Politics & Policy

Prospects for Defunding Planned Parenthood Have Improved

For decades, defunding Planned Parenthood has been the Mt. Everest of conservative public-policy ventures. High, serene, and bitterly cold, the abortion giant has repelled all attempts to reduce, much less eliminate, its massive federal funding. Adept at controversy, skilled at revenge, and agile at the margins of the law and beyond, Planned Parenthood has grown in both influence and animus under Republican and Democratic Congresses and presidents alike. No wonder some Republicans are reluctant to leave base camp, as it were, and try to end Planned Parenthood’s funding in the upcoming continuing resolution. A legacy of failed attempts makes their case.

But are these GOP leaders of doleful countenance correct, or has Planned Parenthood finally opened a route to the summit? A case can be made that, no matter what the chances of success are in overcoming the sheer indifference of Barack Obama, now is the time for Republicans of all stripes to close ranks and send a message to Planned Parenthood honchos that their salad days are over. The video showing a nonchalant Planned Parenthood doctor sipping wine and chatting up the best way to crush an unborn child’s abdomen has gone viral for a reason — it is appalling. And, as subsequent videos from the Center for Medical Progress have shown, it is Planned Parenthood to a tee. Grasping, arrogant, indifferent.

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No trace of concern for women’s health appears in these videos, including the mental health of the clinic workers who must contend with the parting out of the bodies of the unborn. One employee of StemExpress, the fetal-parts broker shown in the videos that has since severed its ties with Planned Parenthood, is clearly distraught when describing what she has seen in the post-op laboratory. Her description of being tasked with slicing open an intact baby’s face in order to extract the child’s brain is unforgettable.

The momentum in Congress for ending, at last, the federal subsidies for Planned Parenthood is both real and reasonable.

As a consequence of facts and scenes like this, the momentum in Congress for ending, at last, the federal subsidies for Planned Parenthood is both real and reasonable. Although the bill to defund the group and redirect its half-billion dollars in annual federal subsidies failed on August 3, a majority of senators voted for it, an increase of more than a dozen from the last vote on the issue, in 2007. In other words, it is one step — perhaps as few as five more Senators and a new president — from becoming law. Planned Parenthood is on the brink.

According to the views of the GOP congressional leadership, captured well in a Wall Street Journal editorial on September 8, the party risks political repudiation if a continuing resolution fight leads to a government shutdown. That risk is certainly real; it follows an established narrative of blaming Congress for failure to keep the trains running on time. But there is another risk to the GOP that is likely greater — that the public now believes that the votes they do cast for conservative ascendancy in Washington, D.C., come to nothing. That their leaders are so hangdog and downcast that the only thing they will hoist out of their trench on the battleground is a pre-emptive white flag.

#share#This impression feeds two substantive interpretations: The first (for which there is no evidence) is that those leaders are not sincere about their pro-life convictions, and the second is that they harbor the belief they are wrong in their conclusions about Planned Parenthood’s malfeasance and cannot persuade others to agree. The latter interpretation can be tested only by action and by a confident and abiding determination to frame the issue as a simple choice between two propositions: 1) the GOP has a weak case against a respected provider of women’s health services and is reckless in pursuing it; or 2) President Obama has an obsessive devotion to preserving every taxpayer dollar sent to a group that performs nearly one third of U.S. abortions and casually explores “less crunchy” abortion methods in order to maximize clinic revenue.    

#related#The members of Congress now pledging never to vote for a measure that funds Planned Parenthood think that the odds are different this time. That the media will have to report why Congress has defunded Planned Parenthood and why Barack Obama celebrates the organization. That, even if they lose on this narrow question in a still liberal-leaning Senate, merely having the debate informs the public and makes the CMP videos a turning point. “Moving on,” as liberals like to do from the latest policy or personal disaster, will not happen this time. And only a vote with real teeth will focus the public mind on this singular issue.

Sherpas in the pro-life grassroots are determined to take Everest this time. Planned Parenthood has indeed gone too far. The ice that has formed over their hearts is a mile thick. No global warming is happening there. And this time there are alternative trails and passes galore, in the form of community health centers that provide more and safer services for women and their families.  Defunding is a fight worth having, and reaching the summit is possible, but only if we do not shrink from the challenge.

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