This vote was on an amendment by David Vitter, R-La., that would prohibit abortion providers from receiving federal family planning funds unless used for a mother whose life would be endangered if she doesn’t have an abortion. The amendment was offered to the bill that funds the departments of Labor, Health and Education in fiscal 2008.
Vitter acknowledged that federal law already prohibits money from going to funding abortions directly. But he said that the family planning money his amendment would target is “fungible and it is a big shell game and it supports their overhead and it supports their organizations and, in many cases, that funding is a huge percentage of their overall revenue. So it does, in a very significant, meaningful way, support abortions. That is wrong in my mind.,” Vitter said.
Vitter said his amendment would exempt hospitals specifically. As an example, Vitter said his amendment would target organizations such as Planned Parenthood, which Vitter said receives about $59 million annually in federal family planning funding. While that money does not go directly to funding abortions, it does provide support to an abortion provider, Vitter said.
Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., said Vitter’s amendment was misguided, and would have the effect of telling private organizations how they can and cannot spend their own money. “If Senator Vitter wants to deny these funds, he should work to outlaw all abortion. He should work to make women criminals who have abortions—throw everyone in jail. If he wants to go that way, that is an honest way. But to stand up here and say that a private organization that works so hard every day to give women the health care they need—to punish them because they use their own funds to provide a full array of reproductive health care is really, I think, a very sorry idea,” Boxer said. She added that Vitter’s amendment would do nothing to reduce abortions, but would make contraceptives harder to get.
The Senate rejected the amendment by a vote of 41-52. Every Democrat present voted against the amendment. All but seven Republicans present voted for the amendment. Thus, the measure went forward without language that would have prohibited abortion providers from receiving federal family planning funds for any purposes, whether directly related to abortions or not.