The Republican majority House of Representatives passed a federal spending bill Saturday that included stripping the nation's largest abortion provider of government money.
House members passed the amendment itself to the spending bill on Friday mostly along party lines. By a margin of 240 to 185, congressmen voted to end funding to Planned Parenthood. Ten Democrats crossed party lines to support the measure, however, and seven Republicans crossed party lines to oppose it.
The vote is a big first step for pro-life congressmen and advocates aiming to stop federal funds from going to abortion providers nationwide.
On the eve of the vote, supporters and opponents of the legislation worked past midnight to offer their testimonies.
Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), at nearly midnight on Thursday, voiced her opposition to the amendment while recounting her emotional experience receiving an abortion. She argued that although she had "lost a baby" that she wanted to the procedure, abortion is legal in the United States and Planned Parenthood had the right to promote such an option. Speier shared that nearly 20 years ago she had a miscarriage at 17 weeks and doctors told her the baby would not survive. Speier, her husband and doctor had decided to end the pregnancy.
"There is a vendetta against Planned Parenthood, and it was played out in this room tonight," she insisted.
Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), who drafted the amendment, drummed up support for the anti-abortion funding measure by clarifying the purpose of the bill.
"Nobody is saying that Planned Parenthood cannot continue to be the largest abortion provider in America, but why do millions of pro-life taxpayers have to pay for it?" he asked.
Pence also insisted the bill is not about abolishing existing family planning services such as Planned Parenthood.
"Some consider the Pence Amendment a 'war on Planned Parenthood,' but this is not about Planned Parenthood's right to be in the abortion business. Sadly, abortion on demand is legal in America. This debate is about who pays for it," he stated.
The Planned Parenthood Federation of America revealed in its financial statements that it raised $363 million in revenues. Of that sum, Pence explained only $53 million came from the federal government. That is less than 15 percent of the $363 million.
With such a large budget, conservatives insist that PPFA does not need money from the government to supplement its operations. In fact, conservatives refer to New Jersey as a prime example of how PPFA clinics can survive without the aid.
Earlier this month, New Jersey's Republican Gov. Chris Christie vetoed a state bill that would give local PPFA branches state dollars to provide family planning services such as cancer screenings, sexually transmitted infection tests, and birth control. Since the veto, Planned Parenthood has made public plans to double the amount of clinics in the state.
Tom McClusky, vice president for government affairs at Family Research Council, said PPFA's actions showed that government cuts did not hurt its revenue. McClusky added that the federal government needed to follow Christie's lead.
Pence clarified that it was not his goal to eliminate PPFA's Title X program. Instead, he said, his goal is to respect pro-life taxpayers who resent their money being given to an organization that performs abortions in the same building where it also offers family counseling.
According to its financial report, PPFA performed 324,008 abortions last year.
"I believe that ending an innocent human life is morally wrong," Pence argued. "I also believe it is morally wrong to take the taxpayer dollars of millions of pro-life Americans and use them to fund organizations that provide and promote abortion – like Planned Parenthood of America."
The passed amendment is the first step to eliminating any and all funds to PPFA. Now the newly approved House spending bill, which includes the amendment, will move on to the Senate.
If passed in the U.S House and Senate, the measure would eliminate about $330 million through the end of September for preventative-health services, including federal funding for contraception and cancer screenings, at Planned Parenthood clinics across the country.
Republicans also have another bill in committee that would prevent any abortion-provider from receiving Title X money. There is no time table on when this bill will meet a committee vote.