Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the anti-abortion-rights Susan B. Anthony List, tweeted a picture from the Capitol just before midnight last night with the message “Waiting…” Dannenfelser had been pushing hard for including language pulling federal funding from Planned Parenthood in whatever version of a bill dismantling the Affordable Care Act that Republicans in Congress were able to pass.
On Wednesday, as the Senate moved toward voting for a repeal bill that didn’t even exist yet, SBA List vice president Marilyn Musgrave sent an email to supporters with photos of a “war room” the group had set up in its offices to push for Planned Parenthood defunding as Dannenfelser and another senior staffer directly lobbied members of Congress on the Hill.
Around 10:00 pm last night, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell introduced a “skinny repeal” measure that was billed as a starting point for negotiations but would have devastated insurance markets and left millions uninsured if signed into law. At 11:55, SBA List issued a statement saying that it “strongly” supported the bill because it included language pulling funding from Planned Parenthood for a year and would have ended the individual mandate “forcing pro-life Americans to buy a health insurance plan even if their only insurance options cover abortion.”
Ultimately the bill that Senate Republicans offered last night failed after Sen. John McCain joined his fellow Republicans Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Susan Collins in opposing it. As observers waited for the result of the vote, Dannenfelser tweeted, “Pray for a YES from Senator McCain.”
Today, SBA List issued a statement from Dannenfelser reminding senators of her organization’s political field operation and claiming, “The provision to redirect Planned Parenthood’s funding was non-controversial. In fact, removing the provision would have meant an unsustainable loss of votes from all factions of the Republican conference and an early demise to the bill.” In an email to supporters, Dannenfelser wrote, “This is a painfully disappointing blow to our efforts to enact pro-life health care reform that defunds Planned Parenthood.”
It’s telling how willing a “pro-life” group was to go to bat for a bill that was estimated to leave 16 million more people uninsured and raise premiums on health care exchanges by 20 percent–one that even senators who voted for it openly opposed becoming law. Even if Congress were to use that bill as a jumping-off place for negotiations, previous versions of the bill created by Republicans in Congress significantly cut access to care, notably access to maternity care.