When the Pence Amendment, which aimed to eliminate federal funding for Planned Parenthood, came up for a House vote in February, Rep. Brian Bilbray, R-Solana Beach, was clear about his position. He was all for it.
He was also factually in error and acting in contradiction to his previous stances on Planned Parenthood, a sexual health-care organization that also provides abortions.
Here's what Bilbray wrote in response to a fuming letter from Bob Coles, a pro-choice constituent, after the February vote:
Representative Mike Pence's (R-IN) amendment to H.R.1 eliminates funding for the domestic family planning program known as Title X. Planned Parenthood receives its funding mostly from the Title X program for family planning services including abortion and counseling services. I voted in favor of this amendment when it passed in the house by a vote of 240 to 185 because it should not be the position of the federal government to fund abortions.There are two factual problems with that statement.
First, the Pence Amendment did not eliminate Title X funds. That was already part of the Republican budget plan. The Pence Amendment aimed to further undermine Planned Parenthood by barring any kind of federal money going to it or its local branches.
Second, Title X funds cannot be used for abortions anyway. Bilbray's office has since backed off the claims.
"The letter is factually incorrect and we are taking steps to correct it," Bilbray's spokesperson Travis Considine tells CityBeat.
Although the rationale Bilbray cited has turned out to be bogus, Considine says that Bilbray intends to vote again to block federal funding for the organization. The measure failed the first time, but the House of Representatives is expected to vote again to defund Planned Parenthood this week.
CityBeat received this statement from Bilbray via email:
“Today America is facing over $14 trillion worth of debt and $1.4 trillion this year alone. Forty cents out of every dollar the U.S. government spends is borrowed. I came to Washington to put an end to business as usual so that our children and grandchildren don't inherit crushing debt. I understand why some special interest groups and organizations are upset they might not receive federal tax dollars they think they've become dependent on, but we need to make tough decisions now before it's too late.”However, in the past, Bilbray hasn't had a problem funding Planned Parenthood. What he says he believes in 2011 is not what he said he believed in 1998 and 2000.
CityBeat was provided a series of candidate questionnaires (PDF download) filled out by Bilbray for the Planned Parenthood Action Fund of San Diego and Riverside Counties when he was seeking reelection to the 49th Congressional seat. In the documents, Bilbray repeatedly expressed his support for the Roe v. Wade decision, funding for Title X federal programs and Medicaid coverage for abortions in cases of rape, incest and when the mother's life is threatened.
On two different questionnaires, he explicitly stated that he supported continued federal funding for Planned Parenthood. ---
Federal funding accounts for approximately 33 percent of Planned Parenthood's funding, according to the organization's most recent annual report.
"Year after year, Congressman Bilbray assured us that he supported funding for Planned Parenthood and even increasing funding for family planning services," Vince Hall, vice president of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of the Pacific Southwest, tells CityBeat. "Unfortunately, he has betrayed the women of the 50th congressional district by reversing his position."
Despite the tone of Bilbray's original letter, Considine says that Bilbray's decision isn't about Planned Parenthood as an organization, but rather about budget priorities.
"Eleven years ago, we were living in a different world," he says.
Considine adds that Bilbray isn't fully in solidarity with the ardent pro-lifers in Congress who are fundamentally at odds with Planned Parenthood as an abortion provider.
“He doesn't have a personal vendetta against Planned Parenthood, which seems to be permeating on the hill" Considine says. "It's about cutting spending now so that we can create a future that's sustainable and in doing so we're going to have to make a lot of painful decisions."