The burgeoning controversy over Planned Parenthood's fetal-tissue practices may have claimed its first victim: a bipartisan bill to help wounded veterans have children.
The Women Veterans and Families Health Services Act, a bill authored by Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) that would require fertility treatment and counseling for "severely wounded, ill, or injured" military members or veterans, had been expected to proceed through the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee on Wednesday. But Murray said she has asked that the bill be pulled thanks to proposed amendments from Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) -- including one that would have, in Tillis's words, prevented the Department of Veterans Affairs from working with "organizations that take human aborted babies' organs and sell them."
That was an unmistakable reference to recent criticism of Planned Parenthood's efforts to harvest fetal tissue for research purposes, a practice that has come under close scrutiny from conservatives after antiabortion activists published undercover videos that they say shows evidence of unethical and potentially illegal activities by Planned Parenthood executives.
Planned Parenthood says it has complied with federal laws governing fetal-tissue research. A House committee is formally investigating the claims, and several members of Congress have pledged to take legislative action. But Tillis's amendment appears to have been the first salvo to have some effect.
"I'm concerned that we have a problem with priorities," Tillis said on the Senate floor Wednesday. "I'm concerned that maybe the focus isn't where it needs to be to make sure that we take care of the most pressing problems for our veterans."
Among the priorities he said need to be addressed first are the VA claims backlog, veteran unemployment, veteran suicide prevention and exposure to toxic substances: "It may make sense to add another half-a-billion dollars for this medical treatment ... but not until we're absolutely certain that the promises we've already made are going to be fulfilled."
Murray lambasted the amendments on the Senate floor Wednesday.
"Republicans are trying to use this latest issue as just one more opportunity to roll back the clock and take away women’s health-care options," she said. "We can have that fight. We’ve had it many times before. But don’t pull veterans into the middle of it. Don’t take something that should be above politics, our sacred duty to our veterans, pull it down into the muck of petty politics. It is not fair to veterans and their families who have been hoping and praying for the opportunity to have children."