GOP loses Senate battle to defund Planned Parenthood as bill's OK falls 7 votes short

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) speaks at a news conference on the funding for Planned Parenthood, accompanied by Senator Richard Blumenthal (D- Connecticut) (left) and Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) (second from right), at Capitol Hill in Washington, on Aug. 3, 2015, hours before senators voted on a Republican bill to defund the organisation.Reuters
A protester leaves after demonstrating outside a Planned Parenthood clinic in Vista, California, on Aug. 3, 2015.Reuters

Despite the damning videos linking abortion service provider Planned Parenthood to the illegal sale of foetal parts, the US Senate voted 53-46 on Monday, trashing a bill that would have taken away more than $500 million in federal funding for the huge company with about 700 health clinics all over the US that treat 2.7 million patients a year.

Although more senators (53) backed the passage of the bill than those (46) who opposed it, the proponents of the move fell seven votes short of the 60 needed to pass the bill.

Majority of the Republicans (51) voted "yes" to the bill joined by only two Democrats—West Virginia's Senator Joe Manchin and Illinois' Senator Joe Donnelly.

Majority of the Democrats (42) voted "no" to the bill joined by two Republicans and two independents.

The Republicans are expected to try to push the defunding measure again this fall with higher stakes — a potential government shutdown that could have an impact on next year's presidential and congressional elections.

"Did you fall down, hit your head, and think you woke up in the 1950s?" Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts Democrat, sarcastically asked Senate Republicans.

"We will not tolerate this attack on women's health care in the guise of stopping abortion," added Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat.

Several other attempts had been made in the past to defund Planned Parenthood, but none of the past efforts had come close to the furore caused by the "sting" videos released by the Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group.

The videos released by CMP, some of which have admittedly been edited, showed Planned Parenthood officials talking about the illegal sale of tissues from aborted foetal parts. However, in the full-length versions of the videos, the company's staffers are shown vehemently denying this act.

"We are very proud to have a bipartisan group of senators supporting us today," Planned Parenthood chief Cecile Richards told NBC News before the vote. "We are 100 percent non-profit. We make zero profit from any foetal tissue donation. This wasn't an effort to discover wrongdoing. This was a three-year effort to create wrongdoing and it was unsuccessful."

Despite the Senate's decision, there are still many who are crying foul over Planned Parenthood's activities, and one of them is Senator Rand Paul, a Kentucky Republican who is also a presidential aspirant. "It sickens me to see what's been going on with Planned Parenthood," he said. "This debate isn't just about abortion. This debate is about little babies that haven't given their consent."

Iowa Republican Senator Joni Ernst, who sponsored the bill, said the videos "hit at the moral fabric of our society," believing that America's taxes should not be going to an organisation "that has shown a sheer disdain for human dignity and complete disregard for women and their babies."

NBC and the Wall Street Journal conducted a poll asking 1,000 American adults if they viewed Planned Parenthood in a positive light, and 45 percent said they did, while 20 percent were neutral.