House Passes Two Abortion-Related Measures Aimed At Planned Parenthood

Sep 18, 2015
Originally published on October 20, 2015 6:14 am
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The House fired the opening salvo in what's expected to be an intense showdown to avert a government shutdown. The Chamber passed two abortion-related measures today so conservative Republicans could vent their anger over videos accusing Planned Parenthood of selling fetal tissue. And NPR's Ailsa Chang reports, many House Republicans want their leader to go further or face consequences.

AILSA CHANG, BYLINE: With only a few working days left in Congress before the government's funding expires, both chambers are still in warm-up mode. The House spent its last day in session this week voting on two measures that will never become law. One freezes federal funding for Planned Parenthood for a year, the other toughens penalties for doctors if they don't provide care to infants who survive abortions.

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REP ROBERT GOODLATTE: If a baby born alive is left to die, the penalty can be up to five years in jail.

CHANG: Republican Bob Goodlatte of Virginia is leading one of the investigations into Planned Parenthood.

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GOODLATTE: If the child is cut open for its body parts or some other overt act is taken, the punishment is that for first-degree murder.

CHANG: Abortion-rights advocates and physicians say it is exceedingly rare for any fetus to survive an abortion and that the bill is simply a way to criminalize doctors. That measure would fail in the Senate, where Democrats are needed to pass legislation. So would any bill that defunds Planned Parenthood. So Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is asking his House colleagues to cool off.

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SEN, MAJORITY LEADER MITCH MCCONNELL: We need to deal with the world that we have. We have a president who deeply supports Planned Parenthood and will not sign a bill that defunds it.

CHANG: Fine for McConnell to say - he's not facing quite the same climate that House Speaker John Boehner is. House conservatives, like Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina, want Boehner to stand with them, not only on Planned Parenthood, but on budget caps and on a debt ceiling fight that's just around the corner.

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REP MICK MULVANEY: It is a murderer's row of issues from a conservative's standpoint, so I think it's going to be a tremendous test of his leadership.

CHANG: There's already resolution floating around the House seeking to oust the speaker, but no vote on it yet. Meanwhile, Boehner allies are stepping up to back him, like Republican Tom Cole of Oklahoma.

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REP TOM COLE: Every time we've had any kind of tests of strength, he's been the one that's walked away as the big winner. So I just - I think this is, you know, kind of a Washington parlor game right now, but I just don't see much evidence that he's anything other than a strong speaker.

CHANG: Boehner has said he doesn't want to see a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood. And sure, conservatives are saying they don't want one either, but as Kansas Republican Tim Huelskamp told reporters, if there was a shutdown, it wouldn't be their fault.

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REP TIM HUELSKAMP: Would the president shut the government down? I don't know what he would do. Would he shut down the whole government over one line item? You'll have to ask him.

CHANG: Maybe no one will have to. If Republican and Democratic leaders in the Senate get their way, they'll pass a short-term bill to fund the government through December that will fund Planned Parenthood. Ailsa Chang, NPR News, the Capitol. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.