In a surprising defeat for anti-abortion forces and their allies in the Republican leadership, the House Wednesday rejected a proposal to abolish the federal government’s principal family planning program and transfer the money to state block grants.
The program, which provides grants to clinics around the country, survived on a 221-207 vote, with 53 Republicans joining 167 Democrats and one independent in the majority. The House then voted, 224-204, to reinstate $193 million in family planning funding.
The program provides no money for abortions and has enjoyed broad bipartisan support for most of the quarter century since it was founded. But it has drawn criticism from abortion opponents because many clinics that receive family planning aid also provide abortion counseling and services, even though they do not use federal funds to do so.
The fight, which came during debate on a major appropriations bill, opened deep divisions within the GOP between the conservative anti-abortion majority and moderate Republicans who support family planning and other abortion-rights positions.
“This is one of the most successful programs in the history of our nation,” said Rep. James C. Greenwood, R-Pa., who led the fight to preserve the program.
But Rep. Christoper H. Smith, R-N.J., called for abolishing the program in an effort to “defund the abortion industry.”
Those intraparty divisions could resurface and threaten final approval of the entire appropriations bill, which is expected to come to a vote Thursday. A key question is whether conservative Republicans will defect because of the family planning vote and join Democrats in opposing the bill.