After a heated, three-hour debate last night, the U.S. House of Representatives this afternoon passed an amendment to defund Planned Parenthood
by a vote of 240 to 185. The Senate, which retains a slim Democratic majority, is expected to vote on the measure in the coming weeks.
The Pence Amendment, named for author Mike Pence (R-Indiana), states that entities that provide abortions cannot receive federal funds in the form of Title X grants. Title X, signed into law by President Richard Nixon in 1970, sets aside federal dollars every year to fund low-cost or free reproductive heath care like gynecological exams, cancer screenings and contraception. Last year, five million Americans got free or low-cost health care through Title X.
Most of what Planned Parenthood does is preventative care, says Paula Gianino, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region -- about 97 percent. And Title X dollars are expressly forbidden from being used to pay for abortions anyway. Last year, Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region received $380,000 of the $327 million federal allotment.
"To go after this program is cynical red meat to shore up partisan politics," Gianino said in an interview before the measure passed. "We think it's despicable."