The latest minefield on the path to keep the government open is Planned Parenthood. This massive government-supported non-profit organization provides reproductive health and maternal and child health services to millions of American women. It has been a source of constant controversy because of its contraception and abortion services that comprise 34% and 3% of its activities respectively. The latest issue relates to an undercover video of Planned Parenthood officials discussing disposition of fetal remains.
Republicans view Planned Parenthood as an abortion mill and are adamantly opposed to government funding of an activity they find morally repulsive. This video really struck a nerve. Firebrand Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) is leading the charge to eliminate its federal funding, however his pariah status in the Senate greatly blunts his efforts. However mainstream social conservatives Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) and Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-AL) do plan to attach defunding riders to must-pass spending legislation in the fall, like the annual government funding omnibus bill.
Meanwhile Democrats have vowed that they won’t pass any funding bill that guts Planned Parenthood as they see it as a vital component of health services for the poor and middle class. They point out that it is not redundant with the Affordable Care Act, providing different and otherwise unavailable services whose loss would be devastating.
This is a collision of mighty proportions that might very well result in another government shutdown. Everyone involved in the last shutdown from October 1 through October 16, 2013 vowed never to repeat it. The instigators gained nothing but opprobrium and the last thing either party wants is a reprise in the middle of election season. Nevertheless sometimes events just take over.
Interestingly, a largely government-supported Planned Parenthood had its genesis in a 1970 law signed by President Nixon with bipartisan backing. Democrats cheered its provision of contraception and family planning services to long underserved populations. Republican supporters mostly were crypto-eugenicists who hoped it would help cut down the multitudes who would otherwise continue to flood welfare rolls. It didn’t take long for this marriage of disparate interests to dissolve.
This may become a key issue in the coming presidential election campaign, and possibly we will get a preview in the first GOP debate next Thursday.