The Politics of Planned Parenthood’s Harvest

The release of yet another video exposing Planned Parenthood’s macabre culture of callous disregard for the bodies of aborted fetuses and the marketplace for their dismembered body parts represents another blow to the organization’s status as privileged recipient of taxpayer funds. Planned Parenthood is panicking, acting erratically, employing crisis communications professionals, and concocting flimsy exculpatory narratives aimed at impugning the motives of their critics. That’s a far cry from just three years ago, when Planned Parenthood’s celebrity president, Cecile Richards, addressed the Democratic Party’s presidential nominating convention in prime time. The organization’s erstwhile Democratic allies are getting squeamish. The way is clear for the GOP to deliver the coup de grâce; momentum is on their side. Only Republicans can rob their party of a long-sought political victory. But as much as pro-life activists might hope to see the GOP act hastily at this moment, such injudiciousness would be self-defeating.

Just over 24 hours ago, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told one of New Hampshire’s leading newspapers that the revelations contained in the Planned Parenthood videos were “disturbing.” She could not have known how right she was. On Thursday, a fourth installment in the series was released, and it was as repulsive as anything that has yet been revealed to the public.

In the video, Colorado-based Planned Parenthood Vice President Dr. Savita Ginde is featured explaining how her organization violates the spirit if not he letter of the law prohibiting institutions from profiting in the trade of human organs obtained through abortion. “Ginde also admits on video that some of the organ harvesting takes place on babies delivered intact and potentially alive first, which would violate the federal Born Alive Infant Protection Act,” HotAir’s Ed Morrissey recounted.

“It’s another boy,” one medical technician exclaimed in mock celebration after extracting another aborted fetus from the mother’s womb. “I just want to see one leg and one foot,” the technician added. “It’s a baby,” Dr. Ginde remarked as she observed the dismemberment of one of the extracted bodies.

In that moment, in which the aborted fetus is referred to as “a baby,” Planned Parenthood’s supporters’ most effective argument was shattered. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel’s Christian Schneider has observed that the abortion industry’s defenders have conspicuously avoided making note of the fact that the byproducts of Planned Parenthood’s harvest are human body parts. In fact, they’re inclined to scold anyone who deviates from their preferred linguistic parameters:

Of course, we all know that in abortion lexicon, a fetus cannot be considered a “baby,” because ending a “baby’s” life is far less palatable than, say, “terminating a fetus.” Abortion advocates often denigrate human life by calling the child a “clump of cells” or an “embryo.”

In fact, the entire abortion industry coasts on a game of linguistics. In an article that forever euthanized satire, the New Republic called aborted babies “products of conception” and said referring to “baby parts” was an attempt to “anthropomorphize” the human fetus. “The term baby is medically incorrect as it doesn’t apply until birth,” said the article’s author, Dr. Jen Gunter.

Dr. Gunter has been undone, and by an ally no less.

As Planned Parenthood’s supporters begin to wither in the face of overwhelming if circumstantial evidence that grotesque inhumanity has become the defining feature of that institution, momentum is building in Congress to finally end the flow of taxpayer subsidies to the abortion provider. The bill to defund Planned Parenthood, written by freshman Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, directs all its funds toward other institutions that provide women’s health care-related services, like community hospitals and clinics. “There will be no reduction in overall federal funding available to support women’s health,” Senator Mitch McConnell said after promising to hold a vote on the measure before the August recess.

The reaction to the GOP’s move from traditional Democratic supporters of the abortion services provider has been surprisingly muted. Far from launching into a tirade of garment-rending lamentations about the GOP’s anti-women bigotry, Clinton called the Republican effort to defund Planned Parenthood “regrettable.” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest repeated the condemnation of the videos and the surreptitious methods used to obtain the damning footage. When pressed as to whether the president would veto such a measure, however, Earnest said Barack Obama opposed the bill but declined to say if he would veto it.

For the time being, the political moment favors Planned Parenthood’s opponents. The revelations that have been exposed over the last month are so abhorrent that few prominent Democrats appear willing to stand by the organization. But the obstacles to passing a defunding measure and sending it to the president’s desk where Obama would face the hard choice of either vetoing it outright or pocketing it are not pro-choice liberals but Republicans and centrist Democrats. GOP Senators Susan Collins of Maine and Mark Kirk of Illinois have already gone on record saying they will not support a bill to defund Planned Parenthood. Democratic Senators Bob Casey and  Joe Manchin, too, have said they will not back such a bill.

With the House having already adjourned for the summer recess, the Senate has few incentives to pass such a controversial measure. To allow it to fester and generate controversy over the course of August would do the defund effort no favors — particularly considering that there is now talk of a new government shutdown over the defund effort. Even if there are enough votes in both the House and the Senate to pass a defund bill after the August recess, it’s unclear that the provision would even be legal. “The laws governing Medicaid – the health insurance program for low-income families – prevent states from excluding certain providers solely because of other medical services they provide, like abortions,” CBS News reported. “Those laws also say Medicaid recipients must be allowed to seek treatment from anyone who is qualified to perform the services. This is sometimes called a ‘freedom of choice’ provision.” The report added that a 2011 Indiana law that sought to prevent Medicaid recipients from obtaining services from Planned Parenthood did not survive scrutiny in the courts.

But these delays may be a blessing in disguise. A Los Angeles area court recently granted an injunction request that prevents the release of further videos featuring Planned Parenthood administrators behaving ghoulishly. However, as Popehat blogger Ken White noted, the order may allow for plaintiffs to pursue satisfaction for damages done after the videos have been released, but it almost certainly cannot preempt their release entirely. That is especially true if the group behind the videos, the Center for Medical Progress, has already provided them to a third party. Therefore, expect the many repulsive videos to keep coming – as many as eight more are reportedly on deck. And every one that comes out forces one more prominent Democrat to soften his or her support for Planned Parenthood. Drip, drip, drip; over the course of a sleepy August in which the only game in town is the increasingly rote and boorish performance art piece masquerading as a presidential campaign, the revelations about Planned Parenthood’s conduct will find their audience.

The tide is perceptibly turning. Republicans would be foolish to let the pressure on Planned Parenthood lapse, but neither should they make themselves the focus of this story. Republicans should avoid being drawn into a convoluted debate on the legal merits of the defund effort, or its viability in the courts. They would also be well served if they were to ignore arcane whip counting and decline to opine on the politics of a presidential veto. As long as the debate is a philosophical one over whether we as a society should allow this kind of barbarism, conservatives will find themselves on the winning side. In the meantime, let the videos flow and enjoy watching Planned Parenthood supporters squirm in the sunlight.

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