Abor­tion votes will trail Repub­li­cans in 2012 cam­paign

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY SETH MCLAUGH­LIN

In a year when spend­ing, deficits and debt have dom­i­nated the na­tional de­bate, the re­cent push to strip Planned Par­ent­hood of gov­ern­ment fund­ing is a re­minder that the abor­tion is­sue re­tains its po­lit­i­cal po­tency.

The decades-old battle nearly de­railed the lat­est spend­ing deal on Capi­tol Hill, and House Repub­li­cans say they’ll con­tinue to fight fed­eral fund­ing of the group af­ter Congress re­turns from a two-week break to tackle the nation’s bor­row­ing limit, 2012 spend­ing lev­els and the soar­ing na­tional debt.

“We be­lieve very strongly that gov­ern­ment dol­lars shouldn’t be used to fund abor­tion. I be­lieve that is where the ma­jor­ity of the Amer­i­can peo­ple are and we will make sure that we con­tinue in the spirit of the Hyde Amend­ment, gov­ern­men­twide,” House Ma­jor­ity Leader Eric Can­tor, Vir­ginia Repub­li­can, told re­porters in April, re­fer­ring to the 1976 law that bans the use of fed­eral funds for abor­tions.

As part of the 2011 spend­ing deal, the Demo­crat-con­trolled Se­nate agreed to hold an up-or­down vote on de­fund­ing Planned Par­ent­hood, a mea­sure that sailed through the House only to die in the Se­nate largely along par­ti­san lines. Repub­li­can Sens. Scott P. Brown of Mas­sachusetts, Mark Kirk of Illi­nois, and Olympia J. Snowe and Su­san M. Collins, both of Maine, joined their Demo­cratic coun­ter­parts.

The vote has handed ad­vo­cates on op­po­site sides of the battle new am­mu­ni­tion to use against their po­lit­i­cal foes in the 2012 elec­tions, where Repub­li­cans hope to cap­ture the U.S. Se­nate and oust Pres­i­dent Obama.

“Votes have con­se­quences, es­pe­cially for politi­cians who say one thing at home and do an­other in Wash­ing­ton when it comes to pro­tect­ing life,” said Mar­jorie Dan­nen­felser, pres­i­dent of the Su­san B. An­thony List, a pro-life group.

The group is plan­ning ra­dio ads tar­get­ing Se­nate Democrats Ben Nel­son of Ne­braska, Robert P. Casey Jr. of Penn­syl­va­nia and Claire McCaskill of Mis­souri.

“The SBA List promised to watch closely as vul­ner­a­ble sen­a­tors cast these im­por­tant votes, and we are fol­low­ing through,” she said. “Con­stituents in Penn­syl­va­nia, Ne­braska and Mis­souri will hold these politi­cians ac­count­able for their votes.”

Christo­pher Bond, a spokesman for the Na­tional Repub­li­can Sen­a­to­rial Com­mit­tee, the Se­nate GOP’s cam­paign arm, in­cluded Sen. Joe Manchin III, West Vir­ginia Demo­crat, on that list. “This will cer­tainly be an is­sue for them as they seek re-elec­tion, and they will have a very dif­fi­cult time ex­plain­ing this dis­con­nect to their states’ vot­ers,” he said.

But Nancy Keenan, pres­i­dent of NARAL Pro-Choice Amer­ica, said that since House Speaker John A. Boehner, Ohio Repub­li­can, and “his al­lies aban­doned the jobs agenda to launch an un­prece­dented war on women, we have heard from hun­dreds of thou­sands of Amer­i­cans who are fired up and ready to take ac­tion.”

“We will en­sure that lawmakers who signed on to this ex­treme and di­vi­sive agenda con­tinue to hear from out­raged Amer­i­cans through pe­ti­tions, phone calls, protests and, most im­por­tantly, at the bal­lot box in

As the nation’s largest abor­tion provider, Planned Par­ent­hood has be­come a fa­mil­iar tar­get of so­cial conser va­tives and re­li­gious groups. Pro-life ac­tivists ar­gue that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment shouldn’t give Planned Par­ent­hood any fed­eral fund­ing be­cause the sup­port frees up funds to fi­nance abor­tion ser vices. Ac­cord­ing to its an­nual re­port, $363 mil­lion of the group’s $1.1 bil­lion bud­get comes from gov­ern­ment grants.

2012,” Ms. Keenan said.

Jesse Fer­gu­son, a spokesman for the Demo­cratic Con­gres­sional Cam­paign Com­mit­tee, the House Democrats’ cam­paign arm, said GOP mem­bers of the House will be held ac­count­able for “nearly shut­ting down gov­ern­ment, all to ad­vance their rad­i­cal so­cial agenda.”

As the nation’s largest abor­tion provider, Planned Par­ent- hood has be­come a fa­mil­iar tar­get of so­cial con­ser­va­tives and re­li­gious groups. Pro-life ac­tivists ar­gue that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment shouldn’t give Planned Par­ent­hood any fed­eral fund­ing be­cause the sup­port frees up funds to fi­nance abor­tion ser­vices. Ac­cord­ing to its an­nual re­port, $363 mil­lion of the group’s $1.1 bil­lion bud­get comes from gov­ern­ment grants.

Pro-choice Democrats point out that fed­eral law al­ready pro­hibits the fed­eral fund­ing of abor­tion and say the or­ga­ni­za­tion pro­vides im­por­tant fam­ily plan­ning ser­vices to women. They also say the GOP is wrong to in­sert the di­vi­sive so­cial is­sue into spend­ing de­bates, es­pe­cially when fund­ing for the group rep­re­sents a drop in the bucket com­pared with the nation’s tril­lion-dol­lar deficits and $14.3 tril­lion debt.

Still, as po­ten­tial nom­i­nees jockey for po­si­tion in the 2012 Repub­li­can pri­maries, Planned Par­ent­hood fund­ing is ex­pected to be part of the con­ver­sa­tion, per­haps more so now that GOP lawmakers are couch­ing the de­fund­ing ef­fort in fis­cal rather than so­cial terms.

Grover Norquist, pres­i­dent of Amer­i­cans for Tax Re­form, pre­dicted that vul­ner­a­ble Democrats from con­ser­va­tive­lean­ing states could “pay dearly” if they op­pose the ef­fort to de­fund Planned Par­ent­hood.

“I think it may cost them a cou­ple Se­nate seats,” he said.

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