By Kelsey Harkness ~
Fears are mounting among some conservatives that under a Republican-controlled Congress, Planned Parenthood could soon be getting a raise.
“I hope that pro-lifers will wake up and realize that we have major issues when it comes to the U.S. Senate, when we have our ‘friends’ put us in very tough positions,” Tom McClusky, vice president of government affairs for the pro-life group March for Life Action, told The Daily Signal.
McClusky said he and other pro-life groups have been involved in ongoing discussions with House and Senate leadership regarding a government spending measure that is expected to include emergency funding for the Zika crisis. The concern, McClusky said, is the possibility that Planned Parenthood will get more government funding as a result of the Zika spending bill.
Republican leadership in the House and Senate have not yet released language detailing what the spending package will include, and thus far, they maintain that Planned Parenthood will not get more funding. Democrats, however, say they refuse to agree to any spending measure that bars Planned Parenthood or any of its affiliates from receiving funding.
Backdoor negotiations, McClusky said, don’t look good for pro-life groups.
“The most current language, we’re not happy with at all,” McClusky said. “There’s a number of things that Sen. [Mitch] McConnell has given his approval to that we disagree with—Zika being the major one.”
The Daily Signal reached out to McConnell’s office, but an aide said they are not commenting until the bill’s language has been released.
Conservatives are calling for a specific prohibition against Planned Parenthood and its affiliates from receiving Zika funds, which is precisely what Democrats say they’ll reject. Anything short of that, they say, will wind up landing the nation’s largest abortion provider more money.
“Planned Parenthood is like a pig searching for truffles,” McClusky said. “If [money] is there, they’re going to go searching it out.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2,920 Americans have been infected with Zika while traveling overseas, and 43 people have been infected locally in Florida.
In Puerto Rico, Zika infections are “increasing rapidly,” according to the CDC, with 17,315 locally acquired cases.
Zika is known to cause microcephaly in as many as 13 percent of infants. Microcephaly is a severe birth defect that results in a baby’s head to be unusually small and its brain to be underdeveloped.
Conservatives argue that it makes no sense to allocate Zika funds to Planned Parenthood, which operates only two branches in Puerto Rico that are only able to provide limited services. Instead, they argue Zika health-related funds should go to federally qualified health centers that are equipped to treat the virus and its effects on patients and children, both born and unborn. In Puerto Rico, there are 20 federally qualified health centers, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
According to CQ Roll Call, McConnell, R-Ky., the Senate majority leader, is planning a procedural vote on the spending measure for Monday.
If the measure doesn’t specifically prohibit Planned Parenthood from receiving funds, Rachel Bovard, director of policy services at The Heritage Foundation, said Republicans will ultimately “give Planned Parenthood a raise.”
“During this year’s reconciliation process, the Republican majority in both chambers made clear that their position was to defund Planned Parenthood entirely,” she said. “Now, in the [continuing resolution], congressional Republicans are looking to give Planned Parenthood a raise by giving them their annual appropriation in addition to money for Zika.”