The House of Representatives Friday passed a measure to end federal funding for abortion provider Planned Parenthood a day after Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., brought the chamber to stunned silence after describing her own personal experience with abortion.
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The next day the California congresswoman emphasized that it was not her wish to have an abortion, but rather a difficult decision informed by consultations with doctors to end her baby's life because doctors said it had no chance at survival.
"Last night, I spoke on the House floor about a painful time in my life when the pregnancy that my husband and I prayed for was unsuccessful," Speier, D-Calif., said in a statement Friday evening. "I had what's called dilation and evacuation or d & e. The fetus slipped from my uterus into my vagina and could not survive. Today some news reports are implying that I wanted my pregnancy to end, but that is simply not true. I lost my baby."
Friday afternoon, the House passed the amendment by a vote of 240-185. The vote was generally along party lines, with all but seven Republicans voting for the cut, and 10 Democrats voting in favor. One Republican voted present.
The House must still vote for final passage on the underlying spending bill before the cuts head to the Senate for a possible vote later this month.
Planned Parenthood is already prevented by federal law from using federal dollars for abortion services. The amendment takes away the money they use to provide for family planning, birth control, medical and preventive services.
The measure would eliminate about $330 million through the end of September for preventative-health services, including federal funding for contraception and cancer screenings, at Planned Parenthood clinics across the country.
Speier took to the House floor to respond to comments made by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., against abortion funding.
"I had planned to speak of something else, but the gentleman from New Jersey has just put my stomach in knots because I'm one of those women he spoke about just now," said Speier. "I had a procedure at 17 weeks, pregnant with a child that had moved from the vagina into the cervix. And that procedure that you just talked about was a procedure that I endured. I lost a baby."
Her remarks came as the clock ticked toward midnight.
"But for you to stand on this floor and to suggest, as you have, that somehow this is a procedure that is either welcomed or done cavalierly or done without any thought is preposterous. To think that we are here tonight debating this issue when the American people, if they are listening, are scratching their heads and wondering what does this have to do with me getting a job? What does this have to do with reducing the deficit? And the answer is nothing at all," Speier said.
"There is a vendetta against Planned Parenthood, and it was played out in this room tonight," Speier continued. "Planned Parenthood has a right to operate. Planned Parenthood has a right to provide services for family planning. Planned Parenthood has a right to offer abortions. Last time you checked abortions were legal in this country."
Speier went on. "Now you may not like Planned Parenthood, so be it. There's many on our side of the aisle that don't like Halliburton. And Halliburton is responsible for extortion, for bribery, for 10 cases of misconduct in the federal database, for a $7 billion sole-source contract. But do you see us over here filing amendments to wipe out funding for Halliburton? No, because frankly that would be irresponsible. I would suggest to you it would serve us all very well if we moved on with this process and started focusing on creating jobs for the Americans who desperately want them."
After Speier spoke, the chamber was silent for a few moments before some lawmakers started to applaud. Eventually House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., rose to speak in favor of the amendment.
Speier had initially been motivated to speak by Smith's remarks. The New Jersey Republican had delivered a lengthy, graphic speech in which he talked about a "tiny dead baby" falling to the floor after an operation, citing a passage from Abby Johnson's book "Unplanned."
"There is nothing whatsoever benign or caring or generous or just or compassionate or nurturing about abortion," Smith argued. "It is child abuse."
After Friday's vote, Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, released a statement calling Repblican lawmakers "out of control" and "extreme".
"The new anti-choice House leadership promised a jobs agenda and is now waging a war on contraception," Keenan said. "This is why elections matter. In the past, we had the votes to beat attacks like this amendment, but a new wave of anti-choice politicians is voting to take away women's access to birth control. These lawmakers are out of control, and we hold them accountable for their actions. As the debate goes to the Senate, our members will tell senators that they must put a stop to this extreme anti-choice agenda."
"Rep. Pence's proposal is an unprecedented, ideological attack on a specific health care provider that will result in more women losing access to the very basic health care they need," wrote Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards in a statement Friday.
"Every year, Planned Parenthood doctors and nurses carry out nearly one million lifesaving screenings for cervical cancer and 830,000 breast exams, and its health centers also provide contraception to nearly 2.5 million patients and nearly four million tests and treatments for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV," she added.