Congressional lawmakers reject bill to strip Planned Parenthood funding

Creative Commons photo by Jacked01 via Flickr
Creative Commons photo by Jacked01 via Flickr

The U.S. House voted down an amendment to the Labor, Health, and Human Services bill on Friday that sought to ban all public funding for Planned Parenthood. Authored by pro-life Indiana Republican Rep. Mike Pence, the amendment was rejected 247 votes to 183.

The Pence amendment received the strong support of pro-life activist groups, including the members of the Susan B. Anthony List, which this week has sent out repeated “urgent action” dispatches that hinge on lurid allegations that Planned Parenthood is under “multiple investigations in several states” for “allowing sexual abuse of children to go unreported, as well as encouraging young girls to lie about their age in order to obtain an abortion.”

But the “investigations” are not police investigations and don’t involve legal authorities. Instead, they have been conducted by Lila Rose, who poses as an underage woman and visits Planned Parenthood clinics with a hidden camera. Her tapes of alleged wrongdoing have spurred no investigation by law enforcement, which discount them essentially as entrapment.

Former U.S. Rep. Marilyn Musgrave of Colorado’s 4th Congressional District joined the Susan B. Anthony List in March to run its pro-life voter education effort. The hard-line social conservative lost her seat last year to Democrat Betsy Markey in a hard-fought campaign. In June, Musgrave made news by donating $50,000 left over from her failed election bid to the organization.

Markey voted against the amendment. Her spokesman, Ben Marter, said in a statement: “These are community health centers that provide preventative and primary care — in most cases to lower-income communities — like disease prevention, education and cancer screenings. Given the massive economic hardships Americans face right now, it’s not the time to be focusing on divisive issues like this.”

The Susan B. Anthony List’s president, Marjorie Dannenfelser — who calls the group a pro-life version of the pro-choice EMILY’s List — has said the group is working to “advance, mobilize and elect pro-life women.” The group strongly supported last year’s Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin and attempted to woo disaffected Hillary Clinton supporters to the GOP camp.

Dannenfelser has penned emails sent by the group, and this week’s fury of dispatches included these paragraphs on the “investigations”:

If we do not act today, Congress will continue to pump millions of your tax dollars into the abortion industry. Planned Parenthood, in turn, will continue to protect child abusers and rapists by allowing sexual abuse of minors to go unreported, and will cover up abuse with abortion.

Sexual abuse of children is bad enough, but recent investigations have revealed explosive new reports that show Planned Parenthood coaches young girls to lie about their age and age of their child’s father in order to bypass parental consent and notification laws.

A Planned Parenthood representative told The Colorado Independent that no laws have been broken in Rose’s videos and that staff workers are trained to try and establish facts.

The organization later sent a statement on the Susan B. Anthony allegations:

Planned Parenthood health center professionals take their responsibility as mandatory reporters and healthcare providers very seriously. All affiliates work to maintain strict policies and procedures regarding mandatory reporting and when health center employees do not adhere to those policies, immediate action is taken.

Attempts to undermine Planned Parenthood only serve to deny women, men, and young people critical preventive health care such as annual wellness exams, cancer screenings, birth control, and STD testing and treatment.

Rose, 20, is president of a California-based “youth-led” group called LiveAction. For the past three years she has been visiting Planned Parenthood clinics across the country and telling staff she is a minor and that she has been impregnated by an adult.

As Jeff Norman reported at The Huffington Post, the video of Rose’s visit to a Memphis clinic cites a Tennessee statute requiring anyone with knowledge of child sexual abuse to report it to authorities.

“But that law applies only to alleged victims who are under thirteen years of age,” writes Norman, who interviewed Rose about her sting operations.

“When I asked Rose why Planned Parenthood is legally obligated to report her hypothetical boyfriend even though she had claimed to be nearly 15, she replied, “You could say…technically they didn’t have to report it [but] that’s not the issue here.”

Planned Parenthood, the largest single source of reproductive health care in the country, provides a variety of screening and health services, including cancer tests, breast exams and treatments for sexually transmitted diseases. Each year, the organization provides 1 million cervical cancer screenings. Staff at its 800 clinics include 30,000 employees and volunteers. Planned Parenthood has never been convicted of violating any law.

It reportedly receives up to $350 million in public funding.

Editor’s Note: This story has been updated with a statement from U.S. Rep. Betsey Markey’s office about the congresswoman’s vote.

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