HELENA — By a one-vote margin, Republicans on the House Appropriations Committee on Monday rejected an attempt to restore $4.6 million in federal family-planning funds for local health clinics.

The money earlier had been cut from the state budget by Republicans on a budget subcommittee, because some of the money goes to clinics run by abortion provider Planned Parenthood of Montana.

The House Appropriations Committee, voting on proposed amendments to the session’s major budget bill, voted 10-11 against a motion by Democratic Rep. Kim Dudik of Missoula to restore the funding.

Two Republicans, Reps. Rob Cook of Conrad and Steve Gibson of East Helena, joined the panel’s eight Democrats in voting to restore the money. Eleven Republican members voted against it.

Rep. Ron Ehli, R-Hamilton, who chaired the subcommittee that cut the money last month, said while federal law forbids the money from paying for abortion services, many Montanans object to sending federal funds to an organization that performs abortions.

The money goes to 25 clinic offices around the state, in towns big and small, and accounts for an average of 30 percent of their budget. State health officials said the clinics served 26,000 women a year.

Planned Parenthood of Montana operates five of the clinics, which offer contraceptives, health screenings and other services.

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Democrats said the money is vital funding for health services used by low-income women and men all across the state, and that it made no sense to penalize clinics and their consumers just because one recipient has the ability to perform abortions.

“It seems ridiculous to shoot the horse because we don’t like the color of its tail,” said Rep. Bill McChesney, D-Miles City. “To do away with this funding is doing a great injustice and a disservice to those (who use these services) in Montana.”

At a hastily called news conference shortly after the vote, the Montana Democratic Women’s Caucus also denounced the action.

“This is outrageous,” said Sen. Christine Kaufmann, D-Helena. “It is time to stop playing politics with women’s health, yet again. We thought we got past this.”

Rep. Galen Hollenbaugh, D-Helena, said he was surprised that the attempt to restore the money fell short in committee, and that it sets up a floor fight over the budget bill next week.

“From our caucus’ standpoint, I don’t see how we end up being able to support House Bill 2 without the inclusion of these funds,” he said. “I don’t understand how you could cut the services for so many Montanans based upon your political beliefs and problems with just one provider (Planned Parenthood). It’s beyond comprehension.”

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