The Senate failed to defund Planned Parenthood on Monday after weeks of scandal surrounding allegations of the sale of fetal organs by the billion-dollar organization.
On Monday the upper chamber voted on legislation introduced by freshman Sen. Joni Ernst (R., Iowa) that would have cut off the taxpayer spigot for the embattled organization and distributed the funds to local community healthcare centers.
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"Before you now is legislation that will protect the most vulnerable in society and fund women’s health," Ernst said on the Senate floor before the 53-46 vote. The measure needed 60 votes to advance.
The legislation earned plaudits from pro-life organizations and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, as well as nearly the entire Republican field of presidential contenders. Planned Parenthood, which performs more than 300,000 abortions each year, also receives about $500 million from taxpayers through federally funded programs such as Medicaid.
Democrats circled the wagons to protect the group. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.), who once said that a born alive baby did not have rights until "you bring your baby home," took to the Senate floor to say that she didn’t "like being lectured by men" on the subject of pregnancy.
"This is the continuation of the Republican war on women," she said, evoking the line that Democrats employed during recent election seasons.
Congressional Republicans attempted to address that argument by using Ernst to lead the charge on the bill in the Senate, and Rep. Diane Black, a former nurse, in the House. Ernst said the bill crossed partisan and gender lines because "it is hard for anyone to defend these morally reprehensible" actions, referring to a series of videos from the non-profit Center for Medical Progress (CMP).
CMP videos have revealed top Planned Parenthood officials and doctors discussing the sale of fetal organs while sipping wine or dissecting bodies in an attempt to locate and price body parts. The doctors, including Planned Parenthood national medical director Deborah Nucatola, even discussed the various methods that staffers could use to increase the chances of producing intact body parts.
Sen. James Lankford (R., Okla.) said such practices violate federal law.
"It’s also not legal to be able to change the timing, procedure, or method [of abortion] to be able to get organs to be sold," Lankford said. "In the videos you hear over and over again … that they change the method."
Three congressional committees are now investigating Planned Parenthood’s organ harvesting practices. Lawmakers have also taken action at the state level. Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, a presidential contender, cut off state taxpayer dollars for the group on Monday just hours before the federal bill failed in the Senate.
Presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) skipped the vote. Sens. Joe Manchin (D., W.Va.) and Joe Donnelly (D., Ind.) voted for the measure, while Sen. Mark Kirk (R., Ill.) voted against it.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) changed his vote to nay in order to ensure that the bill could be brought up again.