Georgia reps split on party lines on Planned Parenthood funding

A spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood in Georgia expressed disappointment at a U.S. House vote Friday to eliminate federal funding to the organization.

Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind., led the effort to strip a federal reproductive health program known as Title X of its $317 million appropriation and ban Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funding because the organization performs abortions. The measure passed by a 240-185 vote, but it faces an uncertain future in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Leola Reis of Planned Parenthood of Georgia called the vote "extreme" and out of touch.

"People are really looking for Congress to focus on jobs and the economy," she said. "Planned Parenthood provides health care to a million and a half people.”

Reis said Planned Parenthood's downtown Atlanta office provides a range of health services to a client base of about 6,000.

“Without that kind of support we anticipate more women having to make difficult choices on what they can and can’t afford with their health care," she said.

Georgia's delegation to Congress voted along party lines, with all eight Republicans voting for the amendment to cut funding for Planned Parenthood while all five Georgia Democrats voted against it.

Republican Rep. Paul Broun, R-Athens, said the vote was purely about abortion.

"I believe that abortion is the greatest moral issue that faces the nation," said Broun, who was a physician for about 40 years before entering Congress. "The reason I feel that way is that I know God cannot continue to bless America while we're killing 4,000 babies every day."

Added Republican Rep. Lynn Westmoreland of Coweta County: "The majority of Americans and the majority of the constituents of the 3rd [Congressional] District join me in opposing taxpayer-funded abortions. Using $317 million per year to subsidize the largest provider of abortions goes against every fiber of my being. Life is sacred and should be treated as such."

Reis said no federal money is used for abortion services. By law, federal dollars can only be used for preventive services, she said.

"This is as cynical a piece of legislation that I have seen during my tenure," said Democratic Rep. Hank Johnson of Lithonia. "This amendment would prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funds, including Medicaid reimbursement for family-planning services, funding for HIV testing and counseling, funding for programs to prevent infertility, breast and cervical cancer screening funds, and funding to provide evidenced-based sex education, including information about abstinence."

Reis said Planned Parenthood is looking to the Senate to restore the funding. Republican Rep. Tom Price of Roswell acknowledged that it would not be an easy fight in the Senate, but he suggested that senators would be wise to listen to constituents.

"Hopefully they [senators] will represent their constituents -- just like we are," Price said.

Planned Parenthood has five clinics in Georgia.

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