My Turn: Murkowski's Planned Parenthood vote lets down women - again

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.” Is this what Alaska women who voted for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, are now thinking about after learning of her vote to fully defund Planned Parenthood?


The first time Murkowski disappointed Alaska women was in March 2012, when she voted for a controversial restriction on access to birth control called the Blunt Amendment. The amendment would have allowed any employer to refuse to cover contraception or any other health service for moral reasons.

After the vote, in an interview with the Alaska Dispatch News, Murkowski said she regretted her vote on the Blunt Amendment. “I have never had a vote I’ve taken where I have felt that I let down more people that believed in me,” she said.

Well, she just did it again on the same topic, women’s health care, by voting to defund Planned Parenthood.

In her half-hearted defense of the vote, she claims it was just procedural. Murkowski said she voted to take up the defunding bill because she wanted to amend it. Her proposed amendment would have called for an investigation into whether or not Planned Parenthood was acting illegally when they collected fees to cover the cost of transporting fetal tissues.

Sorry, Senator. I’m not buying it.

First off, voting to proceed is the same as voting for the bill, particularly when a sharply divided Senate perceives the vote for cloture as one and the same. If cloture would have passed, that means the bill to fully defund Planned Parenthood would have certainly passed as well. The fact is the bill Murkowski voted for was titled, “A Bill to prohibit Federal funding of Planned Parenthood Federation of America.”

Secondly, she had no guarantee of enough votes to pass her amendment. If the Republican Senate Majority truly had any intent on just partially funding Planned Parenthood, that’s where they would have started, not with full defunding. So, with no guaranteed passage of her amendment, Murkowski’s vote would have put Planned Parenthood in serious jeopardy of losing everything.

And lastly, the videos, which instigated this vote, have been decried as lies by the New York Times, Seattle Times and the Washington Post. Rather than honoring her apology on the Blunt Amendment, Murkowski turned her back on Alaska women yet again; it’s as simple as that.

Personally, I was shocked to learn of Murkowski’s vote on Planned Parenthood because it belies her more moderate, analytical self that we’ve seen on other issues. (I’ve even written favorably about her more moderate stance on raising the debt ceiling and funding government.) Apparently, judging by her comment in the Alaska Dispatch News on Aug. 3, she got swept up in a video reaction wave. “Like many Alaskans, I have watched and been appalled by the Planned Parenthood videos,” she said.

Somehow she lost the fact that just because an edited video goes viral doesn’t make it true.

After seeing the videos spin out on conservative media, Planned Parenthood sent an immediate letter to Congress on July 20, explaining why the video was obviously heavily edited. The letter was sent to Rep. Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. The letter documents four specific areas where there was significant cutting and editing in order to completely distort the context of the discussion around recovering transportation costs for legal fetal tissue donation for medical research (which was approved by Congress in 1993, with broad bipartisan support).

I have no way of knowing if Murkowski read this letter before she voted. In any event, she should have used her more moderate judgement and assumed there was likely another side of the story, particularly when the subject matter is Planned Parenthood, the perennial target for anti-abortion extremists. It appears her cool head abandoned her, just as many women now feel abandoned by her vote.

For Sen. Murkowski, who faces re-election in 2016, the real question now becomes: How many Alaska women will be thinking “Fool me once, shame on me. Fool me twice, shame on me,” when it comes to voting?

• Kate Troll is a member of the City and Borough of Juneau Assembly. The views expressed are her own.


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