U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., restarted his efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, an organization he said “traffics human baby parts.”
Daines on Monday co-introduced bills with Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, redirecting funding from Planned Parenthood and toward “other women’s health care providers,” while also undoing rulemaking by former President Barack Obama that protected Planned Parenthood funding.
“We must fight for those that are unable to fight for themselves,” Daines said in a press release. “We will maintain funding for women’s health care and redirect those funds toward community health clinics that provide comprehensive care instead of an organization that traffics human baby parts.”
Daines has attempted to defund Planned Parenthood in the past. The latest effort follows last week’s March for Life protest against a women’s constitutional right to decide personal health matters, including abortion, under the Fourteenth Amendment.
The protest march and Daines’ bill coincide with the 44th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, a ruling that declared state laws banning abortion to be unconstitutional.
Asked whether he recognized abortion as a woman’s constitutional right, Daines replied, “I am pro-life.” He would not elaborate.
Planned Parenthood is the nation’s largest women’s health network and receives roughly $500 million a year from the federal government for services other than abortion, for which it receives no federal funding. Planned Parenthood reported that in 2013 abortion accounted for 3 percent of the 10.6 million services provided to women that year.
Pro-life lawmakers, including Daines, have attempted for several years to prevent any health care provider that also provides abortions from receiving federal funding.
Daines and other lawmakers insist they're not asking that women's health funding be cut, only that it not be given to Planned Parenthood.
Last December, former President Barack Obama attempted to prevent Planned Parenthood and other clinics offering abortions from being denied grant money for any reason other than an inability to provide services.
Monday's actions by Daines and fellow Republicans would undo Obama's rule making. Observers have cautioned that defunding Planned Parenthood will come with a cost to women's health. Medicaid offered to low-income women is a major source of the $500 million paid to Planned Parenthood each year.
"A majority of Americans overwhelmingly support Planned Parenthood and strongly oppose these attacks," said Martha Stahl, Planned Parenthood of Montana president and CEO. "If these politicians succeed, it will be a national health disaster and devastate care.
"Nationally, millions of people, nearly half of whom are people of color, and many people who live in rural areas, would lose the care they rely on each year," she said.
Daines' remark that Planned Parenthood "traffics human baby parts" stems from a House Energy and Commerce Committee report about where fetal tissue is obtained for research and whether Planned Parenthood Federation of America was profiting from tissue sales.
Anti-aborton activists in 2014 produced a movie in which they posed as undercover fetal tissue buyers duping a Planned Parenthood worker into talking about fetal tissue. The movie sparked several state and federal investigations, including the one cited by Daines.
Planned Parenthood hasn't been found to have profited from tissue sales. Fetal tissue donations from abortion providers have been permitted since 1993 on the condition that the provider only recover the cost of donating. The female donor consents to the donation.
Fetal tissue has been used in medical research for decades. The tissue is used to reproduce viruses like mumps for vaccine testing. The tissue played a role in eradicating polio.
The research is mostly done at universities.