By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., March 23, 2010 ( – Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards has issued a statement declaring victory after the Senate health care bill’s passage Sunday, noting that the abortion-related executive order Rep. Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) agreed to in exchange for pro-life Democrats’ votes was merely a “symbolic gesture.”

Stupak had argued after the vote that, contrary to the affirmations of virtually every top pro-life organization in the U.S., Obama’s promised executive order “is worth more than the paper it is written on.”

“The only option you had was leave the Senate language or strengthen it to prevent abortions under an executive order – that’s what we did, we stayed true to those principles – or vote no,” the Michigan Democrat told FOX News. “So you kill the bill and we do not have health care … I’ve always said I want to see health care for the nation.”

Yet according to Planned Parenthood – in an assessment not unlike those of the National Right to Life Committee and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops – the executive order would do little to hinder the “abortion industry bailout” embedded in the legislation.

“For more than a year, Planned Parenthood has worked tirelessly for a health care reform bill that would fix our broken health care system, strengthen women’s health, and achieve quality, affordable health care for all Americans,” Richards said in a statement Sunday.

“Today, monumental progress was made toward achieving these goals with the passage of historic health care reform legislation by the U.S. House of Representatives,” she said, “despite a symbolic gesture, in the form of an Executive Order, to anti-choice Congressman Bart Stupak (D-MI), which has diverted attention from the central goal of health care reform — controlling costs and extending coverage.”

Richards also pointed out that the legislation will “significantly increase access to reproductive health care.”

“Nonetheless,” she continued, “we regret that a pro-choice president of a pro-choice nation was forced to sign an Executive Order that further codifies the proposed anti-choice language in the health care reform bill, originally proposed by Senator Ben Nelson of Nebraska.”

“What the president’s executive order did not do is include the complete and total ban on private health insurance coverage for abortion that Congressman Bart Stupak (D–MI) had insisted upon,” said Richards. “So while we regret that this proposed Executive Order has given the imprimatur of the president to Senator Nelson’s language, it is critically important to note that it does not include the Stupak abortion ban.”