U.S. Republican presidential contender Rand Paul said on Sunday he plans to continue pushing to cut federal funding for the non-profit reproductive healthcare organization Planned Parenthood over a dispute about treatment of aborted fetal tissue.
“I’m going to try to force a vote on this. I think the time is now to discuss whether taxpayer dollars should be going to such a gruesome procedure,” Paul, a Kentucky senator, said on Fox News Sunday. “People are outraged by this and I think the American people deserve to have a vote on it.”
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has started a “fast-track process” to bring Paul’s legislation for a vote soon, McConnell’s spokesman told Reuters on Sunday.
Republicans have rallied around secretly recorded videos that critics say show Planned Parenthood illegally selling aborted fetal tissue. Two committees in Congress have announced inquiries into whether fetal body parts were illegally sold for profit.
Democrats have defended the organization, which provides various low-cost and free health services to women.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards on Sunday said the group “does not at all” profit from fetal tissue donations and denied the fact that abortion procedures may be altered to better harvest fetal tissue.
“Planned Parenthood has broken no laws,” she said on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”
“We should not base any kind of decisions about healthcare in this country based on highly sensationalized folks who are nothing but militant anti-abortion extremists,” she also said.
Richards said the doctors who appear in the video discussing the donation of aborted fetal tissue, which is only allowed in a few states, have been reprimanded for their tone.
Paul and rival Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina raised ethical questions on the collection of aborted fetal tissue described on Sunday talk shows, while Planned Parenthood supporterss said the procedure is valuable to health research.
Paul said he was pursuing several strategies, including a so-called discharge petition requiring the support of at least 16 additional senators to force a vote.
He earlier sought to attach to transportation legislation an amendment to cut the nearly $500 million in annual taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood. But on Sunday he said, “they may block me today on a vote on an amendment to the highway bill,” and if so, he would pursue separate legislation.
About 40 percent of Planned Parenthood’s funding comes from government sources, including Medicaid managed-care plans.