By MAUREEN GROPPE
Gannett Washington Bureau
WASHINGTON -- The Republican-led House on Friday backed a years-long effort by Rep. Mike Pence to cut off federal funding to Planned Parenthood.
The House voted 240-185 for a Pence amendment that would prevent Planned Parenthood from getting federal money, including grants under the Title X program, which offers family planning and related preventive health services. The program is aimed at low-income families.
"I think it comes as a surprise to most Hoosiers and to most Americans that the largest abortion provider in the country is the largest recipient of federal funding under Title X," said Pence, R-Columbus. "We can stop that."
The amendment was to a bill that would fund the government through the remaining seven months of the fiscal year. Because Congress did not complete work on the budget last year, the government has been operating under a stop-gap measure that ends March 4.
In addition to Pence's amendment aimed at any federal funding for Planned Parenthood, the underlying bill would cut all Title X funding for any recipient.
President Barack Obama has threatened to veto the bill over cuts that he said would "sharply undermine core government functions and investments key to economic growth and job creation."
Senate Democrats also oppose the bill's $61 billion in proposed spending cuts across the entire government.
Opponents to Pence's amendment and to the overall cuts to Title X funding voiced confidence that those provisions would not be included in the final version of the bill, which must get the approval of both the Senate and the president.
"In the Senate, cooler heads tend to prevail," said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
Planned Parenthood receives about a quarter of the $317 million Title X budget.
The health care provider receives about $363 million in all government grants and contracts, including through services reimbursed by Medicaid, the joint federal-state health care program for the poor. Government funding represents about one-third of Planned Parenthood's budget.
A state House committee voted Thursday to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving Medicaid funding in Indiana.
Not all Planned Parenthood clinics offer abortion, and the law forbids federal funding from being used to pay for most abortion services. But Pence contends that the federal funding Planned Parenthood gets for other services frees up funding to cover abortions.
"All Planned Parenthood has to do is say they're going to stop performing abortions," said GOP Rep. John Culberson of Texas. "And yet they won't do it."
Democratic lawmakers accused Republicans of waging a war on women.
"This is part of a Republican agenda to force women back into traditional roles with limited opportunities," said Democratic Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut.
Rep. Lois Capps, D-California, said Pence must not know that Planned Parenthood provides exams, contraceptives and cancer screenings to 18,000 women in Indiana.
"I'd like to ask him how he plans to replace the services," Capps said. "My guess is that he has no plan and no answer."
Pence, who is considering running for governor in 2012, has for years introduced legislation to block Planned Parenthood from receiving Title X funding and to block family planning dollars from any recipient that provides abortions.
"As women voters in Indiana learn that one of Rep. Mike Pence's top legislative priorities is effectively denying access to preventive care for millions of women, he will have difficulty winning their vote as he considers running for governor," Richards said. "Americans want their elected leaders focusing on fixing the economy and creating jobs, not pushing an extreme ideological agenda that would take away health care for women."