Watching Planned Parenthood executives sip wine and eat salad while discussing the dismemberment of babies and the selling of their body parts has awakened the ire of the American public. This callous disregard for human life, exposed in two recent undercover videos, has also renewed calls to cut off federal funding of the country’s largest abortion provider.
Even though federal funding of abortion is prohibited by law, Planned Parenthood still garners over $500 million a year in revenue from government grants and reimbursements. This week two GOP presidential candidates, Senators Rand Paul and Ted Cruz, have vowed to use pending legislation, most likely an amendment on a highway bill, to eliminate federal taxpayer dollars from going into the abortion providers coffers.
This effort to defund America’s biggest abortion provider is a noble and necessary cause that should be supported by all pro-life Christians. But it is unlikely—at least before the 2016 election—to be successful. Here’s why:
The Democrats won’t allow it — The primary reason that denying taxpayer funds to an organization that performs abortions is politically untenable is because one of the two major political parties in America fully supports taxpayer funding of abortions. The use of taxpayer monies to pay for any abortion in all nine months of pregnancy for any women who wants one is literally a plank in the Democratic Party platform:
The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman's right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way.
Notice the claim to “oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right” includes the “right” to taxpayer-funded abortions. When an entire political party clarifies that they will oppose any efforts to reduce taxpayer funding that goes to pay for abortions, we shouldn’t be surprised when members of that political party oppose an effort to eliminate taxpayer funding of the group that performs the most abortions in America.
This has certainly been the pattern in the past. When this issue came up in 2011 the vote was 241-185 to defund Planned Parenthood. Only seven Republicans voted against the measure and only 10 Democrats voted for it. The Senate defeated the same measure 47 to 53. It needed 60 votes to pass. Not a single Democrat in the Senate voted to cut off the funding.
If the issue comes up again for a vote, not a single Democrat in the Senate will support the defunding measure—and Republicans will not have the votes to override them if the President vetoes it (see below for more on that).
The courts won’t allow it — Even efforts to defund Planned Parenthood at the state level have been rebuffed.
In 2011, Gov. Mitch Daniels (R-IN) signed a law to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving any Medicaid funding from the state of Indiana. Soon after, lawmakers in Arizona, North Carolina, Kansas, Tennessee, and Texas also attempted to exclude funding of the abortion provider from their states’ pools of public insurance providers.
In response, the federal courts have blocked all of those efforts, ruling that states cannot deny women access to providers who meet the federal requirements to qualify for Medicaid. Planned Parenthood is classified as a “qualified medical provider” and is thus eligible for Medicaid reimbursement.
In 2011, Texas Governor Rick Perry found a workaround: refuse to accept federal funding for the state’s women’s health programs. By choosing to fully fund the program at the state level, Texas is technically allowed to exclude Planned Parenthood. So far, no other states have adopted the Texas model.
The President won’t allow it — President Obama is an ardent and unapologetic supporter of Planned Parenthood. As a candidate in 2008, Obama promised in a speech at a Planned Parenthood event that if elected, “the first thing I'd do is sign the Freedom of Choice Act.”
That bill, which its supporters claimed would “codify Roe v. Wade”, would have nullified every abortion restriction in America. The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA) not only allows unrestricted access to abortion but also:
Prohibits a federal, state, or local governmental entity from: (1) denying or interfering with a woman's right to exercise such choices; or (2) discriminating against the exercise of those rights in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information. Provides that such prohibition shall apply retroactively.
Authorizes an individual aggrieved by a violation of this Act to obtain appropriate relief, including relief against a governmental entity, in a civil action.
FOCA never made it out of the House committee, but President Obama’s support of Planned Parenthood and abortion-on-demand remained unchanged. For his unwavering support for the Planned Parenthood, the president has won accolades—and a rare political endorsement—from the organization. “President Obama has done more than any president in history for women’s health and rights,” said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in 2013.
The president has certainly proven his commitment. In 2011, funding disagreements between Republican legislators and the White House threatened to lead to a government shutdown. President Obama reportedly told Speaker of the House John Boehner that his openness to discussion on one particular point, de-funding Planned Parenthood (something the House of Representatives had already voted in favor of), amounted to “Nope. Zero.”
Twice in 2011, President Obama threatened to veto bills aimed at de-funding Planned Parenthood. This year, when the House passed the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, the president reaffirmed that he would veto the legislation.
Even if the bill is able to make it through the Congress, President Obama will immediately stamp it with his veto.
In the fact of our impending failure, pro-lifers shouldn’t grow discouraged. But we should be realistic. Currently, there isn’t much we can do to stop the flow of federal money to abortion providers. Until there are more pro-life members in the Senate and the White House, Planned Parenthood will continue to collect more than $60,000 an hour, every hour of every day of every year, from the American taxpayer.