Would Republicans Rather Do Nothing Than Defund Planned Parenthood?

By John Murdock Published on October 6, 2017

There was not much to celebrate when October 1st rang in a new federal fiscal year, unless you worked at Planned Parenthood. The failure of Congress to pass a budget reconciliation bill meant the nation’s largest abortion chain would continue to cash government checks. Those checks annually add up to about $500 million dollars payable to the McDonald’s of death.

Pro-lifers thought they had been good soldiers. The forces for life largely saluted the GOP generals and stood down in 2015 rather than start a government-shut-down skirmish. At the time, the Planned Parenthood was playing defense in the wake of stomach turning undercover videos documenting their side business in baby parts. Even a momentarily off-message Hillary Clinton found the exposé “disturbing.”

President Obama, though, had >promised Planned Parenthood in 2013 that he would “be there with you every step of the way.” He was.

To the surprise of no one, Obama vetoed a bill passed through the filibuster neutralizing budget reconciliation process. That bill would have eliminated his signature legislative achievement, Obamacare. It also, for just one year, would have barred government health care dollars from going to an organization that performs hundreds of thousands of abortions a year.

Pro-Lifers Have Been Patient

Donald Trump’s win turned what in 2015 was a mere show vote into something that now seemed to show the way to at least a partial victory.

A permanent defunding it was not, but even one year without a half billion dollars might significantly hobble the abortion giant. New opportunities to shut down the government would arise in 2017 and Speaker Ryan told pro-lifers to again keep their powder dry: “Reconciliation is the way to go.”

Even if “repeal and replace” had failed, there was no need to put public dollars into Planned Parenthood’s coffers.

And pro-lifers did, content to play the role of a little sister who tags along to the movie. Sure, you are only there because your big sister’s beau wants to keep your mother happy, but who cares as long as you get your soda and popcorn. But there would be no trip to the concession stand.

Bedeviled by details and befuddled by flip-flopping politicians, healthcare reform would die its first death in July when Senator John McCain rose from his sick bed to deliver his thumbs down.

As John McCormack correctly noted for the Weekly Standard in that drama’s wake, the Republicans could, however, still keep one promise. Even if “repeal and replace” had failed, there was no need to put public dollars into Planned Parenthood’s coffers. “They don’t need to shut down the government to do it,” McCormack wrote, “they just need to pass a bill.”

GOP Leadership Have Shown Abortion is Not a Priority

They could have. We now know they did not. At the beginning of September, pro-life advocates even sent a strong letter to Congress. It apparently fell on deaf ears. The last minute scramble to prop up the Graham-Cassidy bill showed the lengths the GOP leadership would go for a top priority. The fact that no one lifted a finger to craft a narrower bill aimed primarily at defunding Planned Parenthood showed that the unborn were far from at the top.

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Even after the writing was on the wall for Graham-Cassidy, there was still time for another vote had the needed pieces been in place. Instead, nothing was done. A once-a-fiscal-year opportunity to bypass the 60 vote threshold in the Senate was squandered.

Such a vote might well have succeeded. Susan Collins of Maine and Alaska’s Lisa Murkowski would have been “no” votes on the substance. Senator Rand Paul, however, would have likely been a “yes.” That probably would have again made McCain the deciding vote.

The wildcard of the Senate may not have liked the process, but a narrower bill would have been hard to turn down given McCain’s strong public stance against Planned Parenthood funding. A Democrat from a pro-life state like West Virginia or Indiana might have even supported a bill that was separated from Obamacare repeal.

A Vote to Save Face

We will never know what might have happened. And Republican leaders are now saying that there is no room for an abortion controversy in the 2018 reconciliation bill. It is dedicated to tax reform alone.

Instead, the Republicans have just trotted out another show vote, a ban on abortions after 20 weeks. This is a good bill. But it is also one that Democrats will surely filibuster. These protections will not become law in 2017. The roll call will merely be used to get out the pro-life vote in 2018.

The Republicans sit for Planned Parenthood. They sit on their hands when it counts and expect pro-life applause and foot soldiers come election time.

The ploy may help to inch towards 60 nominally pro-life senators. That’s well and good. But one sees how serious the party is when something can actually be done with 50. Sadly, cutting off public money to the largest abortion provider in the nation was not treated as a matter of life and death.

Standing for the Unborn

Things were once even worse. Planned Parenthood used to be paid directly by the government for its abortions. To his credit, President Jimmy Carter changed that and fought hard to make it stick, winning a 5-4 decision at the Supreme Court.

Since then, the government just indirectly helps to keep the lights on at the abortion mill by paying millions for pap smears and other less controversial services at these very controversial locales. Today, though, Carter is silent, and the vast majority of his party stands with Planned Parenthood.

The Republicans sit for Planned Parenthood. They sit on their hands when it counts and expect pro-life applause and foot soldiers come election time.

Maybe it is time that this army for life eye a different set of elections — primary elections — and seek to recruit courageous and persuasive champions to replace the reluctant Republicans of today. We need men and women ready to stand for the unborn.



John Murdock worked for over a decade in D.C. and now teaches at the Handong International Law School in South Korea.

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