House panel advances measure defunding Planned Parenthood

House panel advances measure defunding Planned Parenthood
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The House Energy and Commerce Committee on Wednesday advanced a fast-track bill to defund Planned Parenthood for one year and repeal an ObamaCare public health fund. 

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The bill is part of the process called reconciliation, which will allow measures to bypass a Senate Democratic filibuster. President Obama is still sure to veto them, but Republicans say that they will at least reach his desk. 

This fast-track process kicking off now is seen as a way to advance a measure defunding Planned Parenthood without attaching it to the government funding bill, risking a government shutdown. 

Panel Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.) said defunding Planned Parenthood is a matter of “respect for human life,” and pointed out that the bill would redirect funds toward community health centers as an alternative to Planned Parenthood. 

Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas) referred to a series of undercover videos that set off the controversy when he said that Planned Parenthood is “taking the parts of aborted babies and selling them,” which he called “abhorrent.”

Planned Parenthood says that the videos are part of a smear campaign and the organization only receives legal compensation for expenses, at clinics in two states, for giving fetal tissue for use in medical research. 

Democrats denounced the Republican efforts. 

“This isn't just an attack on Planned Parenthood, this is an attack on all women across this country,” said Rep. Frank Pallone (N.J.), the committee’s top Democrat. 

The bill would cut off funds for Planned Parenthood under Medicaid, which total around $390 million per year, according to the Congressional Budget Office. 

It also adds $235 million in funding for community health centers. 

However, Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.) called Republican claims that women could simply find healthcare at community health centers “laughable,” saying community health centers already lack capacity to meet demand. 

Barton argued that Planned Parenthood is a private organization with no right to guaranteed federal funds. Pallone countered that the bill, by excluding Planned Parenthood, was a break from the norm under Medicaid that patients may access any qualified health provider to receive services.

The bill also repeals a roughly $2-billion-per-year ObamaCare public health fund, which Republicans argue is an unaccountable pot of money used effectively as an administration “slush fund.”

The main ObamaCare repeal measures were included in the House Ways and Means Committee’s reconciliation bill, which passed on Tuesday. That measure repeals the law’s individual and employer mandates, as well as the medical device tax, the “Cadillac Tax” on high-cost health plans, and a Medicare cost-cutting board. 

The committees’ measures will head to the Budget Committee where they will be combined before heading to the House floor. 

Pallone denounced the ObamaCare repeal efforts, saying the law is working. 

“The Affordable Care Act is the law of the land and it has become a part of the fabric of our healthcare system,” he said.