WASHINGTON – With four days left to fund the government, two congresswomen warned Monday that Republican efforts to eliminate grants to Planned Parenthood would strip access to basic health care from "millions" of women across America.
On a conference call organized by Planned Parenthood, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL), vice chair of the Democratic National Committee and an outspoken advocate on women's issues, called the GOP's "all-out assault" on the health care provider "dangerous and irresponsible."
"For millions of women across America, Planned Parenthood health centers are the only place they have to go for primary and preventive care," Wasserman Schultz, a breast cancer survivor, said. "We would face a crisis in terms of the explosion of cancer, particularly more advanced-stage cancer, if women don't have access to these services that Planned Parenthood provide."
"When I found out I had cancer I was incredibly fortunate to have access to quality care. But not all women are so lucky," she added. "For these women it is absolutely essential that they have somewhere like Planned Parenthood to go."
The remarks came amidst ongoing negotiations to fund the government through September. Some House Republicans insist the measure include "riders" to block grants for Planned Parenthood, after they passed a bill eliminating all Title X funds to groups that perform abortions. Democrats reject the idea. If the two sides don't come to an agreement by Friday, the government will shut down.
Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), who was also on the call, questioned the sincerity of Republicans pushing to eliminate funding for Planned Parenthood.
"They're coming from an ideological and political agenda and are trying to convince people that they're protecting personal freedom," Lee said. "But they want government right in the middle of personal health care decisions that women must make."
Wasserman Schultz and Lee pushed back against the misconception that Planned Parenthood performs only abortion services, which they do alongside breast exams, HIV screenings, cancer tests, health counseling and other services.
The Florida Democrat blamed the belief on a "vicious campaign misinformation and disinformation" conducted by the "extreme anti-choice community."
Senate Democrats said this weekend that they have struck a deal with House Republicans to cut $33 billion from 2010 levels, but have yet to work out the specifics. Each side has insisted they don't want the government to shut down.
"We're down for the fight," Lee said.