Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston, on Monday urged the US Senate to deny federal tax money to reproductive health provider Planned Parenthood, citing undercover videos that seek to call into question the group’s practices.
In a letter published on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops website, O’Malley accused Planned Parenthood of a “willingness to traffic in fetal tissue from abortions, and to alter abortion methods not for any reason related to women’s health but to obtain more ‘intact’ organs.”
Such allegations have grown more prominent in recent weeks, after the antiabortion Center for Medical Progress posted recordings showing Planned Parenthood officials discussing their procedures for providing tissue from aborted fetuses for research.
In the Senate on Monday evening, supporters of legislation that would have halted federal aid for Planned Parenthood and shifted it to other health providers were unable to advance the bill in a procedural vote. The bill failed to meet a 60-vote threshold to overcome a filibuster, with 53 senators in favor and 46 opposed. Massachusetts’ senators, Democrats Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren, voted to block the bill from moving forward, in a mostly party-line vote.
Planned Parenthood, which provides health services for millions of women, has denied claims that it profits from fetal tissue donations. The organization has accused the Center for Medical Progress of selectively editing the videos, which “falsely [portray] Planned Parenthood’s participation in tissue donation programs that support lifesaving scientific research,” the group has stated.
Tricia Wajda, director of public affairs for the Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, said Monday the “defunding effort was justified by a misleading and fraudulent video campaign that has been widely discredited.”
“Planned Parenthood has high standards for lifesaving tissue donation programs and has followed all laws,” Wajda said, in a statement. “Politicians are using this attack on Planned Parenthood as a cover to push an agenda that will hurt millions of women by denying them access to important preventive health services like cancer screenings, HIV testing, and birth control.”
The legislation, sponsored by Senator Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican, proposed that: “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no federal funds may be made available to Planned Parenthood Federation of America, or to any of its affiliates, subsidiaries, successors, or clinics.”
Warren said on Twitter Monday: “The GOP vote to defund [Planned Parenthood] is 1 more piece of a deliberate, methodical, orchestrated right-wing attack on women’s rights.”
Attorney General Maura Healey of Massachusetts said last week her office found that Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts does not have a fetal tissue donation program, and “there is no evidence that [the league] is involved in any way in the buying or selling of tissue.”
O’Malley is chairman of the US bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities. In his letter, the cardinal said the recent allegations are “the latest demonstration of a callousness toward women and their unborn children that is shocking to many Americans.”
“It has long been troubling to many Americans that the nation’s largest abortion network, performing over a third of all abortions, receives over half-a-billion taxpayer dollars a year,” O’Malley wrote, referring to Planned Parenthood. “We support the legislative proposal to reallocate federal funding, so that women can obtain their health care from providers that do not promote abortion.”
Planned Parenthood’s opponents in Congress are expected this fall to revive the battle over cutting funding.
The White House has said President Obama would veto legislation that stripped federal money from Planned Parenthood.Material from the Associated Press was used in this report. Mark Arsenault can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @bostonglobemark.