The Corner

Why the Senate Vote on Defunding Planned Parenthood Provides Cause for Optimism

On Monday, a vote in the U.S. Senate to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood received 53 votes — falling seven short of the 60 needed to end the filibuster. This outcome is certainly disappointing to many pro-lifers. But there are at least three reasons for optimism.

More Republican support for defunding Planned Parenthood: Monday’s vote indicates that Senator Mark Kirk (R., IL) is the only Republican senator who opposes the defunding of Planned Parenthood. Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) voted against the bill, but that was for a procedural reason — he can now introduce the legislation later in session. Senator Lindsey Graham (R., SC) missed to the vote to attend a presidential candidate forum in New Hampshire.

#related#The last time the U.S. Senate voted to defund Planned Parenthood was 2011. That time, there were only 42 votes in favor, and four Republican senators voted against. Interestingly, Senator Murkowski (R., Alaska) and Senator Collins (R., Maine) voted against defunding Planned Parenthood in 2011 but voted in favor of it yesterday. Additionally, efforts to defund Planned Parenthood in the U.S. House have consistently gained Republican support over the years. At this point, nearly all Republican congressmen and senators are now on the record in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood.

More Democratic support for defunding Planned Parenthood: In 2011, no Senate Democrat voted in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood. But there were two Democrats — Joe Manchin (W.Va.) and Joe Donnelly (Ind.) — who voted in favor of yesterday’s bill. More importantly, yesterday’s vote put all senators on the record. By opposing yesterday’s legislation, senators Bob Casey (Pa.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) have lost credibility with pro-life voters in their respective states.

Supporting Planned Parenthood is no longer politically advantageous for Democrats: During the 2012 presidential debates, President Obama made repeated references to the fact the he supported federal funding for Planned Parenthood. But it’s now unlikely that the 2016 Democratic presidential nominee will aggressively broadcast his support for it in a similar manner. Indeed, support for Planned Parenthood is no longer politically advantageous — and likely politically damaging — to Democrats in red and purple states.

Michael J. New is a visiting assistant professor of social research and political science at the Catholic University of America and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute in Washington, D.C.

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