Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., called it “extremely offensive” that after weeks of debate on funding continuations for the federal government, now just hours away from a government shutdown, the lynchpin issue is women’s reproductive health care.
Sen. Murray and eight other female Democratic senators in a news conference expressed their “anger and disappointment” with this fact and its bearing on the status of the 2011 budget negotiations.
“We are not going to allow [Republicans] to use women as pawns at the end of a critical debate when this country is waiting to move on,” Sen. Murray said.
“One of the most outstanding issues is not about money and how to achieve a more frugal government, it is the defunding of Planned Parenthood,” Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said at the news conference.
Planned Parenthood, the largest family planning provider in the U.S., currently receives $300 million under Title X to provide basic reproductive health care services like cancer screenings, contraceptives, prevention education, pregnancy and STD testing.
Conservative lawmakers argue those funds can be indirectly misappropriated to subsidize abortions despite the fact the federal Hyde Amendment prohibits such use of taxpayer funds.
The federal funds Planned Parenthood receives are used solely for preventative health care services, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood maintained last month in an interview with CSPAN.
Richards argued that defunding Planned Parenthood would not reduce the budget deficit, rather it would increase it. The federal government would need an “additional $200 million at minimum to provide the same services from somewhere else,” she explained.
Former President Bill Clinton echoed Richards’ stance saying on Wednesday that defunding Planned Parenthood would “cost more than it saves,” and because it would end preventive care for millions, would increase abortions.
“We are heading to a shutdown not because of a debate over money, not because of a debate over cuts, but because the republicans continue to want to push a radical agenda against women,” Sen. Mikulski said.
She argued that defunding Planned Parenthood would have no impact on the budget, deficit or debt. “What it does reduce is opportunity for women. It does not reduce federal spending.”
“I can’t believe it,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said. “What’s at stake isn’t the amount of cuts; it’s the ability of poor American women to get health care service.” She said that Republicans in the House are using the budget debate as an opportunity “to really sock it to women.”
“These cuts are biased, they are politically motivated, and they hurt women. And we the women in the senate will not let it happened,” Sen. Feinstein said.
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., agreed saying, “Look at our faces; we are determined to draw a line in the sand. There are moments when you must do that. This is one of those moments.”