For nearly three months now, Congress has been unable to pass a bill funding the fight against the Zika epidemic. This is not because no such bill exists; the House passed one in June which would provide $1.1 billion in funding to combat the virus’ spread. Senate Democrats have blocked the bill, however, for the simple reason that none of the funds would go to Profamilias, the Puerto Rican wing of Planned Parenthood.
That’s all. The bill does not remove any funding from the group. In fact, it doesn’t do anything to impact their bottom line at all, which seems to be the reason that Senate Democrats have blocked its passage twice. Apparently, the fact that Planned Parenthood doesn’t get a cut of the money is enough to stall the emergency funding for the entire summer.
Even more bizarre is the fact that funding Profamilias wouldn’t strengthen the fight against the disease in the slightest. PolitiFact noted in June that the bill already includes funding for clinics in every area where Profamilias lists a facility. (Loyal partisans that they are, PolitiFact somehow still managed to rate the Democrats’ contradictory claim as “half true.”) The New York Times, of all places, notes in addition that the group “provides medical services almost entirely out of its two clinics in San Juan,” where it “served about 7,000 patients in 2015 […] not a particularly large number, given that about 390,000 people” live there. According to a program director at Profamilias, the clinics don’t even offer Zika testing.
Despite all this, Senate Democrats have continued to block the funding bill, blaming the delay on GOP “obstructionism,” proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that this beloved term of theirs is entirely devoid of meaning. “We thought we had something on Friday,” said Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday, according to the Washington Examiner, “But what stood in the way? The old famous Planned Parenthood. They couldn’t move forward without doing something there. That’s not positive.” Of course, by “doing something there,” he means, “giving money to clinics which actually test for Zika and not an affiliate of the group bankrolling our party’s presidential campaign.”
Nevertheless, as Reid alluded to, Republicans started signaling last week that they would be willing to cave on the issue and pay Profamilias the money Democrats were demanding. This plan seems to have stalled for the time being, but the suggestion is deeply troubling. Democrats can apparently hold hostage emergency health funds intended to protect unborn children by demanding tribute for Planned Parenthood and their affiliates. They can then blame the lack of action on “obstructionist” pro-lifers who insist on funding different clinics in the area which can actually test for the disease. Worst of all, despite majorities in the House and Senate, Republicans seem just about ready to surrender.
Danny Cannon works for the American Principles Project.