Health

House Republicans Trip Over Each Other To Introduce Competing Bills To Defund Planned Parenthood

Mitt Romney made his desire to defund Planned Parenthood a central part of his pro-life credentials during his failed presidential campaign — but even though Romney didn’t ascend to the White House, attacks on Planned Parenthood aren’t fading away anytime soon. State level efforts to defund the women’s health organization are moving forward in Texas and Oklahoma, and members of the 133th Congress are so eager to introduce national legislation to block federal funds to Planned Parenthood that two Tennessee congresswomen both introduced identical versions of the same bill this week.

As the Huffington Post notes, Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) and Diane Black (R-TN) both hope to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funding for their family planning and preventative health services, and rushed to introduce a bill to do so during the first few days of the legislative session. But perhaps they were a bit too eager, since both bills are actually exactly the same proposal:

Tennessee Reps. Marsha Blackburn (R) and Diane Black (R) separately reintroduced a bill during the first two days of the 2013 legislative session that would prohibit Title X family planning grants from being awarded to any organization that performs abortions. The bill, first introduced by former Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) in the 112th Congress, primarily targets Planned Parenthood, which receives about $340 million a year in Title X funds for non-abortion health and family planning services. Both bills amend Pence’s original bill to include exceptions for rape, incest and to protect the life of the mother. […]

The day after Blackburn circulated her bill, Black introduced the same bill. One of Black’s staffers pointed out to HuffPost that her bill has the same number as Pence’s original bill and said that Pence, the governor-elect of Indiana, had specifically given Black his blessing to carry it on. Black’s bill has 38 cosponsors and endorsements from all the same organizations that Blackburn’s has.

The two legislators are unconcerned about their overlapping legislative agendas; they may simply sign on to co-sponsor each other’s bills. “The fact that there are multiple members interested in this issue proves that Planned Parenthood is not going to be let off the hook. We welcome the attention of all members to the subject,” Blackburn told the Huffington Post. “It helps build momentum.”

The Republican congresswomen believe their double push to block federal grant money from Planned Parenthood clinics is necessary in spite of the Hyde Amendment, a 1976 federal law that already prohibits taxpayer dollars from funding abortion services. The major fuel to anti-abortion advocates’ fire is a recent report noting Planned Parenthood’s activities during its last fiscal year, when the organization received $542 million in taxpayer funding and performed about 334,000 abortions. Anti-choice lawmakers like Blackburn argue that even though those taxpayer dollars don’t directly fund abortion procedures, they still indirectly allow the women’s health group to continue performing abortions because they don’t have to worry about fully funding their other programmatic areas.

Ironically, continued Republican crusades against Planned Parenthood may actually be helping perpetuate the organization’s funding cycle. A post-election poll confirmed that women’s issues, including ensuring secure funding for Planned Parenthood, were a decisive factor in November’s election. Sixty four percent of all voters said they heard something about Romney’s intent to defund Planned Parenthood, and 62 percent disagreed with that position — potentially spurring voters to make increased donations to the organization during the election cycle to lend their support.