Voters will reward GOP for defunding Planned Parenthood
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House Speaker Paul RyanPaul RyanThe Hill Interview: Budget Chair Black sticks around for now Gun proposal picks up GOP support GOP lawmaker Tim Murphy to retire at end of term MORE (R-Wis.) set off a media firestorm last week by announcing that the reconciliation bill will include defunding Planned Parenthood and redirecting those dollars to better health care centers that do even more for women.

Headed into 2017, we knew that one of two things would be true about the Republican Party: Either they would learn the lesson that going on offense on abortion is a winning issue, or they would capitulate yet again to elite opinion and drive away their own voters.

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The Speaker’s announcement is an encouraging sign that the GOP may be finished repeating the mistakes of the past.

 

The key test for Speaker Ryan and Congressional Republicans is whether or not they will succeed in finally defunding Planned Parenthood.

There is no question, given the reconciliation process, that Republicans have the necessary votes to get this done. The only thing — the one and only thing — that could prevent the House from passing this measure would be a weakness at the heart of GOP leaders in their commitment to life and to delivering on their election promises.

If the GOP fights through the elite backlash — which, as Trump has shown, can be done with great success — this can be a valuable winning issue for Republicans in 2018.

In December 2015, the polling institute at Roger Morris University asked voters whether they would support or oppose a plan by Republicans to shift Planned Parenthood’s taxpayer funding to community health centers that do not perform abortions.

Americans favored shifting health care funding away from abortion providers to community clinics by an impressive margin: 53.3 percent to 31.5 percent. Amazingly, few media outlets bothered to cover the poll, the first and only poll to accurately describe the GOP’s proposal.

Mainstream media outlets like CNN — who, by the way, I happen to hate — continue to report that the GOP plans to defund Planned Parenthood without mentioning that the money would be redirected to actual health care facilities that provide health care services for women.

This week, the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List released the results of a poll, conducted by Kellyanne Conway’s respected polling firm, of 1,650 voters in the 2018 Senate battleground states North Dakota, Montana, Ohio, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Florida.

The results were stunning. A majority of these voters opposed Congress giving dollars to Planned Parenthood over other comprehensive health care providers.

Fifty-six percent opposed taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood (with 47 percent “strongly” opposing) while 60 percent said they would be “less likely” to vote for their Senator if he or she voted to give money to the nation’s largest abortion provider instead of Community Health Centers (with 44 percent saying they would be “much less likely”).

Opposition to taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood is particularly high in pro-Trump states with incumbent Democrat Senators facing re-election:

  • In North Dakota, 70 percent of voters oppose funding Planned Parenthood, with 77 percent declaring they would be less likely to support a Senator who votes in favor of Planned Parenthood. (Goodbye, Senator Heitkamp!)

  • In Montana, 61 percent oppose funding Planned Parenthood and 64 percent were less likely to support a Senator who wants to, as the kids say on Twitter, #StandWithPP.

  • In Ohio, 57 percent oppose Planned Parenthood funding, with 60 percent of voters indicating they would be less likely to support a Senator who votes for Planned Parenthood funding over community health centers.

  • The numbers also stand out in Missouri, Wisconsin, and Florida, where, respectively, 54 percent, 51 percent, and 48 percent of voters oppose Planned Parenthood funding, and 57 percent, 58 percent, and 53 percent of voters would be less likely to support a Senator who votes to fund Planned Parenthood over community health centers.

Defunding Planned Parenthood makes moral sense — they are primarily a provider of abortions, not women’s health care. Contrary to popular belief, Planned Parenthood doesn’t even bother to provide mammograms. Community health centers provide far better access to care and more services for women than Planned Parenthood.

It also makes political sense for Republicans to defund Planned Parenthood. In 2016, Planned Parenthood spent $30 million trying to elect Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonChris Murphy’s profile rises with gun tragedies DNC, RNC step up cyber protections Gun proposal picks up GOP support MORE. For years, Planned Parenthood has aggressively allied itself with the Democratic Party, spending millions of dollars in campaign advertising to elect politicians who will, in return, give them hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funding. Defunding the Left should be common sense for Republicans.

But in the more immediate and narrower political sense, GOP leaders need to understand that this represents a tremendous opportunity to build bigger majorities in the 2018 election cycle. Democrats running in Trump-friendly territory are the great bulk of senators up for re-election.

Positioning them on the side of preserving abortion funding, at the expense of providing funding for real women’s health care, is a net political loss for them, but that only matters if Republicans grow a backbone and fight through the inevitable media backlash.

CNN pundits don’t really matter. Voters do. Kudos to Speaker Ryan for figuring this out.

Frank Cannon is the president of American Principles Project, a non-profit dedicated to educating and advocating for public policy solutions that recognize the dignity of the person as the basis of the founding principles of the United States, and serves as a political strategist for the Susan B. Anthony List. He is the co-author of the 2012 Republican autopsy report “Building a Winning GOP Coalition: The Lessons of 2012″ and has worked in the public policy arena for over 30 years.


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