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Commentary: The Republican Presidential Candidates And Planned Parenthood

Analyst Dan Payne says Carly Fiorina, seen here on Nov. 14, is "the most disingenuous and deeply divisive candidate on this issue." (John Raoux/AP)
Analyst Dan Payne says Carly Fiorina, seen here on Nov. 14, is "the most disingenuous and deeply divisive candidate on this issue." (John Raoux/AP)
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On Friday at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a deranged man allegedly killed a police officer and two civilians and wounded several others. While no firm conclusions have been reached about his motive, news outlets have reported that the suspect said, among other things, “No more baby parts.”

That reference would almost definitely be tied to the release of surreptitious and deliberately doctored videos that purported to show Planned Parenthood employees this summer discussing the sale of fetal tissue, possibly for profit. The women’s health organization insists that the videos were fraudulently and misleadingly edited.

The most disingenuous and deeply divisive candidate on this issue is Carly Fiorina. In a nationally televised GOP debate, Fiorina demanded that President Obama and Hillary Clinton “watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking while someone says, ‘We have to keep it alive to harvest its brain.’ ” Independent fact-checking groups investigated and concluded that such a video existed only in Fiorina’s mind. No one including her campaign has been able to produce the video she described.

Five million people are helped by Planned Parenthood every year, according to its website. Shutting it down would prevent 400,000 Pap smear tests, 500,000 breast exams and 700,000 HIV tests annually.

The GOP focuses on Planned Parenthood's abortion service, which is less than 3 percent of its work. The bulk of its services -- 35 percent -- go to sexually transmitted diseases, 35 percent to contraception, 16 percent to cancer screening and prevention, and 10 percent to women’s health.

Here's what the other Republican candidates say on the organization:

-- Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky told CNN, “I support any legislation that will defund Planned Parenthood. … I think a lot of people, even a lot of pro-choice people, are upset by these videos … manipulating the baby, turning the baby around to get the body parts and then selling the liver and the doctors cavalierly saying, 'Oh, well, yes, liver is popular right now for sale.' ”

-- Ben Carson has started a petition to defund Planned Parenthood. It says: “Congress must act NOW! Please sign my petition to Congress demanding that they stop all public funds to Planned Parenthood.”

-- “By the year 2020,” Florida Sen. Marco Rubio declared: “I hope we will be able to say that abortions after 20 weeks are illegal, that no taxpayer money is used to fund abortions here or abroad, and that Planned Parenthood doesn’t receive a penny from the federal government.”

-- Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush describes how he led the banning of partial-birth abortion and the defunding of Planned Parenthood while he was governor. He claimed his view on “life” was shaped by his involvement in the case of Terri Schiavo, the brain-dead woman who was kept alive against her husband’s wishes.

-- The always rancorous Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas said: “I was proud to lead the fight against Planned Parenthood. Don’t send $500 million of taxpayer money to Planned Parenthood.”

-- Chris Christie has boasted that he vetoed funds for Planned Parenthood eight times as governor of New Jersey. He said he was “the first governor to ever speak at a pro-life rally on the steps of the State House in New Jersey.”

-- Lindsey Graham supports stripping Planned Parenthood of federal funds but the senator from South Carolina said, “If I were president, I would never submit a budget with one dime for Planned Parenthood.”

-- Ohio Gov. John Kasich signed a two-year budget that defunds Planned Parenthood and reduces the number of abortion providers for the entire state of Ohio to eight (down from 11 in 2011). Kasich left in place provisions in HB 59 that will strip funds from Planned Parenthood.

-- Mike Huckabee: “It’s a horrific thought that our government provides funding to an organization that provides abortions to so many women. We need to demand this Congress vote to defund Planned Parenthood. Our tax dollars should never be used to provide abortions and our government should put an end to it immediately,” the TV entertainer and former Arkansas governor said.

-- At the opposite end of the GOP’s anti-abortion campaign is the wildly unpredictable Donald Trump, who has defended Planned Parenthood and said the group should be funded. “They do good things,” Trump told Fox News in August. “There’s two Planned Parenthoods, in a way. You have it as an abortion clinic. Now that's actually a fairly small part of what they do, but it’s a brutal part and I'm totally against it,” Trump said.

The GOP presidential candidates are defying public opinion. A September poll found that more than two-thirds of Americans -- 69 percent to 23 percent — oppose Republican plans to force a federal government shutdown over Planned Parenthood funding. Even GOP voters oppose such a government shutdown by 56 percent to 36 percent.

Dan Payne is a Democratic political analyst and a regular contributor to WBUR Politicker and the Boston Globe.

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Dan Payne Twitter Democratic Political Analyst
Dan Payne is a Democratic political analyst for WBUR.

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