Planned Parenthood Defund Bill Fails in Senate; Democrats Claim Baby Parts Harvesting Group Aids Women's Health

(Photo: Reuters/Mike Blake)Protesters gather outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Vista, California, August 3, 2015. Planned Parenthood will be the focus of a partisan showdown in the U.S. Senate on Monday, as abortion foes press forward a political offensive against the nation's largest abortion business over its role in selling babies' tissue and organs. Congressional Republicans are trying to cut off Planned Parenthood's half billion dollars in annual federal funding, reinvigorating America's debate about abortion as the 2016 presidential campaign heats up.

The U.S. Senate has rejected a bill to defund Planned Parenthood and transfer its estimated $500 million in federal funds to other women's health sources.

Senate Bill 1881 failed to get the 60 votes required to have debate closed and a vote on the proposed legislation granted, with the results largely falling along party lines.

Introduced by Senator Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, S. 1881 called for the defunding of Planned Parenthood and placing it in other sources for women's health.

"All funds no longer available to Planned Parenthood will continue to be made available to other eligible entities to provide women's health care services," read S. 1881.

"Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no Federal funds may be made available to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, or to any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, successors, or clinics."

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(Photo: Reuters/Brian Frank)Republican Senator Joni Ernst speaks to supporters after the results of the U.S. Senate race in U.S. midterm elections in Iowa in West Des Moines, Iowa, November 4, 2014.

For years, pro-life activists have attempted to push legislation removing the estimated $500 million Planned Parenthood annually receives from the federal government.

Last month, a pro-life group named the Center for Medical Progress released undercover videos showing Planned Parenthood officials speaking about selling aborted baby body parts.

In the first video released, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood's senior director for medical services, spoke about selling baby body parts while eating a salad and drinking wine.

"We've been very good at getting heart, lung, liver … I'm not gonna crush that part," said Nucatola in the video. "I'm going to basically crush below, I'm not gonna crush above, and I am gonna see if I can get it all intact."

"At the national office, we have a litigation and law department which just really doesn't want us to be the middle people for this issue right now … But I will tell you that behind closed doors these conversations are happening with the affiliates."

Other videos released provided more evidence indicating that Planned Parenthood profited from the sale of aborted baby parts.

For their part, pro-choice activists have argued that the videos were deceptively edited and that, at worst, Planned Parenthood provides human tissue for research purposes, which is legal.

During the debate over S. 1881, supporters of the bill argued that the bill would place the money in community health centers untarnished by political scandals like Planned Parenthood.

"Instead of subsidizing a political group, this bill would protect federal funding for health services for women," said Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.

"Instead of subsidizing a political group, this bill would insure funds continue to flow to community health centers and hospitals that provide more comprehensive health services and may have many, many more facilities nationwide."

Critics of the bill, including Senator Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., argued that the bill would have unjustly harmed Planned Parenthood and put those funds in facilities that are ill-equipped to provide more healthcare for women.

"Millions of American women depend on Planned Parenthood for much-needed health services," said Sen. Reid, who called the bill "just another Republican attack on the health of millions of women."

"Here we are once again, faced with another Republican attempt to limit women's access to health care."

Although S. 1881 was defeated, other congressional efforts in response to the furor over the undercover videos including an investigation of Planned Parenthood are still under development.