WASHINGTON -- A bill that would have helped female military veterans receive fertility treatments and counseling on Wednesday fell prey to the Republican war against Planned Parenthood.
Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) abruptly pulled her bill to end a ban on fertility treatments for female veterans receiving care at VA hospitals from the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee after Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) attached amendments targeting Planned Parenthood and other family planning organizations.
Tillis on Wednesday said he introduced the amendments because he believes the VA should focus on existing problems in the VA health system rather than introducing new programs.
"I'm concerned that we have a problem with priorities," Tillis said on the Senate floor. "I'm concerned that maybe the focus isn't where it needs to be to make sure that we take care of the most pressing problems for our veterans."
One of the amendments, Tillis said, would bar the VA from working with organizations that "take aborted babies' organs and sell them." In justifying his amendments, Tillis referenced a Government Accountability Office report on federal funding for family planning organizations such as Planned Parenthood. The report notes the VA paid one of the organizations $900, but does not mention whether the organization was in fact Planned Parenthood.
Murray, speaking on the Senate floor Wednesday, slammed Republicans for turning the issue of veterans' health care into "political football" and making her bill "a vehicle for partisan political attacks.”
"I know some Republicans are trying to use this latest issue as just one more opportunity to roll back the clock and take away women’s health care options," Murray said. "We can have that fight. We’ve had it many times before. But don’t pull veterans into the middle of it. Don’t take something that should be above politics -- our sacred duty to our veterans -- and pull it down into the muck of petty politics. It’s not fair to veterans and their families, who have been hoping and praying for the opportunity to have children."
Murray had expected the bill, which also calls for the VA to provide financial assistance to veterans wishing to adopt children, to pass the committee and be considered by the full Senate. But when Tillis attached the amendments, Murray asked for the bill to be pulled from markup before the committee's meeting on Wednesday.
Republicans in both the Senate and the House have escalated their attacks on Planned Parenthood after an anti-abortion group last week released a heavily-edited video that purported to show that the family planning organization profits from fetal parts. Planned Parenthood donates fetal parts for scientific research, and the organization says the only money it receives are small reimbursements for processing and transportation costs.