Mark Wilson

Monday's failed vote to defund Planned Parenthood went pretty much as expected: a majority of Republicans supported the measure, while a majority of Democrats opposed it.

But there were a few notable exceptions from what was otherwise a straightforward line vote.

Two Democrats,¬†Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), broke with their party and voted to strip the family planning organization of its federal funding. Manchin said in a statement that he based his vote on his belief that "these allegations"‚ÄĒthat Planned Parenthood is somehow engaged in the illegal sale of fetal tissue‚ÄĒhaven't been resolved. (Fetal tissue donation is legal. In each of the videos released by the anti-abortion group the Center for Medical Progress, representatives for Planned Parenthood discuss the cost of personnel and transport involved in the process, an amount that ranges between $50 to $100.)

Two Republicans, Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) sided with the majority of Democrats in opposing the measure, but for very different reasons.

McConnell voted against the measure as a procedural matter: his "no" vote leaves him the option of bringing the bill up again at a later date. So get ready because the Senate effort to take out Planned Parenthood's federal funds will most certainly live to see another day. (This is, after all, not Congress' first rodeo.)


But Kirk, who has a fairly moderate record on reproductive health issues, said he voted against the measure because it would cut off access to basic healthcare for people who rely on Planned Parenthood for preventive services and birth control.

‚ÄúIn other states tissue donation programs should be investigated but in Illinois there is no similar program,‚ÄĚ Kirk told the Hill. ‚ÄúI do not plan to cut access to basic health care and contraception for women, the majority of whom have no other resources.‚ÄĚ

Kirk's remarks sounded a whole like what his Republican colleague, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, had said in the lead up to the vote and during the floor debate on Monday.


After denouncing the "callousness" of the tone of the Planned Parenthood employees who were secretly recorded in the video, Collins went on to say:

We do, however, need to keep in mind the fact that Planned Parenthood provides important family planning, cancer screening, and basic preventive healthcare services to millions of women across the country. For many women, Planned Parenthood clinics provide the only healthcare services they receive. It would be premature to totally defund Planned Parenthood immediately until we know more facts.

She also questioned whether or not the community health centers that would have received funding that would have otherwise been directed to Planned Parenthood would have the capacity to "absorb" new patients.


"I just don't see how we can ensure that all of the patients currently served by Planned Parenthood can be absorbed by alternative healthcare providers," she said on the Senate floor.

All very sensible concerns. But, unlike Kirk, she still voted for the measure. Collins said she supported the bill so that she could introduce an amendment or alternative proposal halting any action on the organization's funding until a federal investigation is completed.

The bill failed, but a possible shutdown still looms. And with a steady stream of secretly recorded and selectively edited videos trickling out from the Center for Medical Progress, Republican ire over Planned Parenthood will likely burn hot over the next 15 months.


But Republicans and Democrats who support cutting off funds to the family health provider might want to consider the questions raised by Kirk and Collins during the floor debate: going after Planned Parenthood means going after healthcare for nearly 3 million people, many of them with no other access options.

Is there a contingency plan in place if and when that happens? And at a moment when the GOP is trying to deflect criticism that it is out of touch with women and young voters, is depriving millions of them of their healthcare really the best outreach strategy?