Senate women threaten shutdown over Planned Parenthood rider

A defiant group of Senate women said Friday they'll oppose any spending bill that would affect reproductive health funding, which Republicans have targeted for steep cuts.

The nine lawmakers — all Democrats — said the politically charged Planned Parenthood provision has no place in legislation to fund the government, and warned Republicans that they'll shut down the government before they'll cut women's healthcare services.

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"We are not going to throw women under the bus to give them an agreement to keep this government open," Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said during a press conference at the Capitol.

"We are determined to draw the line in the sand," Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) added. "There are moments when you must do that, and this is one of those moments."

As part of their bill to fund the federal government through September, House Republicans eliminated all $317 million in funding for the Title X program, a national reproductive health initiative enacted by President Nixon in 1970. Republicans also attached a long list of policy-based amendments, known as "riders," including one to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving federal funds from any source, even those outside the realm of Title X. That bill was shot down in the Senate.

Planned Parenthood receives about one-fourth of all Title X funding. Roughly 90 percent of its funding goes toward preventive care, according to the organization.

“More than 5 million women use these clinics every year, and one of them could be my granddaughter,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said Friday.

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said the GOP plan would hurt women's health.
 
“It's an outrage to shut down the government over an extreme proposal that would deny millions of women Pap tests, breast cancer screenings and birth control," she said in a statement.

A decades-old law, called the Hyde amendment, bars the federal funding of abortion. But conservatives argue that, because money is fungible, there's no real way to segregate the private dollars dedicated to abortion services and the federal dollars backing other areas of care.

"They are abortion mills — period," Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) said Friday in reference to Planned Parenthood clinics.

Republicans claim negotiations are being held up because there is no final number for spending cuts. When asked about the policy riders Friday, Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) said "almost all" of them have been resolved.

But Democrats are accusing Republicans of using the looming government shutdown as an excuse to push through long-held ideological beliefs.

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) said Republicans "won't budge unless their social agenda is jammed through Congress."

"This is not a budget impasse on fiscal issues," Cantwell said.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) took that criticism a step further.

"It's an opportunity for the right wing in the House to really sock it to women," said the usually demure Feinstein. "I don't usually use this language, but I really believe this is true."

There's been some talk that Republicans have tweaked their reproductive health rider to make Title X a block grant, allowing governors to decide how to allocate the funding. The plan was soundly rejected by Democratic senators Friday.

"If they want to do that, it should be done in the context of a debate on the floor," Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) told The Hill.