Arizona delegation splits on party lines as House OKs abortion bills

Rep. Trent Franks, R-Glendale, shown in a 2013 file photo, sponsored one of the abortion bills sparked by a controversial Planned Parenthood video. (Photo by Connor Radnovich)

WASHINGTON – A sharply divided House on Friday passed two strong anti-abortion bills that supporters said would help stop an American “genocide,” but critics derided as a political “farce” to appeal to pro-life voters.

Lawmakers voted largely along party lines to approve one bill to strip federal funding for Planned Parenthood for a year and a second bill, sponsored by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Glendale, extending legal protections to “born-alive abortion survivors.”

Both measures face a likely filibuster in the Senate, and both have drawn veto threats from President Barack Obama. But that did not deter supporters.

“The sands of time should blow over the Capitol dome before we give one more dime of taxpayer dollars to an organization that is the principle promoter of the greatest genocide in America’s history,” Franks said after the Planned Parenthood vote.

Arizona lawmakers split cleanly down party lines Friday, with Republicans supporting both bills and Democrats opposing.

Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, said the bills were a “farce” that pro-life Congress members can use to “appease their anti-choice” states. He called Friday’s vote a face-saving measure for Republicans whose only other option would be to force a government shutdown by attaching abortion language to the budget, which has to be passed by Sept. 30.

The bills are a response to recently released videos that claim to show Planned Parenthood officials negotiating the sale of body parts from aborted fetuses to be used in medical research. Selling such tissue for profit is illegal, but medical facilities are allowed to recoup expenses.

Critics say the undercover videos, released by a watchdog group, have been doctored. But the videos were front and center during Friday’s debate, with Republicans urging their colleagues on the other side of the aisle to watch the videos before casting their votes.

“If they (the Democrats) want to send one taxpayer dime to Planned Parenthood after watching it, shame on them,” said Rep. Blake Farenthold, R-Texas,

Besides challenging the veracity of the videos, Democrats argued just as passionately about the importance of other health benefits Planned Parenthood provides.

Rep. Jackie Speier, D-California, presented a photograph of a woman who she said would be dead if not for the breast cancer exam she got at a Planned Parenthood clinic.

After a little more than three hours of debate, the Defund Planned Parenthood Act of 2015 passed 241-187, with two Democrats and three Republicans crossing party lines. The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act passed 248-177, with five Democrats voting for it and no Republicans opposing.

Franks conceded that even if the bills survive in the Senate they face a veto from Obama, who “has cemented his place in history as the abortion president.” When asked about the possibility of attaching language to a budget bill, Franks said he would do that “only if it can be successful” – and he is not optimistic.

“Unfortunately … the Democrat filibuster is perpetual and unmovable, and that they’re willing to sell out the future – including these little babies that are the substance of the future – for the sake of short-term political gain,” he said.

Vicki Saporta, president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation, was outraged that bills even got through the House.

“Inspired by misleading, heavily edited videos, these bills are a gross interference by the House of Representatives in the practice of medicine and negatively impact women’s access to reproductive health care,” Saporta said in an emailed statement Friday.

“These bills are written by politicians, for politicians, with no regard for the health of women and their families,” her statement said.

For Franks, however, the legislation is a step in the right direction for protecting the rights of unborn children “in the face of atrocities committed by abortionists.”

“My only question,” he asked of the bills’ opponents, “is what do they do when they leave here and have to remember what they’ve done?”