The fate of government funding for Planned Parenthood – which was $555 million last year – might be in the hands of two moderate Senate Republican women, Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, as the GOP tries to find a way to 50 votes to back its bill to repeal and replace Obamacare.
"Everything is going to be trying to get to 50," Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., told Politico. "The people who are opposed to having that provision in the bill, I'm sure there will be discussions with them to figure out what it will take to get the vote.
"But we've got individual members who have issues with a lot of different features in the bill. So putting together the strategy that gets us to 50 is no doubt going to be a challenge."
The GOP Senate majority is narrow, just 52-48 with two Independents, and finding a healthcare replacement for Obamacare in the Senate will not get any support from Democrats or Independents.
The 2015 Obamacare repeal bill defunded Planned Parenthood, but Collins and Murkowski supported an amendment to keep its government funding. The amendment failed, but Murkowski still voted for the '15 repeal, while Collins did not, according to Politico.
"There is no way Planned Parenthood could fundraise to be the public health safety net in this country for low-income women," Planned Parenthood Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens told Politico.
Removing the provision to defund Planned Parenthood would stir opposition from the anti-abortion GOP senators.
"We have a strong pro-life majority in the Senate, and so it's going to be in there," Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, told Politico.
Defunding Planned Parenthood with a repeal of Obamacare will impact poor women who need subsidies, according to Laguens.
"People will lose access and women will die," Laguens told Politico. "Thousands of women have had their cancer and precancerous conditions discovered by Planned Parenthood. There are not enough places for women to go to get this care."
This debate might frame the Senate GOP healthcare bill on abortion vs. economics, and some might have to couch their beliefs to help get something passed.
"I'm always looking for an opportunity to do what's right on that issue," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., a staunch opponent of abortion, told Politico. "But that said, I would say that my focus right now is on the broader healthcare marketplace, getting it fixed. Certainly, if it has that in there, it would be something I'd be supportive of. Whether I condition my vote on it is not something I'm prepared to say."
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