When Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) made a statement announcing he is fast-tracking legislation to defund Planned Parenthood, he used the term "women's health" no fewer than five times, seizing on language Democrats have used for years to attack their colleagues across the aisle.
The defunding legislation, McConnell said, "reaffirm[s] the Senate’s commitment to genuine compassion and to women’s health."
"We introduced legislation last night that would ensure taxpayer dollars for women’s health are spent on women’s health, not a scandal-plagued political lobbying giant," McConnell said Wednesday in a statement. "It’s a simple choice. Senators can either vote to protect women’s health, or they can vote to protect subsidies for a political group mired in scandal."
"Let’s not filibuster women’s health in order to protect special subsidies for one scandal-plagued political organization," he added.
Democrats swept the 2012 elections in large part by accusing the GOP of waging a "war on women's health." And Republicans have since been trying to broaden their appeal to female voters.
The bill cuts off all federal dollars to Planned Parenthood, America's largest reproductive health and family planning organization, and redirects the money to "other eligible entities" that provide health care. The Medicaid reimbursements and family planning funds Planned Parenthood receives from the federal government each year allow the organization to provide low-cost and free health services to low-income and uninsured patients, and federal law already prevents that money from being used to pay for abortions.
This would affect millions of women's health care. One in five women in the U.S. has visited a Planned Parenthood clinic for a range of health services, including contraception, sexually transmitted disease testing and screenings, Pap tests, breast exams and abortions.
Texas once tried to "redirect" money from Planned Parenthood clinics, and the plan backfired. The number of women served by the state's Women's Health Program dropped by one-quarter, and the Texas Health and Human Services Commission predicted a sharp rise in unintended births that would cost taxpayers as much as $273 million.
The current attack on Planned Parenthood in Congress follows the release of three heavily edited undercover videos that purport to show Planned Parenthood doctors discussing the sale of fetal tissue after abortions. Planned Parenthood says the videos are misleading and that the full, unedited footage shows the organization is actually donating fetal tissue for scientific research and being reimbursed for some of the costs of doing so, which has been legal since 1993.
Democrats have called for an investigation into the deceptive anti-abortion group behind the videos, the Center for Medical Progress, which set up a fake fetal tissue procurement company in order to secretly film sensitive areas of Planned Parenthood clinics over the course of three years. Republicans have launched a federal investigation into Planned Parenthood and are aiming to vote by Monday on the bill that would defund the organization.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) responded to the Republicans' proposal on Tuesday by calling it -- predictably -- "an attack on women's health."
"We are dealing with the health of American women and they're dealing with some right-wing, crazy deal," he said.
A Planned Parenthood executive said she believes most people are going to side with the Democrats on the issue.
"I share the skepticism of the American public that these 'investigations' aren't designed to do anything to further the health and safety of women," said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood. "They are in fact designed solely in collusion with these extremists to make abortion illegal in this country and to destroy Planned Parenthood."
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