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Planned Parenthood Funding Blocked In House Vote

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WASHINGTON -- House Republicans voted on Friday to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood, cutting money for contraceptives, HIV tests, cancer screenings and reproductive health services as part of an attempt to weaken the abortion provider. Planned Parenthood does not currently spend federal money on abortion services.

The vote, which passed, 240 to 185, came after an emotional, late-night speech by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), who revealed on the House floor that she had had an abortion. Speier criticized Republicans for vilifying Planned Parenthood and abortion-rights supporters.

"There is a vendetta against Planned Parenthood, and it was played out in this room tonight," she said on the House floor. "Planned Parenthood has a right to operate. Planned Parenthood has a right to provide family planning services. Planned parenthood has a right to perform abortions. Last time you checked, abortions were legal in this country."

Republicans argued that the amendment, which was introduced by Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.), was necessary to prevent taxpayer money from funding abortions at Planned Parenthood. But the organization is already prohibited from using the money it receives under Title X, which funds reproductive health services, to perform abortions.

Planned Parenthood was a major recipient of Title X funding last year, when the organization estimated it received a quarter of the $317 million appropriated for Title X. The the organization also performs one-quarter of reported abortions in the United States last year, some of which Pence claims were funded through non-Title X funding.

"Nobody is saying Planned Parenthood can't be the leading advocate of abortion on demand, but why do I have to pay for it?" Pence said on Thursday, adding that he hopes Roe v. Wade is eventually overturned.

Democrats, particularly female members of Congress, came out hard against the Pence amendment, calling it an attack based on politics. It is not the first by the House GOP this year: Republicans have also proposed bills that would allow hospitals to turn away women in need of emergency abortions or would limit funding for abortions to rape victims who can prove their rape is "forcible." (The latter language was dropped amid outrage from women's rights advocates).

"These actions by the majority would severely hurt women's rights and insert the government in private decisions about abortion and are nothing short of an all-out war on women," Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said on the House floor on Thursday. "Republicans are seeking to impose an ideological agenda on the country."

National Organization for Women President Terry O'Neill told HuffPost that the amendment is an attack on women. "One in three women will have an abortion in their lifetime. So, in fact, abortion is an essential, ordinary part of women's reproductive health care needs," she said. "The fact is, you know, birth control is not perfect. Women do have jarring health conditions. Think about a woman who has breast cancer, or she has a heart condition, and she becomes pregnant unintentionally and she needs to terminate that pregnancy. It's just a normal part of health care. But most of the time, what we hear about abortion, and I'm sorry to say this is true, even our dearest friends, who are elected officials, the way they often talk about abortion is as if it is always, always some kind of dreadful tragedy. It's health care, and sometimes health care is tragic and sometimes health care is relieving. Sometimes it's a cure. Sometimes it's just the best you can do in a bad situation. Sometimes it's liberating. Sometimes it's sad, and a loss. You don't know, because every individual woman has her health care issues individually."

UPDATE: In a statement, Planned Parenthood called the amendment "radically out of step with mainstream American values" and called on the Senate to restore their subsidies. "Ensuring that millions of women can obtain health care from their trusted provider is what mainstream Americans want and expect from the United States Senate," the organization's statement said.

Ryan Grim contributed reporting