All was sweetness and light when Steve Ogden convened the Senate Finance Committee at 9:30 a.m. today — but only because the shouting match over a rider making Planned Parenthood ineligible for women’s health care funds took place earlier behind closed doors. This session, Sen. Bob Deuell is carrying the rider — which has appeared in the budget at Ogden’s insistence every session since 2003 — prohibiting the Department of Health from giving women’s health care funding to Planned Parenthood clinics. Democrats, joined by a few Republicans like Kel Seliger who represent some rural areas, balked and promised a protracted debate this morning. The issue sparked a heated exchange between proponents (Ogden, Deuell and Tommy Williams) and opponents (John Whitmire, Judith Zaffirini, Juan Hinojosa), who argued that the organization doesn’t use the funds for abortion services but does provide women’s health care to under-served and impoverished areas. After the “dust-up” (as one witness described it), Ogden had the rider pulled from the Article 2 working group’s recommendations — avoiding a public fight today. Meanwhile, Seliger is reportedly working on an amendment that would allow funds to flow to Planned Parenthood clinics if no other facility exists in a geographical area to provide the same health services. So the issue will likely to resurface soon. Today, peace reigned — at least for public consumption.
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