House GOP Pulls Breast Cancer Bill Over Unfounded Abortion Concerns (Updated)

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House GOP Pulls Breast Cancer Bill Over Unfounded Abortion Concerns (Updated)

Emily Crockett

House Republicans on Tuesday pulled a popular breast cancer research funding bill over unfounded concerns that it would indirectly fund Planned Parenthood.

UPDATE, July 23, 1:55 p.m.: The House passed an amended version of the bill on Wednesday that removes the Susan G. Komen Foundation from distribution of funds raised by the commemorative coin, and instead gives all of the funds to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.

House Republicans on Tuesday pulled a breast cancer research funding bill over unfounded concerns that it would indirectly fund Planned Parenthood.

The bipartisan bill, written by Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Pete Sessions (R-TX), would create a commemorative coin to fund breast cancer research. Half the funds would go to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation and half to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, which gives grants to Planned Parenthood for breast cancer screenings.

It was the funding for Komen, and a warning from the conservative Heritage Foundation not to vote for the bill, that had many Republicans pulling their support from the bill at the last minute.

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The breast cancer bill had started the day with 307 co-sponsors, including 142 Republicans—until 21 Republicans lined up to remove their support Tuesday afternoon. That was enough to deny the the bill the two-thirds majority it needed to pass a fast-track vote under “suspension of the rules,” a procedure used for popular bills that are expected to easily pass.

“We are working to ensure that charitable organizations which receive funding from this legislation are 100 percent focused on diagnosing, treating, and curing breast cancer,” a House GOP leadership aide said.

The bill’s text would, in fact, require funds to be spent only on breast cancer research. Since Komen’s grants to Planned Parenthood fund screenings, not research, that means that no funds from the bill should go to Planned Parenthood at all.

“It’s unthinkable that Republicans would oppose funding breast cancer research for women in need,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said in a statement. “This legislation would fund valuable prevention and research that helps save women’s lives.”

Breast cancer is especially devastating to women of color. It is the leading cause of cancer death among Hispanic women, and Black women are more likely to die of breast cancer than any other group of women.

Planned Parenthood already gets some federal funds for care like cancer screenings and contraception that doesn’t involve abortion. Those funds come through Title X, the only federal program dedicated to helping low-income women get family planning services.

House Republicans have already tried to eliminate Title X this year, partly because it funds Planned Parenthood. Although none of those funds can be used for abortion care, some anti-choice politicians argue that any federal funding for family planning through Planned Parenthood “frees up” other funds for abortions.

Maloney told Rewire in a statement that she is still optimistic about her bill, which was first introduced in the last Congress.

“Funding for breast cancer research is incredibly important to millions of American families,” Maloney told Rewire. “I remain hopeful that this bill will pass, and I’m working right now to make sure that happens.”