As the Senate gears up for a vote on defunding Planned Parenthood that is expected early next week, the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress released another secretly-recorded video of a Planned Parenthood physician in Colorado discussing per-specimen prices for fetal tissue donation. But though the organization is more vulnerable than ever, Republicans do not seem likely to succeed in stripping it of federal funds for women's health services.
The bill, championed by Kentucky senator and presidential hopeful Rand Paul, among others, will require 60 votes. Two Republicans, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois -- who is up for re-election in a blue state -- and Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, have already told The Hill they would not vote to defund Planned Parenthood.
“The problem is, in my state and many others, Planned Parenthood is the primary provider of women’s health services in certain parts of my state,” Collins said. “[I] don’t know how you would ensure that all of the patients of Planned Parenthood could be absorbed by alternative care providers.”
Two Democrats with anti-abortion records, West Virginia's Sen. Joe Manchin and Pennsylvania's Bob Casey, aren't supporting the bill either. The House of Representatives, where 18 male members signed a letter saying they would shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding, left for its summer recess and won't hold a vote until the fall. The White House, which would be the final stop for any defunding bill, has pledged support for the organization.
Of the 18 members of the House who signed a letter threatening to shut down the government unless Planned Parenthood is defunded, zero were women.
Planned Parenthood also said Wednesday that anti-abortion hackers had shut down its website. The organization's president, Cecile Richards, took to the pages of the Washington Post to defend her organization.
"These attacks are not about us," Richards wrote. "They are about the ability of women across the country to access health care. Period."
Meanwhile, a California court temporarily blocked the Center for Medical Progress from releasing videos of employees of StemExpress. That biotechnology company actually does what the anti-abortion group purported to do, acting as a middleman between medical clinics and researchers. StemExpress went to court on the grounds that the recordings were illegal under California's privacy laws because they did not know they were being taped.
It's not clear whether Planned Parenthood has done the same for its employees, as it did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the issue. The Center for Medical Progress has already released four videos showing Planned Parenthood personnel, and has promised more.
The video released Thursday shows a conversation with the Denver-based Dr. Savita Ginde about compensation for extracting fetal organs at the request of medical researchers. “I think a per-item thing works a little better, just because we can see how much we can get out of it,” she says in the video.
Planned Parenthood has maintained that any money changing hands is compensation for staff time and processing. Federal law forbids "valuable consideration" in exchange for human tissue. Both Thursday's video and the one the group released Tuesday record inside Planned Parenthood's laboratory, a possible violation of patient privacy.
Planned Parenthood receives about $500 million in public funding, but says the majority of it comes from Medicaid reimbursements for specific services, which the Senate bill won't affect. The federal funds go to women's health services, such as contraception, cervical cancer screenings, and testing for sexually transmitted infections, but do not fund abortion.
Republicans have been seeking the defunding of Planned Parenthood at least since 2011, but have been stymied by both Democratic and Republican elected officials. The group has been an effective political actor, often on behalf of Democrats, and it can point to the fact that 1 in 5 American women have visited their health centers.