Murkowski votes to move bill defunding Planned Parenthood

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, in Ketchikan on April 29.
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, in Ketchikan on April 29, 2013.

A bill to defund Planned Parenthood failed a procedural vote in the U.S. Senate today. Sen. Dan Sullivan is a co-sponsor. Sen. Lisa Murkowski voted to advance the defunding measure also, but she says she doesn’t want to see Planned Parenthood’s funding removed without an investigation.

“A move to wholesale defund Planned Parenthood is just not smart,” she said just outside the Senate chamber after a procedural vote on the defunding bill.

Murkowski says she wanted the bill to advance so she could vote for an amendment offered by Republican moderates Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois. That measure would have required the Justice Department to investigate whether Planned Parenthood or its affiliates violated federal law regarding the harvest of fetal tissue. The Collins-Kirk measure would have cut off funding just to the facilities, if any, that profited from that practice. (Today’s procedural vote split Collins and Kirk. Collins voted to advance the defunding bill with hopes of amending it. Kirk was the only Republican to vote against advancing the bill.)

The reasons Murkowski is giving for her vote are nuanced and likely to be lost in the heated debate. After the vote, the Alaska Democratic Party issued a statement headlined “Murkowski Abandons Alaska Women.” On the other side, Jim Minnery of Alaska Family Action, has been urging his anti-abortion followers to tell Murkowski to support the bill.

Murkowski, who is up for re-election next year, has had a complex stand on abortion and women’s health issues since her days in the Alaska Legislature, and she has alternately pleased and angered both sides of the abortion debate.

Murkowski says she knows people will read a lot of meaning into today’s vote. She says she believes Planned Parenthood does good work and she notes that it provides health care to 21,000 Alaskans.

“What I’m opposed to is any measure that would completely defund … important services to men and women.  Unless, unless there has been illegal action,” she said. “And we don’t know if there has been.”

She says she was repulsed by the videos taken by anti-abortion activists in which Planned Parenthood officials seem to discuss compensation for providing fetal tissue for research and methods of collection. Murkowski today asked the U.S. attorney general for an investigation.


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