As Planned Parenthood grapples with a series of attacks against it by anti-choice forces, the political stakes are intensifying as the Republican-controlled U.S. Senate readies to vote on a measure that would strip all federal funding from the non-profit women's health organization.
Three covertly-filmed videos showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing fetal tissue donations have prompted some in Congress to renew the debate over the government's financial support of the organization. Senate Republicans are gearing up to vote on a bill that would cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood, which already receives limited subsidies from the government and is prohibited from spending taxpayer money on abortions.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and introduced on Tuesday, states: "Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no federal funds may be made available to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, or any of its affiliates."
One GOP senator who was familiar with the bill said that under the new legislation, funds would be redirected to "other groups that deal with women's health," CNN reports.
It is unclear whether the bill would pick up enough Democratic support to surpass the necessary 60 votes. Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Harry Reid (D-Nev.) both criticized the bill, according to CNN.
"Look, the bottom line is, Planned Parenthood does a great job protecting women's health," Schumer said. "And I think, if you look at the polling data, the American people are overwhelmingly in favor of allowing Planned Parenthood to continue funding women's health."
The House of Representatives appears unlikely to vote on defunding Planned Parenthood before the August recess despite mounting pressure on Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio). And President Barack Obama would almost certainly veto any such bill, although more details on the legislation are expected to emerge this week.
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Planned Parenthood also confirmed this week that it was hit by anti-choice hackers who gained access to the healthcare nonprofit's employee database. The organization called on the Justice Department and the FBI to investigate the attack.
"Extremists have broken laws, harassed our doctors and patients, produced hack videos and now are claiming to have committed a gross invasion of privacy—one that, if true, could potentially put our staff members at risk," Planned Parenthood executive vice president Dawn Laguens said on Tuesday.
As for the battle it now faces in Congress, Planned Parenthood is rallying supporters to call on lawmakers not to be "fooled by [the] latest smear job" against the organization.
"Once again, a group of anti-abortion activists has attacked Planned Parenthood doctors, nurses, and patients with false accusations. And once again, its political allies are seizing on these accusations as an excuse to push the same dangerous agenda—ban abortion, shut down health centers and cut women off from care," Planned Parenthood stated in a petition to Congress circulating this week.
The petition continues:
We've seen all this before. First, small groups of extremists launch fraudulent claims to shut down health centers that serve millions. Then, out-of-touch politicians seize on those lies to push abortion bans, defund Planned Parenthood, and deny women access to care.
We've seen it before—and we've fought it, and we've won. And we won't stop fighting this time, no matter what.