Murray, Cantwell: Women’s health cuts won’t pass

By:  Joel Connelly, SeattlePI.com

With a federal government shutdown looming, nine women Senators said Friday they will not sacrifice women’s health care services as the price of a budget deal with Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives.

“We know we have to keep the government open,” said Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., but she added:  “We are not going to throw women under the bus to give them an agreement to keep this government open.”

House Republicans, in their budget plan for the remainder of the fiscal year, axed $317 million for a program known as Title X, a women’s health initiative enacted 40 years ago under Republican President Richard Nixon.

The House also added a “rider” directing that Planned Parenthood not receive any federal money from any source.  Planned Parenthood gets a quarter of Title X money, none of which is used to pay for abortions.

Republicans “won’t budge until their social agenda is jammed through Congress,” Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., told the news conference.  “This is not a budget impasse on fiscal issues.”

Murray and Cantwell have spent a contentious week on Capitol Hill.  On Wednesday, they helped beat back efforts to block the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating and limiting greenhouse gases.

The budget battle Friday has revolved around House “riders” restricting environmental enforcement and de-funding women’s health.  The environment issue apparently has been resolved, but Planned Parenthood has made for a major impasse.

The tall (Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.) and short (Murray and Sen. Barbara Miluksi, D-Maryland) of the Senate’s Democratic women were breathing fire Friday.

“Radical ideological riders” are holding the operation of government hostage, said Mikulski.  Feinstein added:  “The numbers have been agreed to, but it’s an opportunity for the right wing in the House to really sock it to women.”

Rep. Chris Smith, R-New Jersey, leader of the pro-life caucus in the House, on Friday described Planned Parenthood clinics as “abortion mills-period.”

Planned Parenthood has countered that Title X money is used for preventive care with such services as  breast cancer screenings, Pap tests and family planning counseling, and basic health care for low-income women.

“Not a single dime can be used for abortions,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

Supporters of Planned Parenthood in Washington have presented Murray and Cantwell with more than 45,000 voter signatures urging them to resist the House riders.