Colorado GOP senators mimic U.S. House leaders, would hold budget hostage over abortion
As the federal government prepares for a disastrous shutdown pinned largely to a House Republican amendment that would defund Planned Parenthood, Colorado Republican Senators attempted to mimic the legislative strategy that has led to the Capitol Hill standoff. Weeks of tense negotiations in Denver produced a budget plan tentatively embraced on both sides of the aisle. Then on Friday in stepped social conservatives in the Senate who during floor debate inserted a hot-button “defund Planned Parenthood” amendment into the budget negotiation.
In Washington, Democrat and Republican Congressional leaders have roughly agreed to around $38 billion in spending cuts. That’s up from Thursday’s $33 billion. That’s a lot of cutting and much more than the Democrats had counted on, but it doesn’t look like it will make a difference. The two sides only have till midnight to come to some agreement.
“Republicans want to shut down our nation’s government because they want to make it harder for women to get the health services they need,” said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. He added that he was “personally offended” by the Republican position. “This is indefensible and everyone should be outraged, men and women should be outraged.”
For the past 48 hours, Republican House Speaker John Boehner has been unconvincingly saying the impasse is not about the Planned Parenthood rider. Arizona GOP Senator John Kyl spelled out the Republican position more frankly.
“Planned Parenthood is not the only entity that can provide medical care in this country. It gets a subsidy of something like $300 million a year. To shut down the government over that would be absolutely unthinkable,” he said, arguing that Democrats were being irresponsible in not simply passing the rider for the good of the country.
“If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood… [Abortion is] well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does,” Kyl said.
That may be what many conservatives believe, given the slanted media campaign waged on the right against Planned Parenthood over the last weeks, but, as the women members of Colorado’s Senate can tell you, it’s just not true.
Senators Ellen Roberts, Nancy Spence and Jean White wouldn’t sign on to the GOP attack on Planned Parenthood. Spence reportedly said the organization was vital to supplying poor women with reproductive health services.
Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Moutnains President Vicki Cowart decried the negotiations in Washington as radical and based on propaganda.
“It’s an outrage to shut down the government over an extreme proposal that would deny millions of women Pap tests, breast cancer screenings and birth control,” she said in a release. “Attacking Planned Parenthood’s preventive health care hurts women, does not cut the deficit or fix the economy, and must be stopped.”
More than 93 percent of the health care Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains provides is preventive, she noted.
Planned Parenthood has 23 health centers in Colorado. Although Planned Parenthood in Colorado receives only limited federal funding, spokesperson Monica McCafferty said there are 62 clinics in Colorado that rely heavily on Title X funding for family planning services. She said these clinics provide health care to about 60,000 people and that the state would lose about $4 million in Title X funding if the federal bill became law.
Roughly one in five American women have visited a Planned Parenthood clinic to receive treatment.
The U.S. House Planned Parenthood amendment was added to the Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1) to fund the federal government through September.
If the resolution goes into law as is, the 95-year-old health care provider will lose federal funding that goes strictly to family planning and reproductive services under Title X– none of which goes to abortions.
The amendment will also eliminate the entire Title X program, which was founded in 1970 and is the only federal grant program dedicated solely to providing comprehensive family planning and preventive health services, particularly to low-income families, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Population Affairs. Preventive health services include breast and cervical cancer screenings, HIV prevention education, pregnancy diagnosis and counseling.
[ Top image: Sen. Kevin Lundberg, a leading senate social conservative. ]