A bill to prohibit federal funding of Planned Parenthood may have failed to advance in the Senate on August 3 (receiving just 53 of the 60 votes needed to involve cloture and allow a vote on the legislation) but Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has not given up his quest to find other ways to defund the nation’s largest abortion provider.
The day after the failed procedural vote, when Fox News’ America’s Newsroom host Bill Hemmer asked Paul what his backup plan was, Paul replied:
I’ve always voted to defund Planned Parenthood and will continue to do so. I think the power of the purse is something we should use. In fact that’s a congressional prerogative and the problem is we haven’t really tried hard enough. So I’ll keep pressing on. We’ll try to attach it to appropriations bills. The thing is, that it is the responsibility; it’s not unusual for Congress to give rules to the President on how to spend money. That’s what we’re supposed to do.
After some back-and-forth discussion between Hemmer and Paul, during which Paul said he would not intentionally use this issue to shut down the government, but that Democrats might do exactly that if they refused to pass funding bills with anti-Planned Parenthood funding provisions in them, the senator continued:
There’s no reason in the world why we have to fund Planned Parenthood at all. Everything they do is already done by another government agency — [federal funding of] community health centers. We have 9,000 community health centers. There is no reason for one penny ever to go to Planned Parenthood.
Paul was highly critical of Planned Parenthood when speaking on The Glenn Beck Program on August 4. Commenting on videos implicating Planned Parenthood in the systematic harvesting and trafficking of human body parts, Paul said:
The videos are incredibly disturbing. When I heard about them using ultrasounds to manipulate the baby into a position so it could be removed a little bit at a time so they could get at the baby’s organs — kidneys, livers. And the sort of the callous disregard by the doctor saying, “Oh yeah, livers are popular.” It’s hard to hear that.
Paul, of course, is a medical doctor, but even his years of medical training and practice have not desensitized him to what Planned Parenthood is doing. He continued in his assessment of the abortion giant’s activities, obviously finding it difficult to believe that those responsible could engage in such practices:
We often have the debate where the other side wants to call it “tissue.” But when we’re talking about lungs, brains, hearts, livers, I think it … should make all people shudder that we’re doing this. I don’t know how anyone could do that day in and day out, knowing that you’re pulling out the pieces of a baby. I mean, I don’t know how they do it and how they live with themselves.
The Blaze reported that Paul described Planned Parenthood as a “front for abortion,” but nevertheless has many defenders in government because “they’re also huge funders of the Democrat Party and huge funders of liberals.”
During the week before the key Senate vote to defund Planned Parenthood, on July 28, Paul addressed a pro-life rally on Capitol Hill, during which he not only voiced support for the anti-funding legislation, which had been introduced by Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), but also called on the Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton to refund any donations she has received from Planned Parenthood. Paul told the assembled pro-lifers, "Hillary Clinton’s hands are stained by accepting this money. She needs to immediately return every red cent she has received from Planned Parenthood employees."
The Washington Post quoted from an interview that Paul gave in which the senator cited figures on how much Clinton had received from the abortion provider:
She’s gotten over $10,000 in Planned Parenthood donations that we can find. My guess is that if you add up donations from people who are employed by Planned Parenthood, you’d find even more. The ones we found are prominent donors. This happens all the time on the right, where some unsavory organization gives money, and everyone says: Give it back. She ought to be asked whether she’s going to do that.
A Newsweek article on July 29 said that Paul’s role in the fight to defund Planned Parenthood has cast him in a new light — that of “culture warrior.” The article noted that for most of his career in Washington, Paul — though always pro-life — has been known mostly for his libertarian stands against domestic spying and drone strikes and for his fiscally conservative economic views.
The heavy coverage of the failed Planned Parenthood funding vote and Paul’s prominent role in it has increased his visibility, notes Newsweek, and should help his chances of being included in the first Republican primary debate August 6 in Cleveland.
Cultural conservatives who have long struggled against the cultural decline of America will undoubtedly welcome this reinforcement to their ranks, joining other announced candidates for whom the label “culture warrior” might also apply, including former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist Minister; Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, a frequent figure at the annual March for Life; and Dr. Ben Carson, who is also an outspoken pro-life physician. Other GOP candidates who are pro-life include Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Florida Senator Marco Rubio, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, and Ohio Governor John Kasich. However, not all of these candidates could be described as "culture warriors," since moral and social issues are not key parts of some of their campaigns. Former Texas Governor Rick Perry has signed bills restricting abortion but is not as stridently pro-life as some others. Businessman Donald Trump claims to have evolved from a pro-choice to a pro-life position, but since he has no political track record his position is harder to assess.
All of the announced candidates for the Democratic nomination are pro-abortion.
Photo of Rand Paul at rally for defunding Planned Parenthood: AP Images