WASHINGTON, D.C., December 4, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) — For weeks, the Senate has debated a bill to defund about 80 percent of Planned Parenthood's federal funding, and repeal portions of the Affordable Care Act through the reconciliation process, which allows a Senate bill to avoid minority filibusters.
That bill passed the upper chamber Thursday night on a largely partisan 52-47 vote, with Republican Sens. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Susan Collins of Maine standing against the bill and Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, an Independent, not voting.
The passage of the bill to send the Planned Parenthood defunding measure to President Obama's desk has been hailed as a major victory by pro-life groups.
“Tonight’s vote is a landmark victory for all who prioritize comprehensive women’s health care over abortion industry profits,” said SBA List president Marjorie Dannenfelser in a statement. “The debate over the reconciliation process has continued the national conversation on Planned Parenthood and established an important precedent for the next administration.
“If Americans elect a pro-life president next year, and safeguard our pro-life majorities in Congress, this bill – and many others – could be law by 2017.”
The bill will now go to the House, where passage is expected — the House originally passed a reconciliation bill, but changes in the Senate version will force another vote — and then on to President Obama's desk, where a veto is almost certain.
The bill eliminates Planned Parenthood Medicaid funding; the abortion giant’s Title X funding would remain intact.
In a statement, Alliance Defending Freedom Legal Counsel Kellie Fiedorek said that “the Senate is right to recognize that taxpayer money should go to fund local community health centers, not to subsidize a scandal-ridden, billion-dollar abortion business.”
“Americans shouldn’t be forced to give their money to Planned Parenthood, which has a long track record of abusive and potentially fraudulent billing practices,” continued Fiedorek, “not to mention that it has also been caught in authenticated undercover videos trafficking aborted babies’ body parts and has repeatedly failed to report the sexual abuse of girls.”
Family Research Council president Tony Perkins described the vote as “a huge victory for unborn children, their mothers, and for taxpayers.”
“For the first time during the Obama presidency, both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have approved legislation that begins to end the forced partnership between taxpayers and Planned Parenthood,” said Perkins. “President Obama will now bear the moral responsibility for sending our tax dollars to a group that has engaged in the selling of baby body parts.”
Priests for Life National Director Frank Pavone said, “It’s an understatement to say that Planned Parenthood has shown itself unworthy of taxpayer support,” noting that “the 325,000 lives it destroys every year are 325,000 reasons to redirect taxpayer funds to groups that provide health care without taking innocent lives.”
Despite the veto promised by President Obama, Republicans consider the bill's passage part of the party's effort to show conservative voters that the party will uphold its stated pro-life values and its long-held opposition to the Affordable Care Act.
The party is unlikely to make Planned Parenthood funding an issue in next week's budget bill, since Democratic opposition to such a measure could force a partial government shutdown.
Defunding Planned Parenthood, a top priority of pro-life groups and advocates, could be a difficult task even if a pro-life President is elected in 2017. Republicans hold a 54-46 margin in the U.S. Senate, but next year's elections could see that change as Democrats are aiming to hold 10 seats — and Republicans must try to hold 24.
Political commentator and electoral prognosticator Larry Sabato's “Crystal Ball” predicts control of the Senate could come down to races in three states — Florida, Nevada, and New Hampshire — though races in other states will depend on myriad factors, such as the type of candidates who run for office next year, various public policy debates, the political atmosphere, and other factors as Democrats and Republicans vie for control of Congress' upper chamber.
GOP problems don't end with control of the Senate. Reconciliation requires 51 votes for passage, which means a close margin of electoral victory for Republicans could squash a defunding effort if pro-abortion Republican senators oppose defunding.
One Republican who voted for the defund and repeal bill was Alaska senator Lisa Murkowski, who recently described herself as “a supporter of Planned Parenthood.” Murkowski and Kirk are up for re-election next year, with Sabato predicting a Kirk loss to a Democrat and a Murkowski victory.