The New York Times, The Washington Post, CNN, Time, Newsweek, Politico, Roll Call and other national media outlets all called a vote in favor of cloture this week by Maine U.S. Sen. Susan Collins a “vote to defund Planned Parenthood.”

So did Maine media outlets. This newspaper used a few more words, describing it as a “vote to cut funding for Planned Parenthood.”

They labeled it accurately.

All of these sources, of course, go on to make clear that this wasn’t the final vote (if the defunding bill cleared the 60-vote hurdle of cloture, it would have required another, simple majority vote to go into law).

But they rightly note that the cloture vote, which would have ended the Democratic filibuster of the bill, is the one that matters most. The failure to reach 60 votes this week means that the defunding bill has been rejected.

Interest groups on both sides of the issue agree on this understanding of Senate procedure and on where Collins stood.

“Maine Senators received an overwhelming number of calls urging them to support S.1881 to defund Planned Parenthood,” wrote Maine’s Christian Civic League in an email to their membership. “We are grateful for the fact that Senator Collins supported the bill.”

“We were surprised and concerned by Senator Collins’ vote to defund Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood provides high-quality preventative care to thousands of Maine women every year – many of whom need it most. Senator Collins’ vote and equally misguided substitute bill seek to undermine that care,” said Nicole Clegg, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood of Northern New England, said in a statement.

Andrea Irwin, executive director of the Mabel Wadsworth Women’s Health Center in Bangor, was even more straightforward in her criticism:

“Senator Collins has proven once again that when it really counts, she will stand with her party instead of hard-working Maine people who value common sense above the extreme fringe of the anti-choice movement, whose illegal and unethical actions are to blame for this latest attack on Planned Parenthood,” Irwin said in a statement. “Her vote seriously calls into question her appreciation for the economic challenges women face in accessing reproductive health care.”

With all this agreement on how Collins voted, I was surprised to see a Bangor Daily News “analysis” blog post by reporter Chris Cousins headlined “Susan Collins’ position on defunding Planned Parenthood twisted for political gain.” In the piece, he opined that women’s health groups are distorting her vote “to serve a political purpose.”

“To say that Collins’ vote Monday night to move to debate was a vote to totally defund Planned Parenthood is quite a stretch,” wrote Cousins.

His analysis hinges on the fact that Collins has said that she supports continued funding for Planned Parenthood.

The senator claims she voted for the defunding bill to proceed only because, as she explained in a speech on the Senate floor, “I have received assurances from the majority leader that, should the motion to proceed succeed, there will be ample opportunity to offer amendments.”

The amendment she intended to offer would launch an investigation into allegations of illegal for-profit fetal tissue sales by Planned Parenthood (accusations that, at this point, have not been supported by any actual evidence).

This context is important, as is Collins’ generally pro-abortion rights voting record in the past, but it certainly doesn’t let Collins off the hook.

As she says in her own words, she made a strategic assessment and determined that having a chance to submit an amendment later was more important to her than preventing the underlying defunding bill from advancing – and so she voted for cloture.

One of Collins’ fellow Republicans, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, who co-wrote her investigation amendment, had a different assessment and made a different choice. He stood with Planned Parenthood and voted against advancing the defunding bill.

Inherent in Cousins’ argument is the charge that these women’s health groups are some kind of Democratic Party fronts, putting partisan politics ahead of the issues they say they care about and looking for any excuse to attack Collins.

In fact, however, Planned Parenthood praised Kirk for his vote and criticized the two Democratic senators who voted against the bill (in much harsher terms than they did Collins). They have even publicly defended Collins on this very issue in the past, when she voted differently.

They recognize, as do most journalists and political observers, that while speeches about broader intentions are important, more important is the vote itself. In this case, Collins voted with some of the most extreme elements of her party and against vital funding for health care for women.

Mike Tipping is a political junkie who works for the Maine People’s Alliance. He can be contacted at:

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Twitter: @miketipping