Republicans may not like Planned Parenthood, but women have the constitutionally protected right to make decisions about their own bodies.

Share story

EXACTLY two years ago, Republicans in Congress faced a choice: They could work with Democrats to avoid a government shutdown and allow more time for negotiations on a budget deal or they could cave to the extreme wing of their party, which wanted to shut down the government in a futile attempt to block health-care reform.

As we all remember, Republicans refused to stand up to their base. And they plunged the country into a shutdown that hurt the economy and didn’t do a thing to stop health-care reform from moving forward.

When the shutdown ended, I was proud to work with Republican budget chairman Paul Ryan to negotiate a two-year budget deal that restored investments in education, health care, research and jobs. We proved that Congress can get results when both sides compromise for the good of the country.

Coming out of that bipartisan deal, I was hopeful that Republicans had learned their lesson and that they wouldn’t put the nation through that again. Two years later, I’m not feeling optimistic. Our bipartisan budget is expiring in less than two weeks and so far Republicans are marching down that same path.

Patty Murray is the senior U.S. senator from Washington state and the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
Patty Murray is the senior U.S. senator from Washington state and the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Tea-party Republicans are once again pushing for a shutdown unless they get their way. This time, they are specifically fighting to cut off funding for Planned Parenthood — where millions of men and women in Washington state and across the country go each year for critical care, including cancer screenings, birth control and HIV tests.

Republican leaders say they don’t want to shut down the government, but that’s what they said in 2013. And with days to go, they remain focused on pandering to their base — and they haven’t even started moving on legislation to keep the government open.

So even though I am going to fight this latest tea-party tantrum — and I think I’m going to win — it’s important to point out what would happen and whose care would be cut off if Republicans got their way.

Republicans would be taking away care for people like Shannon, a woman from Tumwater here in Washington state who counted on Planned Parenthood to diagnose her chronic pain as endometriosis, a disease that can keep women from having children if it isn’t treated.

They would be taking away care for people like Brianna, a woman from Seattle whose cancer screening at her local Planned Parenthood caught an abnormal growth just in time.

And they would be taking away care for women and men in communities like Pullman. Its local Planned Parenthood was damaged in an arson attack, but a “pop-up” has been set up to make sure women and families continue to get the care they need until a temporary location is secured and the health center rebuilt.

Republicans may not like that Planned Parenthood helps women across the country exercise their constitutionally protected right to make decisions about their own bodies and their own care, but shutting the government down won’t stop that, just like shutting the government down in 2013 didn’t stop health-care reform.

So here is my message to Republicans: Skip the government shutdown this time and let us go straight to the bipartisan negotiations. Do what you wouldn’t do last time — work with Democrats to pass a clean, short-term extension of funding before you shut down the government and then work with us on a bipartisan budget deal that builds on our last one.

We know a bipartisan budget is possible because we did it before. We rolled back the automatic cuts equally across domestic and defense investments in the last deal — and we can do that again. We didn’t let divisive issues bog us down or push us off track — and we can do that again, too.

Because women like Shannon and Brianna shouldn’t have to worry about Republicans taking away the health care they depend on. And families and small-business owners in Washington state and across the country shouldn’t have to worry that Republicans are once again going to push our county to another completely unnecessary crisis.