GOP Senator Backs Federal Funding Of Planned Parenthood


A Republican senator has told a town hall meeting that he supports federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Sen. Dean Heller of Nevada was speaking at an event in his home state on April 17, according to The Hill.

The senator was initially booed by the audience when he did not provide a direct answer about federal funding for the women's health care organization.

"I have no problems with federal funding for Planned Parenthood," he subsequently said.

Heller will be running for re-election in 2018 and his position is seen as vulnerable.

"I will protect Planned Parenthood," Heller added.

But he indicated his support for the law signed by President Donald Trump April 13, which grants states the power to decide how the organization is funded. He added that his vote in the Senate in March in favor of the new law had nothing to do with defunding Planned Parenthood.

"As a conservative I think the states should be making those decisions," said Heller. "These decisions have always been made at the state level."

The bill was only passed in the Senate after Vice President Mike Pence cast the tie-breaking vote in March.

Democrats were angered by what they perceived as Heller's lack of honesty.

"His blatant lying was an insult to his constituents and a show of disgusting disrespect for Nevada voters. The truth is in Senator Heller's unpopular voting record, and he will have to defend these votes in 2018," said Stewart Boss, a spokesman for the Democrats in Nevada.

In 2015, Heller backed the Republican bill aimed at repealing the Affordable Care Act. That measure also included a provision to defund Planned Parenthood.

But in September 2015, Heller voted against moving ahead with a government funding bill that would have defunded Planned Parenthood.

The law signed by Trump April 13 overturned a provision implemented by the Obama administration that  prohibited states from denying funding for family planning to health professionals who also carry out abortions.

The Obama-era measure stated that the only justifiable reason for withholding funds from an organization was if it was incapable of providing family planning services.

Anti-abortion campaigners welcomed Trump's signing of the measure.

"Prioritizing funding away from Planned Parenthood to comprehensive health care alternatives is a winning issue," Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List, told The New York Times. "We expect to see Congress continue its efforts to redirect additional taxpayer funding away from Planned Parenthood through pro-life health care reform after the spring recess."

Women's advocacy groups criticized the move.

"Despite repeated promises that he would protect and invest in women's health, President Trump has once again shown that his words carry little weight," said Heidi Williamson of the Center for American Progress' Women's Health and Rights Program. "Trump's actions are creating very real and damaging consequences for millions of women and their families, inflicting direct harm on already vulnerable communities."

Sources: The Hill, New York Times / Photo credit: Dean Heller/Flickr

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