Planned Parenthood Defunding: ‘Force President Obama to Veto This Bill’

Speaking during last night’s GOP presidential debate, Carly Fiorina and other candidates pressed their party’s congressional leadership to link defunding the abortion giant to a possible government shutdown.

Carly Fiorina discusses the defunding of Planned Parenthood during the Sept. 16 Republican presidential debate.
Carly Fiorina discusses the defunding of Planned Parenthood during the Sept. 16 Republican presidential debate. (photo: Screenshot)

WASHINGTON — The Republican leadership in Congress may be hesitant to connect defunding Planned Parenthood to a required government spending bill, but some GOP presidential candidates believe it is the right thing to do.

During Wednesday night’s televised debate on CNN, a few candidates made a direct call to strip the abortion giant of more than $500 million in federal funding by attaching that provision as a rider to a larger bill to keep the federal government operational when its funding expires on Sept. 30.

“This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us,” said Carly Fiorina, who also referenced the Center for Medical Progress’ recent undercover videos that show Planned Parenthood officials, bluntly discussing the procurement and selling of organs harvested from aborted babies.

“I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes,” Fiorina said. “Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.”

And during the debate, held at the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif., one day after the release of the latest undercover video, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, directly criticized the GOP’s congressional leadership over the matter.

“Republican leadership in both houses has begun this discussion by pre-emptively surrendering to Barack Obama and saying, ‘We’ll give in because Obama threatens a veto,’” Cruz said. “We need to stop surrendering and start standing for our principles.”

House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., are wary of a maneuver that could result in a government shutdown and alienate millions of voters. But Carly Fiorina urged Congress to send the president a bill to defund Planned Parenthood.

Following the debate, Ben Carson, the retired neurosurgeon who is polling in second place behind Donald Trump, told CNN that he supports Cruz’s approach, adding that the Republican-controlled Congress needs to find the courage to strip Planned Parenthood’s federal funding.

Judie Brown, president and cofounder of American Life League, a national Catholic pro-life organization, told the Register that the GOP congressional leadership “needs to step up to the plate and not put politics before babies.”

“To confront this evil that Planned Parenthood has been perpetuating all these years requires courage,” said Brown, who added that President Obama would be responsible for shutting down the government if he were to veto a government spending bill that stripped the abortion provider’s federal funding.

Brown also said such a move would underscore the president’s staunch support of Planned Parenthood at a time when its practices are being exposed by the undercover videos.


Other Alternatives

On Thursday, Republican leaders indicated they were looking at other alternatives to defunding Planned Parenthood, including reconciliation, a parliamentary maneuver, usually limited to budget and tax issues, that only requires a simple majority in the Senate instead of a filibuster-proof 60 votes.

McConnell previously told CNN that it would be an “exercise in futility” to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood’s funding. He said that strategy would only result in something the American people “overwhelmingly oppose.”

McConnell reiterated that stance on Sept. 16, adding that a number of pro-life groups, including the National Right to Life Committee, agree that threatening to shut down the government over the issue is not the correct approach to defunding Planned Parenthood. Instead, the Washington Examiner reported, “McConnell announced the Senate next week will vote on legislation that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.”

But many rank-and-file Republicans in the House and Senate have been calling for making Planned Parenthood an issue in the government spending bill.

The House Freedom Caucus, which consists of conservative Republican House members, released a statement on Sept. 10 indicating that given the “appalling revelations surrounding Planned Parenthood, its members cannot in good moral conscience vote to send taxpayers money to this organization, while still fulfilling our duty to represent our constituents.”

The House Freedom Caucus added, “We must therefore oppose any spending measure that contains funding for Planned Parenthood.”

The Republican Study Committee, another caucus of House conservatives, has also proposed legislation known as the Responsible Spending and Accountability Act of 2015, a bill that seeks to prevent a lapse in federal services, while prohibiting federal funding for all abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood, and the sale of fetal body parts.

“We must also ensure that hardworking taxpayers are not complicit in funding abortions or supporting those who carry out abhorrent practices,” Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, chairman of the Republican Study Committee, said in a prepared statement.

Said Flores, “This bill will defund abortion providers, including Planned Parenthood, and will definitively ban the sale of fetal tissue.”


Congressional Investigations

While the internal GOP debate about how to defund Planned Parenthood continues, the party is still leading official investigations into the abortion provider. Three Republican-led committees are currently investigating Planned Parenthood.

The Republican Party recently launched a new webpage to provide information and a continuously updated timeline about the House’s ongoing investigations. On Tuesday, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee issued a subpoena to the Center for Medical Progress for all unedited video footage in their possession relating to the acquisition, preparation and sale of fetal tissue.

“Our goal is to get to the bottom of this and, above all else, protect the unborn,” Boehner said during a Sept. 10 press conference.

However, deep disagreements remain as to how to achieve that goal.

During Thursday’s GOP debate, Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a former congressman who chaired the House Budget Committee, said the party should be “very careful” about shutting down the government because that strategy could backfire.

“The president of the United States is not going to sign this,” Kasich said, “and all we’re gonna do is shut the government down, and then we’re gonna open it up, and the American people are gonna shake their heads and say, ‘What’s the story with these Republicans?’”

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., also rejects that strategy, saying during the earlier CNN debate that the Republicans have previously paid a political price for shutting down the federal government.

“I’m as offended about these videos as you are. But the one thing I’m not going to do going into 2016 is shut the government down and taint our ability to win,” Graham said in response to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal’s criticisms of federal lawmakers.

Also on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Tom McClintock, R-Calif., announced he was leaving the House Freedom Caucus because of its support of shutting down the government over funding Planned Parenthood.

In a letter, McClintock wrote: “I have strongly opposed the public funding of abortions throughout my 29 years in public office, but this tactic promises only to shield Senate Democrats from their responsibility for a government shutdown and to alienate the public from the pro-life cause at precisely the time when undercover videos of Planned Parenthood’s barbaric practices are turning public opinion in our favor. I suspect this is why the leading pro-life organizations have been conspicuously unwilling to endorse the HFC position.”

Brian Fraga writes from Fall River, Massachusetts.