The Hill: Dem senators accused of wanting it both ways on Planned Parenthood

This article orginally appeared online at The Hill on April 20, 2011.

Dem senators accused of wanting it both ways on Planned Parenthood
By Julian Pecquet

A leading anti-abortion rights group criticized two Senate Democrats on Wednesday for voting to retain federal funding for Planned Parenthood and then introducing legislation to oversee the money.

Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) have it backwards, said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony List.The actions taken by Senators Manchin and Nelson show exactly what’s wrong with Washington,” Dannenfelser said in a statement. “They voted to immediately send tens of millions in taxpayer funding to Planned Parenthood and then sought to implement safeguards to ensure that the money isn’t being spent on abortion. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?”

The Republican-controlled House voted last week to terminate Title X family planning funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. The legislation died in the Senate, 42-58.

Manchin said his “Title X Transparency and Verification Act” would make public the periodic, independent audits that seek to ensure that federal funding is not going directly or indirectly to abortion activities.

“I believe there needs to be a strict firewall around the vital services that Title X funds provide – such as cancer screenings and family planning – so that those federal funds are never, ever used for a single abortion, except in the cases of rape, incest and life of the mother,” Manchin said in a statement last week. “We must do everything in our power to strengthen and protect that barrier.”

Dannenfelser said that what the senators “won’t admit is that money is fungible.”

“Over a third of Planned Parenthood’s revenue comes straight out of the pockets of the taxpayers,” she said. “Commonsense says this frees up money for abortion… Beyond the fungibility argument, under current regulations, Planned Parenthood can use the tax dollars it receives to subsidize the facilities and staff used to perform abortions.”

A former Planned Parenthood executive and lobbyist recently said that’s the Number One myth about the organization. There isn’t enough federal funding for family planning as is, Clare Coleman wrote in the Washington Post, and cutting it only hurts poor women without doing anything to reduce the abortion rate.

“A Title X grant is designed to help with costs, not to fully cover them,” Coleman wrote. “So family-planning programs are required to find other money to support the Title X project — not the other way around.”

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