House bills hit Planned Parenthood, some abortion doctors

Published 8:01 am Friday, September 18, 2015

WASHINGTON — Republicans pushed bills targeting Planned Parenthood and curbing some abortion procedures toward House passage Friday, with party leaders hoping the legislation will help mollify fractious conservatives demanding a face-off with President Barack Obama that could trigger a federal shutdown.

Neither measure has much chance of becoming law, since Democrats have the votes to block them in the Senate and the White House has threatened vetoes. But Republicans pushed ahead anyway, citing secretly recorded videos showing Planned Parenthood officials casually describing how they provide researchers with tissue from aborted fetuses.

One of the measures would block Planned Parenthood’s federal funds for a year, while the other would inflict criminal penalties on doctors who don’t try saving infants born alive during abortions. As Friday’s debate raged, it underscored how the fight over abortion could affect next year’s elections. It’s an emotional hotspot among each side’s most loyal partisans and could be pivotal as each party seeks female voters.

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Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., sponsor of the bill imposing criminal penalties on doctors, defended his legislation as he stood beside a poster-sized photo of a scarred, aborted fetus that survived.

“Our response as a people and a nation to these horrors shown in these videos is vital to everything those lying out in Arlington Cemetery died to save,” Franks said.

Democrats said Franks’ measure was unneeded because clinicians allowing born-alive babies to die would face murder charges. They said the GOP legislation had other goals.

“It’s real intent is to further undermine a woman’s right to choose,” said Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif.

The anti-abortion activists who secretly recorded the videos say they show that Planned Parenthood is illegally profiting from organ sales. The organization says it’s broken no laws and is being maligned by deceitfully edited recordings.

The White House, in a statement released Thursday evening, said Obama called the shutdown threat “a game of chicken with our economy that we cannot accept.”

It was unclear if House approval of the two bills would help House Speaker John Boehner solve a political Rubik’s Cube. The Ohio Republican’s twin goals: avoiding a shutdown fight that GOP leaders warn would set voters against the party, while simultaneously appeasing conservatives who might try to oust him as leader for not adequately confronting Obama.