Littwin: Gardner and GOP adopt abortion politics and a government-shutdown showdown (column)
Fair and unbalanced
OK, it wasn’t like we weren’t warned. But, here was the U.S. Senate not only voting on whether to defund Planned Parenthood, but also promising that this is just the beginning of a long fight — maybe one that would last even longer than Congress’s summer recess.
As expected, Democrats successfully filibustered the bill, but the defunding exercise, in some form, will be back. And not only will it be back, but some Republicans are even threatening to attach it to this fall’s spending bills, so we can — yes — face yet another shutdown showdown.
I know this must be a shock to many. In fact, on Election Day, there were nearly a million people in Colorado alone — and that’s not counting The Denver Post editorial board — who maintained that it was absurd to think that abortion would be a critical piece of our national political debate. And yet, The Washington Post is calling the defunding of Planned Parenthood — a long-time stand-in in the abortion wars — “a centerpiece of the Republican agenda going into the summer congressional recess.”
Mark Udall, call your office. Oh, wait …
In case anyone has forgotten, it’s Cory Gardner’s office now. He, of course, voted for the defunding (Michael Bennet voted against), just as he used to vote for personhood before he, um, understood the ramifications.
And, when Gardner was asked by The Denver Post about his vote against Planned Parenthood, he said, with full understanding of the ramifications, “This bill would redirect funding for women’s healthcare away from the scandal-plagued Planned Parenthood and towards responsible community health clinics that operate without a political agenda. Funding for women’s healthcare must actually go to fund women’s healthcare, not to line the coffers of an organization under increased scrutiny for reprehensible, inhumane behavior.”
I’d like to ask Gardner about his comments, but he doesn’t return my calls, which is just as well. I think I understand what he’s saying.
When he says the thing about “line the coffers,” I assume he is accusing Planned Parenthood of being in it for the money — just one more non-profit in another get-rich scheme. I wonder if Donald Trump is investing. I also assume Gardner’s relying on the unedited videos from the antiabortion group, Center for Medical Progress, which conducted a sting operation on Planned Parenthood, including Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains. According to factcheck.org and others, the unedited videos, which the center released, show no profit motive. They do show heavily-edited scenes meant to mislead the viewer. I wonder if Gardner has mentioned that point.
Not that Planned Parenthood is without blame. How many stings must there be before people start to catch on? And, why would anyone cavalierly talk to strangers about abortion and harvesting organs, particularly to someone who might have a camera in his tie-pin?
But, is Gardner’s attack on “reprehensible, inhumane behavior” referring to what Hillary Clinton called “disturbing” images from the videos, or is he talking about the biomedical research that has, over many years, saved millions of lives? It’s research that many Republicans have voted for, including Mitch McConnell, which is why Erick Erickson over at Red State says not to trust him. I don’t, but I don’t think it’s for the same reasons. And Clinton, by the way, later made a video strongly in support of Planned Parenthood’s work. If you trust the polls, I’m pretty sure Erickson doesn’t trust her either.
Let’s look at the notion, offered by Gardner and friends, that Planned Parenthood is not using its resources to “fund women’s healthcare.” The organization does get more than one-third of its $1.3 billion budget from the government. It also serves 2.7 million clients, most of them low-income women without insurance. It offers cancer screenings, birth control counseling and other reproductive services. The idea that you should defund Planned Parenthood — and spend the money elsewhere, as if there is enough elsewhere — while possibly putting the health of poor women at risk is, I don’t know, reprehensible? It’s probably just a coincidence that Planned Parenthood also does abortions, although federal funds cannot be used for them except in rare circumstances.
The vote also shows, of course, that these critics are not really serious about debating the use of fetal organs, or else they’d be working on changing the law instead of attacking Planned Parenthood. This is all about abortion politics and presidential politics and a pre-recess show vote.
The videos have given culture warriors on the right — who have been losing most battles on the federal front — a chance to get back in the game, the way they have on the state level. And, when you’ve got four Republican senators running for president, this is what happens — a chance for them to appeal to those Republicans who aren’t voting for Trump — who was once, of course, pro-choice, not that it seems to matter.
Democrats, meanwhile, are making the case that limiting women’s access to birth control would lead to more unwanted pregnancies and, therefore, more abortions. Somehow, that doesn’t seem to matter, as we saw in the Republican-controlled Colorado Senate, where they voted down money for a free-IUD program that, from all accounts, had drastically reduced teen pregnancies in the state.
I doubt if Republican leaders really want defunding Planned Parenthood to be a centerpiece of their agenda. And, I’m sure they don’t want to risk a government shutdown. But, if people push the issue hard enough — watch the upcoming debate for clues — they may have no choice. And if it does get that far, how do you think Gardner would vote?
Mike Littwin writes a column for the Colorado Independent.
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