Government Shutdown Hinges on Planned Parenthood Rider

Planned Parenthood funding is sticking point, women absent from talks.

April 8, 2011, 11:18 AM

April 8, 2011 -- With the government set to shut down at midnight, Democrats say the only dispute between them and the Republicans is the GOP's policy rider that would prohibit any federal funding for Planned Parenthood or its affiliates.

"We agreed on a number [of spending cuts]. But we are not -- we are not! -- bending on women's health," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid told reporters Friday.

For a debate that could come down to women's reproductive rights, there's surprisingly few women in the room.

"I wonder if a couple of women got in the negotiating room they wouldn't be able to get this thing all wrapped up ASAP, so we can have weekend," former White House spokesperson Dana Perino tweeted on Twitter Friday morning.

Leaders of the talks include President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, House Speaker John Boehner and Reid. Other high-ranking officials in the room are White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, White House Legislative Affairs Director Rob Nabors, Office of Management and Budget director Jack Lew, Boehner's Chief of Staff Barry Jackson and Reid's top staffer David Krone -- that's right, all men.

The highest-ranking woman and vocal critic of the Planned Parenthood rider to the budget bill is the Senate's No. 4 Democrat, Patty Murray of Washington. But Murray has not been present in the top-level talks at the White House.

"I am really stunned, and I am angry as a woman, that we have come to this after weeks of negotiating on numbers, where we have in principle an agreement on numbers, that there those in the Republican Party in the House who are willing to shut down the government, take people's paychecks away from them because they want to deny women access to health care in this country," Murray said Thursday.

Patty Murray: 'Women Will Not Be Thrown Under the Bus'

On Friday Murray was just as emphatic. "Women are not going to be thrown under the bus in this country for this agreement," she told reporters.

What does Planned Parenthood Do?

Any debate involving Planned Parenthood touches on the issue of abortion. Sen. John Kyl, R-Ariz., arguing in favor of cutting funding for Planned Parenthood, said "If you want an abortion, you go to Planned Parenthood, and that's well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does."

Planned Parenthood is barred from using federal dollars for abortions, but it subsists on federal money for other services it provides at clinics, such as cancer screenings, contraception and mammograms to poor women. More than 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does has nothing to do with abortion, according to a spokesman.

Democratic women senators held a fiery press conference Friday, pledging that no bill that would strip funding for Planned Parenthood would pass the Senate.

"This has no impact on the budget. It has no impact on the deficit or the debt. What it does reduce is opportunity for women. It does not reduce federal spending," said Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md.

"They want to take our mammograms away from us. They want to take our prenatal care away from us. They want to take our counseling and family planning away from us. And we just say no," she said.