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5 Questions About the Fight Over Planned Parenthood

5 Questions About the Fight Over Planned Parenthood

Monday, 03 August 2015 12:39 PM

Senate Republicans lost  Monday's showdown over halting federal aid to Planned Parenthood. But,the political offensive by abortion foes is just getting started, prompted by a batch of ghoulish videos that has focused attention on the group's little-noticed practice of providing fetal tissue to researchers.

Here are five questions about the GOP's fight against Planned Parenthood:

How did this latest skirmish over Planned Parenthood get started?

Conservatives have long targeted Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion services in clinics across the country. The furtively recorded videos, with hair-raising close-ups of aborted fetal organs and Planned Parenthood officials dispassionately describing how "I'm not going to crush that part," have forced the group and its Democratic champions into a defensive crouch.

Citing statements in the videos by Planned Parenthood officials, opponents including the Center for Medical Progress, which recorded the videos, accuse the group of profiting from selling fetal organs. That would violate a federal criminal statute that lets providers recover only their expenses. They also say Planned Parenthood is altering abortion procedures to better recover usable tissue.

Conservatives view the videos as a huge opportunity to galvanize support for banning abortions and, some hope, prohibiting fetal tissue research. But the issue is cutting both ways, with both sides using it for fundraising solicitations.

Planned Parenthood has apologized for comments in the video but says it has broken no laws. It accuses opponents of using selectively edited videos for their latest assault on abortion and women's health choices.

A federal judge in San Francisco blocked the release of any more recordings with the undercover videos.

What Does Planned Parenthood Do?

There are roughly 1 million U.S. abortions yearly. In its most recent annual report, Planned Parenthood said it performed 328,000 of them.

Planned Parenthood and its supporters have sought to shift the focus, saying abortions represent a small portion of the services the organization provides annually in nearly 700 clinics.
Of Planned Parenthood's 2.7 million annual clients, mostly women, it says 4 in 5 earn 150 percent of the federal poverty level or less.

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin accused Planned Parenthood of targeting disadvantaged women who can be made to believe that abortion is their only option.

"That is why 80 percent of Planned Parenthood shops are set up in minority neighborhoods," she said, adding that the group wants minority woman to "feel like they are not capable of giving their children life."

Planned Parenthood is a "bogus business," Palin said. "They're in it to make money. They are in it to profit. ... And that's why our tax dollars should not go to Planned Parenthood."

Democrats say an attack on Planned Parenthood is an effort to keep women, many of them poor, from needed health services.

What's the fight in the Senate?

Monday's vote is on barring federal aid to Planned Parenthood and shifting the money to other health care providers.

That's big money for Planned Parenthood. It says of $1.3 billion in revenue last year, $528 million came from taxpayers, including state funds that help finance Medicaid.

Planned Parenthood defenders say cutting federal aid wouldn't affect the abortions it provides because federal money cannot be used for abortions except for cases of rape, incest or when a woman's life is in peril.

But Republicans in Congress are digging in and threaten to shut down the government in order to strip funding from the organization.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz is leading the charge in the Senate, saying today's roll call to defund the group is a "legislative show vote" and he plans to do everything possible to force the issue, not barring a government shutdown.

And social conservatives like Sens. James Lankford of Oklahoma and Jeff Sessions of Alabama have said they would potentially introduce a rider to the spending bill that would eliminate the group's $528 million in public funding.

Where are the battle lines drawn?

Abortion's battle lines are clear for some politicians but dicey for many.

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, is sponsor of the Senate bill, a female face Republicans hope will blunt repeated Democratic accusations that the GOP is waging war on women.

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said Republican lawmakers can forget about defunding Planned Parenthood for now — because it will never happen with a Democratic president in the White House.

"We may get a majority but we'll never get a bill signed into law that defunds Planned Parenthood because Obama won't sign it," Graham, said last week on "The Steve Malzberg Show."

Indeed, the organization seems to have close ties to the Obama administration. Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards has visited the White House 39 times since 2009, when President Barack Obama took office.

According to White House records, Richards made her first visit to the White House on Jan. 20, 2009, the day Obama was sworn into office. She has since visited the president at least three times alone and first lady Michelle Obama twice. She has also met with the two together an additional four times.

On Richards' other visits, she met with then-senior adviser David Plouffe, senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, former Chief of Staff William Daley and current Chief of Staff Denis McDonough.

Many Democrats have distanced themselves from the video's remarks. Many are choosing their words like Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who says of Republicans, "They're attacking women's health."

Former Secretary of State and leading Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton has characterized the Planned Parenthood videos as "disturbing" but has otherwise voiced support for the organization.

Clinton has ties to the group run deep and include a personal friendship with Richards. Richards' daughter, former Democratic National Committee spokeswoman Lily Adams, is the Clinton campaign’s Iowa press secretary, according to Politico.

GOP presidential candidates, Cruz and Sen. Rand Paul have respectively chastised Clinton for accepting donations from Planned Parenthood officials and employees and for failing to condemn the organization’s alleged sale of fetal tissue and body parts.

Paul said Clitnon’s hands are "stained by accepting this money" and called on her to "return every red cent she has received."

What happens next?

Some Republicans say they won't vote for spending bills keeping the government open starting Oct. 1 with any Planned Parenthood funds.

On Wednesday, 18 House Republicans told the leadership that they "cannot and will not support any funding resolution … that contains any funding for Planned Parenthood."

"This is one of those line-in-the-sand type of issues," South Carolina GOP Rep. Mick Mulvaney told Politico. "Every time we say we don't want to spend money on something, the answer is it will provoke a shutdown."

Many conservatives are itching for that fight. "Show me a Democrat who'll force a shutdown over selling baby parts," said Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., who says dozens of GOP lawmakers will join him in opposing bills with Planned Parenthood money.

But GOP leaders are reluctant to force a shutdown fight that could haunt them in the 2016 elections, as are some presidential candidates.

Paul said: "I support any legislation that will defund Planned Parenthood. But I don't think you start out with your objective to shut down government."

Paul, speaking on CNN's "State of the Union," added, "I mean, if President Obama wants to shut down government because he doesn't get funds for Planned Parenthood, that would be President Obama's determination to shut down government."

Some Republicans want to see whether congressional investigations of Planned Parenthood produce evidence that forces Democrats to concede.

"The more Americans learn about Planned Parenthood's horrific practices, the easier it will be for Congress to defund them," said Emily Schillinger, spokeswoman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio.

The Associated Press and Newsmax writers Bill Hoffmann, Courtney Coren and Melissa Clyne and Joseph Schwerdt contributed to this report

© Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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The political offensive by abortion foes against Planned Parenthood is just getting started, prompted by a batch of ghoulish videos that has focused attention on the group's little-noticed practice of providing fetal tissue to researchers.
US, Congress, Planned Parenthood, 5 Things
Monday, 03 August 2015 12:39 PM
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