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Pro-Life Leaders Split on Planned Parenthood Funding, Gov't Shutdown Strategy

Pro-Life Leaders Split on Planned Parenthood Funding, Gov't Shutdown Strategy

Pro-life activists parade in front of the U.S. Supreme Court during the annual March for Life in Washington, January 22, 2014. Pope Francis used Twitter to back the annual anti-abortion rally, which was expected to draw hundreds of thousands to Washington on Wednesday. | (Photo: Reuters/Jonathan Ernst)

Pro-life leaders are split over the best strategy to defund Planned Parenthood.

While one of the goals for all right-to-life groups is removal of government funding of the popular abortion provider, some support votes only on stand-alone bills that are unlikely to lead to a government shutdown over the Planned Parenthood issue.

Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, America's oldest and largest pro-life organization. | (Photo: Screen Grab via C-Span)

The House passed a separate bill Friday that defunds the popular abortion provider. This position, aimed at staving off a government shutdown, is favored by GOP leaders on Capitol Hill and it is the position National Right to Life President Carol Tobias seems to be rallying around. A request for comment by National Right to Life went unanswered.

The Senate, several votes short of the 60 votes needed to end debate, is not expected to pass a similar bill defunding Planned Parenthood during this Congress. The Senate failed to pass a similar bill last month and is believed to be at least six votes short of 60.

Many defund proponents favor a longer strategy of waiting for the country to elect a Republican president. Perhaps resigned to political realities, Americans United for Life, like other groups, has refused to advocate a political strategy on the best way to defund Planned Parenthood.

In an interview with The Christian Post, Tom McClusky, vice president of government affairs for March to Life Action, says he understands the strategy but adds, "I'm disappointed with groups or members surrendering before even fighting."

"The pro-life movement is a movement of miracles," says McClusky. "I think when you are standing on principle you are not doing the wrong thing. Personally, I want to see these guys stand up on principle."

McClusky has been working at explaining to pro-life leaders and lawmakers that there is no certainty of reaching the end goal of defunding Planned Parenthood if lawmakers are unwilling to fight right now.

He notes that the Republican Congress increased funding for Planned Parenthood under the presidency of George W. Bush.

"That right there makes me weary of saving the fight for another day," says McClusky.

Many Republican lawmakers see it different and are using like-minded pro-life groups to offer them political cover.

"If you're pro-life, the last thing you want to do is have the focus changed to the government shutdown ... rather than the activities of Planned Parenthood," said Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, to The Associated Press. "At some point in time you've got to face reality."

Republican leadership is arguing a shutdown will have no effect on the federal money Planned Parenthood receives. Groups like Heritage Action and the House Freedom Caucus, a coalition of conservative Republicans are taking a different approach, favoring a shutdown.

McClusky's view is that the pro-life movement is "filled with a lot of great groups" and adds all of them are doing exceptional work right now. He says he does not like other groups criticizing the strategy or decisions different pro-life groups make on this issue.

"There is some disagreement over the current strategy but not the end result," he said.

McClusky argued that if anti-abortion groups can disseminate the message better, especially the content of the videos from the Center for Medical Progress, the battle can be won. He believes that once American's see what is going on concerning Planned Parenthood, "they are on our side." He added that right now is "the closest we are to ending federal funding of Planned Parenthood."

McClusky believes it is important too for lawmakers to get back to the normal appropriations process and said the pro-life achievements have been "stagnant" because of the "dysfunctional appropriations process." He added he wished right to life groups would raise this issue more to their constituents because "we can't get protections when lawmakers are not going through the normal appropriations process." McClusky told CP it had been 10 years since a normalized budgeting process has been followed on Capitol Hill.

When asked about the good news concerning the debate in Washington, McClusky pointed to the fact, "this Congress has given us four stand-alone votes on pro-life legislation." He said the fight in Washington for right to life issues emboldens individual states to take action and pass measures that are helping to make some states "almost abortion free."


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