According to a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday, American voters oppose by 69 percent to 23 percent the idea of shutting down the government if Democrats block a bill defunding the healthcare organization.
Meanwhile, 52 percent of voters oppose defunding Planned Parenthood even outside of a shutdown threat, while 41 percent support defunding it.
“While voter support for Planned Parenthood is tepid, most American voters, especially women and Democrats, don’t want to cut off federal funding,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll. “And voters say 3-1, ‘Don’t shut down the federal government over this issue.’ Most Republicans oppose a shutdown.”
Indeed, the majority of Republicans (56 percent) do not want a shutdown, although more than a third of them (36 percent) support the idea.
In an interview on CBS’ Face the Nation Sunday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), who announced last week that he was resigning from Congress in October, vowed that there would be no government shutdown over Planned Parenthood.
The speaker, whose resignation follows years of bitter conflict with House conservatives that led in 2013 to a government shutdown, lashed out at the forces within his party that were pushing for a repeat of that event.
“The Bible says beware of false prophets,” Boehner told CBS’ John Dickerson. “And there are people out there, you know, spreading noise about how much can get done.” Asked if he was specifically referring to Cruz, Boehner simply pointed to August remarks in which he called the firebrand first-term senator a “jackass.”
Cruz, a 2016 Republican presidential candidate, has said that Republicans should do everything in their power to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding.
“We should use any and every procedural means we have available to end funding for Planned Parenthood,” he said. “It should be a very easy decision that taxpayer funds will not go to fund an ongoing criminal enterprise.”
Federal law already prohibits Planned Parenthood from using the tax dollars it receives under the Title X Family Planning Program to fund its abortion services, which make up only 3 percent of its total activity, according to its latest annual report. Medicare can only be used to help pay for an abortion procedure when the pregnancy endangers the mother’s life or results from rape or incest.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) also lent support to the idea of shutting down the government over the anti-abortion cause. “I don’t like a government shutdown,” he said last month. “But this is a clear case of totally improper use of taxpayers’ dollars. I have an obligation to the taxpayers of Arizona.”
Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina, who sparked controversy with remarks about Planned Parenthood at the second primary debate, unequivocally supported the shutdown tactic during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt in August.
“They should close the government down,” Fiorina said, when asked what Republicans in Congress should do.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, another presidential candidate, came out against the strategy despite his opposition to abortion. “I am against the government shutdown,” he said Sunday during an interview on Fox News. “That’s not how democracy works.”
Over the weekend, House Republicans announced plans for a special new congressional investigation targeting Planned Parenthood. Boehner said that the committee would “investigate these horrific videos that we’ve seen from abortion clinics that we’ve seen in several states.”
In response to congressional scrutiny, Planned Parenthood last month hired Fusion GPS, a Washington-based forensics firm, to analyze the viral “sting” footage published by anti-abortion activists at the Center for Medical Progress (CMP).
Conservatives have touted the videos as evidence that Planned Parenthood profits from the illegal sale of aborted fetuses, but experts determined that the footage had been “blatantly manipulated” in such a way that it held “no evidentiary value in a legal context and cannot be relied upon for any official inquiries.”
“This is now a five-ring circus—and counting,” Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s executive vice president, said in a statement. “The most extreme opponents of women’s health in Congress have pushed 14 separate votes to restrict women’s health in just the past several months, are leading four separate committees in investigating Planned Parenthood, and now have created a new special panel for the sole purpose of focusing on Planned Parenthood.”
“We will, of course, cooperate with any fact-finding inquiry,” Laguens added, “even though these investigations are all based on false and discredited claims, without a shred of evidence of wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood.”
O’Melveny & Myers LLP, a law firm representing Planned Parenthood, asked leaders of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to accept in its investigation “nothing short of the complete, original ‘source footage’ from each device used to record Planned Parenthood’s personnel.”
Douglas Lacey, a former forensic audio/video analyst for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, wrote that “converted copies of the alleged original recordings to other file formats, video encoding schemes, and/or audio encoding schemes are not acceptable for forensic authenticity examinations.”
“In sum,” Planned Parenthood’s attorneys added, “unless the Committee insists that CMP produce the original source footage of the relevant videos, it might as well not request the videos at all, because they will not be a verifiably accurate record of actual events.”
Illustration by Max Fleishman