A push by Republican congressional leaders to defund Planned Parenthood could threaten Obamacare repeal because of opposition to the anti-abortion provision by two key GOP senators. House Speaker Paul Ryan on Thursday said Republicans will move to strip all federal funding for Planned Parenthood as part of the process to dismantle Obamacare, CNN reported.
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Republicans have tried for years to zero out all federal funding for Planned Parenthood because the group provides abortion services. The fight over Obamacare helped trigger a 16-day government shutdown in 2013, and Democrats and President Barack Obama insisted any Planned Parenthood provision targeting the group be removed from a bill to fund federal agencies.
The decision to add the controversial Planned Parenthood language, which is opposed by most Democrats, could have a major impact on getting the Affordable Care Act repeal legislation through the Senate because supporters need the backing of at least 50 of their 52 members and two pro-choice senators, Susan Collins of Maine and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, would not commit to approving the bill with the Planned Parenthood provision in it.
Senator Rand Paul announced this week to vote against Obamacare repeal because the underlying budget measure it is attached to does not balance and adds to the deficit. If Murkowski, Collins and Paul voted against the budget bill, it would be enough to torpedo the Obamacare repeal legislation.
“I’m going to wait and see what happens,” Collins told the media, indicating she thinks it is too early to decide how she will vote on the bill. “Obviously, I’m not happy to hear the Speaker wants to include defunding of Planned Parenthood, an extremely controversial issue in the package.”
Murkowski on Tuesday said she was still weighing the issue. In 2015, she joined Collins in voting for an amendment to strip Planned Parenthood funding out of a budget bill that would have also repealed much of Obamacare. But Murkowski ultimately backed the repeal measure even though it had the anti-Planned Parenthood provision, which Obama ultimately vetoed.
When asked her position on Thursday, Murkowski’s spokeswoman Karina Petersen said the senator “is concerned about defunding Planned Parenthood as she is a longtime support of it and has opposed broadly defunding the organisation”. Republicans could drop the Planned Parenthood measure, but doing so could spark anger from the right-flank of their party and potentially make it harder to defund the organisation at a later date.
The vast majority of federal money that Planned Parenthood does receive funds preventive health care, birth control, pregnancy tests and other women’s health care services. Democrats also point out that much of the money the group received is through the Medicaid programme, which reimburses health care clinics that provide care to those covered by the federal programme.