Some Republicans and pro-life advocates are debating the best strategy to de-fund the Planned Parenthood in the wake of a national scandal produced by nine videos exposing its sales of aborted babies and their body parts. The debate centers on whether Congress should attempt to shut down the federal government in an attempt to de-fund Planned Parenthood.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConell says the Senate will vote a second time to attempt to de-fund the Planned Parenthood abortion business. That declaration comes after reports that the House of Representatives is planning a vote on legislation in a couple weeks that would de-fund the Planned Parenthood abortion business. The two votes would follow one the Senate had weeks ago, which saw Senate Democrats filibuster and block legislation to revoke $550 million in taxpayer funding.
While the House has the votes to de-fund Planned Parenthood, Senate Democrats still have enough votes to block the bill there. Knowing that, some pro-life advocates suggest shutting down the government to de-fund Planned Parenthood, while others say the political cost for doing so would be too high a price to pay — with Democrats and a willing media blaming pro-life Republicans and accusing them of hurting Veterans, seniors or the poor and helping pro-abortion Democratic presidential candidates in the process.
But, even if Congress manages to shut down the government, a new study released by Congress finds a government shutdown wouldn’t greatly affect Planned Parenthood funding and be nothing more than an otiose pursuit.
Planned Parenthood would continue to receive the majority of its federal funding — including all of its Medicaid payments — even if Congress cannot enact a new spending law on Oct. 1, according to a nonpartisan study by the Congressional Research Service, obtained by POLITICO.
But, much like the 2013 shutdown did little to impede Obamacare, a temporary government shutdown this fall is unlikely to help conservatives further their goal of hitting back at the organization after a series of controversial videos have shown Planned Parenthood employees discussing the donation of fetal tissue. Unless Democrats somehow cave to conservative demands, Planned Parenthood is likely to keep a steady revenue stream through any temporary shutdown of the federal government, according to the report.
Planned Parenthood received $528.4 million in government funding in its fiscal year that ended June 2014, according to the group. CRS said that some of that money is funded through Department of Health and Human Services grant programs and would likely be halted if the government were to shut down. Planned Parenthood receives funding under Title X family planning grants.
But CRS said that in addition to Medicaid, other federal funding programs would be preserved, such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program and some programs that are funded for multiple years, such as Community Development Block Grants. CRS cautioned that its estimate was not exact and was based on Government Accountability Office estimates of Planned Parenthood’s federal funding in 2012.
Even if a shutdown produced minor cuts to Planned Parenthood, Republicans would be faced with the same problem they had in 2013: In addition to not harming the organization in the short term, a government shutdown over Planned Parenthood would also largely be blamed on Republicans, according to a Quinnipiac poll out this week.
In arguing against a government shutdown as the strategy to attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, the pro-life Weekly Standard notes some of the same points made in the Politico article.
During a government shutdown, most federal funding for Planned Parenthood would continue to flow because mandatory spending (programs like Obamacare and Medicaid) is not affected by a continuing resolution to fund the rest of the government. One hundred percent of federal funding for elective abortions covered by Obamacare would continue as would more than 75 percent of all other government funding to Planned Parenthood during a government shutdown.
In 2013, the same argument was made about Obamacare—that a shutdown over an effort to defund it would at least require the media to cover the trainwreck of a law. But the exact opposite happened.
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In all likelihood, a shutdown would not only fail to defund Planned Parenthood, it could do serious harm to more important efforts to protect the lives of unborn children. It would immediately change the debate from a discussion of Planned Parenthood’s victims to problems caused by a government shutdown. If a shutdown ends up handing the presidency to Hillary Clinton, that would foreclose the possibility of banning late-term abortion and taxpayer-funded abortion under Obamacare for at least four more years. If a Democratic president gets to replace either Kennedy or Scalia on the Supreme Court, a bloc of five solidly liberal justices could invalidate modest restrictions on abortion and the Hyde amendment, which bans direct federal funding of almost all abortions under Medicaid and saves tens of thousands of lives each year.
The popular sentiment right now among a large swath of pro-life conservatives is to hate on Mitch McConnell and John Boehenr because the pro-life Republican leaders are supposedly not doing enough to de-fund Planned Parenthood. But, if these reports are accurate, a government shutdown wouldn’t de-fund Planned Parenthood and could potentially damage the pro-life cause long-term.