It’s nearly the end of September and time once again for another congressional battle over a continuing resolution – or CR – a spending bill that funds the government for a short period of time. This time, the crux of the battle is over funding for Zika virus research and prevention.
Senate Democrats have blocked a GOP-backed $1.1 billion spending bill for the fight against the Zika virus three times, because Republicans refused to earmark funding for Planned Parenthood’s Profamilias facilities in Puerto Rico – an area hit hard by the Zika virus. While Planned Parenthood affiliates are not specifically mentioned in the bill, funding is included for other women’s health facilities in Puerto Rico that provide condoms to prevent the spread of the virus through sexual transmission.
“What’s important to note is that everywhere Profamilias lists a clinic — Arecibo, Caguas, Carolina, Isabela, Moca, Ponce and San Juan — has another type of facility that would have been eligible for additional funding to combat the spread of Zika,” observes PolitiFact.
Maureen Ferguson, senior policy advisor with The Catholic Association, observes that Planned Parenthood is already the recipient of taxpayer funds, plus can still apply for more through the Zika bill. Democrats, however, want taxpayer funds earmarked specifically for Profamilias.
“In a display of raw political cronyism, Senate Democrats have for the third time blocked the $1.1 billion in supplemental funding to fight Zika because they are demanding more tax dollars for Planned Parenthood,” says Ferguson. “Planned Parenthood already receives half a billion dollars annually, and is eligible to apply for more through the Zika prevention bill, but yet Democrats are demanding even more.”
“Instead of standing with the 2,722 people in the United States already suffering from the virus, and those living in fear of infection, Senate Democrats are standing with their political allies,” she added.
The actual language in the Zika spending bill never mentions Planned Parenthood:
That of the funds appropriated under this heading, $95,000,000 shall be transferred to the ‘Social Services Block Grant’ for health services provided by public health departments, hospitals, or reimbursed through public health plans, notwithstanding section 2005(a)(4) of the Social Security Act, in States, territories, or tribal lands with active or local transmission cases of the Zika virus.
What this language means is that because of the Hyde Amendment – a longstanding federal provision that bars taxpayer funding of abortion – Planned Parenthood’s Profamilias cannot receive this particular federal assistance. As a result, Democrats in Congress – many of whom have received campaign funds from Planned Parenthood and other members of the abortion industry – are stalling the Zika funding while blaming Republicans for drawing Planned Parenthood into the battle.
McClatchyDC reports on the wording of the bill:
At least 16 states, some using language similar to the clauses in the House’s Zika conference report, have tried to divert federal funds earmarked under Title X for family-planning services for low-income and uninsured people or to block Medicaid money from going to Planned Parenthood. The organization is suing those states.
Meanwhile, the Obama administration has shown time and again that it will always defend Planned Parenthood over any other cause. President Obama’s deputies have drafted a new regulation which would override state laws that redirect federal funding away from the abortion business and toward competing healthcare providers that do not provide abortions.
The proposed regulation is the “latest stunt from President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services,” Rep. Diane Black, a member of the House Select Investigative Panel on Infant Lives, said in a statement.
“We’ve known all along that the Obama Administration will go to untold lengths to protect its friends in the big abortion industry,” Black, a registered nurse, said. “After all, this Administration has previously used backdoor maneuvers to line Planned Parenthood’s pockets with Obamacare navigator grants and praised the abortion provider’s ‘high ethical standard’ even after it was caught trafficking in baby body parts.”
Writing at the Daily Signal, senior counsel with Alliance Defending Freedom Casey Mattox points to what happened in Kansas when the state tried to prioritize its federal Title X family planning funds to qualified health facilities that offer a more comprehensive range of health services but do not provide abortions.
Alas, Planned Parenthood sued Kansas. Kansas won. But rather than allowing Kansas to meet women’s health care needs better through other providers, the Obama administration cut Title X funds to Kansas, hurting women in retaliation for the perceived slight to its ally.
A similar pattern has played out in Tennessee, New Hampshire, and other states where the Obama administration has directly granted money to Planned Parenthood, ignoring the judgment of states that Title X services should be provided where patients can connect to providers able to meet their comprehensive health care needs.
“It’s difficult to read the president’s new regulation as anything other than a parting taxpayer-funded gift to a loyal crony,” Mattox states.
The conservative base of the GOP has generally found in CR battles that despite controlling both chambers of Congress, Republicans cave to Democrats in order to avoid the media frenzy over the dreaded “government shutdown.” This time around seems no different thus far.
As McClatchyDC observes, “According to congressional aides, who requested anonymity in order to discuss sensitive talks, Republicans have offered to remove the Planned Parenthood exclusions and include Zika funding in a continuing resolution whose passage is required before Sept. 30 to keep the government operating.”
Democrats may agree to cut the budget elsewhere in return, but there’s still time for them to weigh in on that before the end of the month.