After failing to get the Senate to approve a bill that would defund the women’s health organization, abortion opponents have a new strategy: death by a thousand cuts.
For a full month the anti-abortion Center for Medical Progress has been strategically releasing “sting” videos involving Planned Parenthood Federation of America and its affiliates discussing their fetal-tissue-donation policies with actors who pretended to be a tissue-procurement firm seeking out new sources for material. Both CMP’s primary and secondary goals—provide cover for Congress to vote to defund Planned Parenthood, and damage Planned Parenthood’s reputation with the general public—have so far failed. The Senate was unable to garner enough votes to overcome a filibuster of the defunding bill, and new polling shows that the reproductive-health-care affiliate still has massive public support (and more support than any candidate running for President).
But the videos, which are expected to continue to come out on a weekly basis until sometime in September, have still managed to lay groundwork for a piecemeal attack on Planned Parenthood. Much like abortion restrictions themselves, when abortion opponents aren’t able to get what they want on a federal level, they rework the game plan, and instead focus on getting their agenda passed one state at a time. The losers in this down-level game? The people who live in more rural, low conservative red states ruled by GOP legislatures. In other words, those who are most likely to need Planned Parenthood as a health-care option in the first place.
Since the start of the alleged “baby-parts harvesting” reveal, three states have completely cut off any state funding to Planned Parenthood affiliates, claiming potential tissue-donation misconduct as the impetus for their action. The most recent rejection happened in Alabama, where Governor Robert Bentley ousted Planned Parenthood from the state’s Medicaid funding, citing “deplorable practices” that were now “exposed.” The roughly $5,000 that the state provided in funding over the last two years went entirely to office visits and contraception such as IUDs and injections according to the Alabama Medicaid Agency.
New Hampshire also defunded the state’s Planned Parenthood affiliates, with a mere 3 to 2 vote of their executive council. Coincidentally, 3 to 2 is the number of Republicans versus Democrats on the council, as well. Councilor Chris Sununu, who had previously voted to keep funding in place in the past, voted with his fellow Republicans to strip $600,000 in state contracts from the reproductive-health-care provider, even after a speech where he recognized that Planned Parenthood is the only provider that offers subsidized STI tests and treatments, cancer screenings, and contraception in his district.
“And I think they have done a fantastic job, a fantastic job of providing these women services these reproductive services, I’m a big believer of it, a huge believer of it,” Sununu said, according to the local NPR affiliate. “That’s why I went against and really ticked off all my friends for the past few years because I believe it’s absolutely right.” After he finished praising them, he then voted to block any future contracts.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal was just as obvious about his political motivations behind his move to defund the local Planned Parenthood affiliate. The GOP presidential contender was the first to announce he was having the Department of Health terminate any contracts with the provider and “investigate” its abortion practices locally—an investigation that should end quickly considering Planned Parenthood does not provide abortions in Louisiana at this time.
Of course, purposeless “investigations” are a popular trend at the moment. Already Indiana has investigated its local affiliate and found no evidence of wrongdoing, as has Massachusetts. Florida has claimed that they found three Planned Parenthood providers performing second-trimester abortions without proper licenses, but in actuality the state is attempting to redefine second trimester to start at 12-week LMP (Last Menstrual Period) rather than the medically accurate 14-week LMP.
While investigations are a fun way to show your anti-abortion bona fides, they are coming up predictably fruitless, leaving little to show for the effort. But abortion opponents have a few other anti–Planned Parenthood actions up their sleeves as well.
Activists have been also waging individual attacks on corporations and organizations with any kind of tie to Planned Parenthood, fighting to get them to deny their support in order to harm the health-care provider, financially or socially. One major example is the United Way, which is under relentless assault over allowing donations to Planned Parenthood as one of its designated non-profits to support.
“The American Family Association is circulating an online petition calling on United Way to halt funding of Planned Parenthood,” according to the Omaha World Herald. “The petition comes in the wake of the dissemination of videos that show Planned Parenthood officials discussing fees for the purchase of fetal tissue to use in research. About 6 percent of United Way chapters nationwide allow Planned Parenthood designations, according to the United Way Worldwide.” Although her group is not focused on this particular effort, Nebraska Right to Life executive director Julie Schmit-Albin told the World Herald that stopping the United Way is just one arm of a concerted, strategic game plan to cut Planned Parenthood off from any sort of funding, wherever it may occur.
Wherever, indeed. If there was any doubt that abortion opponents are literally going for every single cent they can find, they have even found a way to make opposition to Planned Parenthood a part of the GOP fight to weaken unions. Conservatives trying shill for the Employee Rights Act—a bill that would vastly weaken the power of unions and deter people from membership— now mention the icing on the cake that is dismantling union power: the ability for members to block their union from donating to political action groups they don’t agree with.
Yep, now that means Planned Parenthood. “Last year, for example, several major unions gave over $400,000 to Planned Parenthood and its political action fund,” writes James Sherk for the conservative group Heritage Foundation, in a recent Daily Signal article. “They did not get their members’ permission before donating their dues to such a controversial organization.” He adds, “The ERA requires unions to get workers’ permission before they can spend their dues on political activities or give their money to objectionable causes.”
The truth is conservatives know they are never going to win a nationwide fight against Planned Parenthood. Overall, the provider is highly popular with the majority of the public, and those who are pushing to keep this “scandal” alive are the same people who already opposed abortion (and, usually, contraception) in the first place. What the national media frenzy is about is providing cover for anti–Planned Parenthood legislation that red states already wanted to initiate but were concerned that they would receive backlash over, and to justify the onslaught of local protests, corporate and non-profit partnership pressures, and even harassment of doctors.
While everyone is watching the federal fight, the far more realistic mission is to shut off each local Planned Parenthood affiliate one clinic—and one dollar—at a time. Just as they have failed to create a blanket law against abortion and are instead strangling off access for anyone who happens to reside in their GOP-majority states, they will make all reproductive health care—including birth control and cancer screenings—inaccessible within those borders as well. And even better, they’ll continue to call it “Pro-Life.”
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