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WASHINGTON – On the floor of the U.S. Senate last night, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, called on Senate Republicans to end their fruitless attempt to shut down the federal government over the issue of funding for Planned Parenthood’s critical health services.
Below is the full text of Murphy’s floor remarks:
Later this week, we're going to have our first Republican presidential debate - the official one that's on TV and a lot of people are going to be watching. There has been a lot of speculation as to who's going to be in the debate, and who's not going to be in the debate, and who will do well, who won't, who will rise in the polls, and who will fall in the polls. But frankly, we don't really need to wait for that debate because the Republican presidential primary campaign is playing out right now on the floor of the United States Senate. I think to the detriment of the institution.
How else would you explain a threat from members of this body and frankly from members of the House – many of whom are not running for president – to shut down the government over the issue of funding for Planned Parenthood?
Now, we've been through this before. We've been through government shutdowns prompted by ideological politics before, and a lot of people got hurt. A lot of people got hurt. A woman in Bridgeport, Connecticut – her life was torn apart because her Head Start Program got shut down because of the federal government shutdown. She just was just beginning a new job, and she had to make a choice between continuing in this new place of employment that was going to lift her up out of poverty, and essentially sending her kids out on to the street while they didn't have care, or leaving the job and taking care of her kids while Head Start was shut down. That's the consequence of a government shutdown.
And so if you're going to shut down the government, your reason for doing it better be pretty good. The reason a couple years ago was a miserable one – taking health care away from millions of Americans who are getting it because of the affordable care act. But this one is just as insidious. I don't know where women in my state would be without Planned Parenthood. My wife is one of tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, of Connecticut women who got their preventative care from Planned Parenthood. She did that when she was young and didn't have a lot of income and needed to be able to find a primary care provider who could get her access to basic health care services.
There are 2.7 million patients all across the country who receive their health care – their preventative health care – from Planned Parenthood. More than 90% of what Planned Parenthood does all across the country is engage in preventative health care. In 2013, 400,000 Pap tests, 500,000 breast exams, 4.5 million STI tests and treatments, including HIV tests. In Connecticut, there are 17 Planned Parenthood centers and they serve – here’s the number – 64,000 patients in the state of Connecticut. And so we're going to shut down the government in order to take health care away from 64,000 women in Connecticut. All in order for a handful of people to make an ideological point that may get them some additional votes within a Republican presidential primary.
Despite the fact that since the 1980's the law in this country has been clear, you can't use federal dollars for abortions. Now, I oppose that law because I believe that abortions are part of a panoply of medical services that should be available to people in this country at their choice. And I just frankly think that the government should stay out of the business of deciding what medically necessary health care choices women can make. I just don't think we should be involved in that. So I don't actually support the underlying law that prevents those dollars from being used, but it is the law of the land, it has been the law of the land, it will be the law of the land. So what we're going to say is we're going to shut down access to 64,000 women in Connecticut because the place that they're getting health care from also performs a health care service that is objectionable to people who are running for president.
But let's take that logic to its natural extrapolation. Let's take it to its logical end point. If you believe that no one should be eligible to get health care services from any institution that has anything to do with abortions or the full array of reproductive health care services, then you can't actually stop at Planned Parenthood. You have to stop funding any hospital that has anything to do with offering a full array of health care services. You have to stop funding for health care centers that do the same. Why wouldn't you stop sending Medicaid dollars to states like Connecticut that have codified Roe versus Wade? What's the logical end to this policy if all of a sudden, an organization that spends 90%-plus of its resources simply engaging in the good stuff of preventative health care, now all of a sudden can't serve anybody because they engage in a service that is a politically hot topic here in Congress, despite the fact there's a law on the books that says they can't use any of their federal dollars for that particular service? Take this to its logical end and we cut off federal funding for not 64,000 patients in Connecticut, but virtually every patient in Connecticut if any association with the provision of abortions all of a sudden denies you federal funding. I don't concede – I don't like the fact that the Hyde Amendment is the law of the land, but I acknowledge that it is and it will be, and this is just presidential Republican primary politics finding their way onto the Senate floor.
And what this could lead to is not the defunding of Planned Parenthood, because you won't get the votes or the presidential signature to defund one of the most important primary and preventative health care providers in our states. I won't do that. I won't deny health care to 64,000 Connecticut women. And so all you’ll do by creating this line in the sand once again is to shut down the federal government – sucking thousands of jobs out of our economy and leading to tens of thousands of stories of individual misery like that woman from Bridgeport who all of a sudden woke up to find that her kid couldn't go to his Head Start Program, and so she had to think about quitting her new job in order to take care of her child.
I get it that threats about shutdowns, they make good headlines. They play to a slice of a presidential primary electorate, but they're big headaches for real people. You're not playing with politics when you talk about shutting down the government over defunding Planned Parenthood or over repealing the Affordable Care Act. You're playing with people's lives.
And so I hope that this is just the issue of the week in the Republican presidential primary. I hope that when we come back in September, we're not seriously talking about another government shutdown. I hope we seriously aren't talking about an attack on women's health care all across this country. I hope we aren't entertaining the idea that tens of thousands of women in my state are all of a sudden going to lose access to services, or tens of thousands of women and men are going to lose access to programs like Head Start and job training – all the other things that get affected when the government shuts down.
I'm sick of shutdowns. I've only been in the Congress for less than a decade, but I’ve been through more of them, real and threatened, than I’d care to remember, and I’m certainly not going to stand for a shutdown threatened on the basis of denying health care for women in the state of Connecticut or anywhere else across this country. I hope that we can spend some time after this vote next week that – as even my Republican friends in the Republican presidential primary will admit – is a show vote, and get down to the real business of passing a budget that respects the values and priorities of this country, that keeps our government operational, and separates to the best we can the business that we do here on the Senate floor from the business of sorting out who's going to be the next Republican nominee for president.