In a year when spending, deficits and debt have dominated the national debate, the recent push to strip Planned Parenthood of government funding is a reminder that the abortion issue retains its political potency.
The decades-old battle nearly derailed the latest spending deal on Capitol Hill, and House Republicans say they’ll continue to fight federal funding of the group after Congress returns from a two-week break to tackle the nation’s borrowing limit, 2012 spending levels and the soaring national debt.
“We believe very strongly that government dollars shouldn’t be used to fund abortion. I believe that is where the majority of the American people are and we will make sure that we continue in the spirit of the Hyde Amendment, governmentwide,” House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican, told reporters this month, referring to the 1976 law that bans the use of federal funds for abortions.
As part of the 2011 spending deal, the Democrat-controlled Senate agreed to hold an up-or-down vote on defunding Planned Parenthood, a measure that sailed through the House only to die in the Senate largely along partisan lines. Republican Sens. Scott P. Brown of Massachusetts, Mark Kirk of Illinois, and Olympia J. Snowe and Susan M. Collins, both of Maine, joined their Democratic counterparts.
The vote has handed advocates on opposite sides of the battle new ammunition to use against their political foes in the 2012 elections, where Republicans hope to capture the U.S. Senate and oust President Obama.
“Votes have consequences, especially for politicians who say one thing at home and do another in Washington when it comes to protecting life,” said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony List, a pro-life group.