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Want to defund Planned Parenthood? Shut down the government — or lose

Conservative Review

With the news that congressional Republicans are giving up on defunding Planned Parenthood, pro-life conservatives must face reality: Planned Parenthood is not going to be defunded under President Trump's administration, or any Republican administration, even with full control of the House, the Senate, and the presidency.

Individual conservative lawmakers may continue the fight for protect unborn life, but a principled opposition by itself is not victory. A vote on a bill is not victory. Policy is victory, and to achieve policy leadership in Congress, the pro-life movement must be willing to adopt the means necessary to advance it. As of now, it is not.

As was demonstrated repeatedly this year, Republicans in Congress were not willing to attach language defunding Planned Parenthood to any of the must-pass spending bills advanced in Congress with full Republican control of government. According to Politico, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, has been urging his Republican colleagues to make one more attempt at defunding Planned Parenthood and advancing other conservative priorities in the lame-duck session of Congress, but GOP Senate leadership refuses to risk a government shutdown, even now that the election is over. Some pro-life leaders are complicit in this surrender. Politico reports that in a meeting with the White House, when Students for Life President Kristan Hawkins urged President Trump to veto any spending bill that does not keep Republican promises to pro-lifers, a representative of an unnamed organization objected. "A shutdown strategy doesn’t work,” this individual reportedly said, calling for "a longer term vision for incremental progress."

With Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., set to resume the speakership, the expectation from Republicans is that conservatives will permit them to move on from this fight until some future election.

Planned Parenthood, the nation's top provider of abortions, literally rips apart babies in the womb and sells their body parts for profit. American taxpayers are subsidizing that evil right now through the U.S. Congress. And pro-life conservatives are expected to tolerate and fund that abominable organization because shutting down 17 percent of the federal government's operations might be politically risky?

In reality, a government shutdown is the only means of actually defunding Planned Parenthood. The Democrats and two openly pro-abortion Republicans, Sens. Lisa Murkowksi, R-Alaska, and Susan Collins, R-Maine, must be forced to choose between surrendering on this policy or keeping the federal government shut down indefinitely, and they must be forced to go to voters with their choice. Short of having that fight, there is nothing Republicans can do without a majority in the House of Representatives and a filibuster-proof  majority in the Senate to enact conservative policy.

An "incremental progress" strategy is not actually achieving anything. President Trump's administration may succeed in cutting Title X funding for Planned Parenthood via administrative action, but a federal court will issue an injunction blocking the move swiftly, as federal courts have done for many of President Trump's policies. Then the next Democratic president will overturn that rule. States like Alabama and West Virginia may advance state constitutional amendments to strip Planned Parenthood of funding when Roe v. Wade is overturned, but those state policies are moot until the Supreme Court actually overturns the precedent. There is no indication whatsoever that there are five votes on the court to overturn Roe, even if Chief Justice Roberts agreed to hear a case that could have that outcome. In the meantime, courts are overturning state abortion restrictions, and Republican governors like John Kasich, R-Ohio, are threatening to veto pro-life bills.

"Incremental progress" is an excuse for inaction on policy. Inaction on policy in Congress permits lawmakers to avoid taking risks that might cost them their seats. Inaction on policy lets pro-life groups continue to fundraise on fighting abortion without ever winning the fight.

No Republican administration will successfully defund Planned Parenthood or advance any conservative policy until GOP leadership and the conservative movement are willing to do what it takes, even shut down the government, to force action in Congress.

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