Senate's Vote Sets Tone on Abortion

By Tim Craig
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 28, 2008

RICHMOND, Feb. 27 -- The Virginia Senate voted Wednesday to cut off state funding to Planned Parenthood of Virginia because it offers abortions, an action that could endanger hundreds of thousands of dollars in state aid for women's health-care programs.

The decision, a major setback for the Senate's new Democratic majority, marks the first time in more than a decade that the Senate has decided against giving state aid to the organization because of its abortion-related activities.

The GOP-controlled House has long pushed to cut off state aid for Planned Parenthood, but the moderate Republicans who controlled the Senate until this year fought off the effort.

On Thursday, however, all 19 Senate Republicans decided they would vote for the amendment sponsored by Sen. Ken Cuccinelli II (R-Fairfax), who is considering running for attorney general next year.

Senate Democratic leaders struggled for hours to defeat the amendment, but they were unable to stop Sen. Charles J. Colgan (D-Prince William) from voting for it. Colgan's decision resulted in 20 to 20 tie, which was broken by Lt. Gov. Bill Bolling (R), who voted for the restrictions.

"It's because of my conscience, and I don't waver from that, as my colleagues found out today," said Colgan, whose district includes western Prince William County. "I ran on a pro-life platform, and most of my constituents are pro-life."

House Republicans have already deleted funding for Planned Parenthood in their version of the budget. With the Senate's vote, it could be up to Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) to decide whether he wants to try to remove the amendment after the final budget lands on his desk next month.

After the vote, Senate Majority Leader Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) warned that the Senate was setting a bad precedent of singling out organizations because of ideological differences.

"Once we start down this road, there will be no stopping," Saslaw said.

Cuccinelli said there has traditionally been $250,000 to $500,000 in the budget for programs operated by Planned Parenthood that are not related to abortion services. Cuccinelli said, however, that Planned Parenthood was not restricted in how it spends some of the money it receives, which he said could result in funds being used to subsidize abortions.

"What we are doing is financing an abortion-mill operator," Cuccinelli said. "This will deny them that money."

Sen. Janet D. Howell (D-Fairfax) said that Planned Parenthood provides "contraceptive planning which prevents abortions."

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