, even though the president would veto them. But a group of GOP congressmen is hoping to tie the defunding bill to the must-pass federal budget legislation, effectively threatening a government shutdown over the issue.
"We need to stop surrendering and start standing for our principles," Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), a Republican presidential candidate, said during Wednesday's primary debate.
The effort is politically risky for Republicans, as recent polls show that most Americans oppose stripping money from Planned Parenthood.