Planned Parenthood, a 90-year-old organization, is not only the nation’s largest abortion provider but has been a key proponent of abortion rights. It has 84 affiliates in all 50 states, as well as programs abroad. Its political action committee contributes money to abortion-rights candidates; most of those candidates, predictably, are Democrats.
The money it receives from the government goes toward the family planning services it provides at its more than 800 health centers, including contraceptives, breast and cervical cancer screenings and sexually transmitted infection tests. But conservatives have been critical of that funding, arguing that it frees up money for Planned Parenthood to devote to abortions.
Republican calls for defunding the organization grew louder this year after an antiabortion activist released undercover video purporting to show improper counseling by Planned Parenthood staff. But the group’s backers say the videos were misleading, and Democrats have strongly backed the group, saying it provides critical health care for women.
The debate took center stage this week when Democrats announced they had made significant concessions on the 2011 federal budget in hopes of avoiding a government shutdown Friday night, but said that Republicans were holding things up over Planned Parenthood funding.
Republicans, however, say Democrats are causing the holdup by not accepting deeper budget cuts.
In their talks at the White House Thursday night, Republican negotiators indicated they would be willing to abandon the proposal to defund Planned Parenthood, according to senior congressional aides. But Democratic negotiators rejected their alternative, which would have givenTitle X money to the states to dole out to the health groups of their choice. Currently, Title X funding goes directly to health organizations in the form of federal grants.
Sources said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and President Obama objected to the plan because they believed it would allow Republican governors to deprive not only Planned Parenthood but other women’s health groups of their public money.
“It’s their attempt to say they’re not directly going after Planned Parenthood, but we’ve rejected it because it has the same outcome,” said a senior Democratic aide familiar with the negotiations.
Republicans say the gesture represented a good faith effort to come to an agreement over the 2011 spending plan and that Democrats are misrepresenting the debate.
“All of the Democrats’ sound and fury this morning is empty. It’s based on, at best, an unlikely theoretical scenario,” said a senior Republican aide familiar with the talks. “They are grasping at straws to distract from the fact that they just won’t get serious about cutting spending.”