Opinion

Franklin Graham leaves GOP over Planned Parenthood funding

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Last week’s budget agreement leaving federal funding of Planned Parenthood largely intact has rightly angered scores of pro-lifers who hoped that Congress’s pro-life Republican majority would actually make a difference for the preborn. The most high-profile reaction so far comes from Rev. Franklin Graham, a major Christian conservative, pro-life leader and son of the legendary Billy Graham. In a blistering statement, Graham has declared that he’s officially left the GOP…

Shame on the Republicans and the Democrats for passing such a wasteful spending bill last week. And to top it off, funding Planned Parenthood! A Huffington Post article called it “a big win for Planned Parenthood.” I call it a big loss for America.

After all of the appalling facts revealed this year about Planned Parenthood, our representatives in Washington had a chance to put a stop to this, but they didn’t. There’s no question—taxpayers should not be paying for abortions! Abortion is murder in God’s eyes. Seeing and hearing Planned Parenthood talk nonchalantly about selling baby parts from aborted fetuses with utter disregard for human life is reminiscent of Joseph Mengele and the Nazi concentration camps! That should’ve been all that was needed to turn off the faucet for their funding.

Nothing was done to trim this 2,000 page, $1.1 trillion budget. This is an example of why I have resigned from the Republican Party and declared myself Independent. I have no hope in the Republican Party, the Democratic Party, or Tea Party to do what is best for America. Unless more godly men and women get in this process and change this wicked system, our country is in for trouble. I want to challenge Christians, even pastors, across the country to pray about running for office where they can have an impact. We need mayors, country commissioners, city council members, school board members who will uphold biblical values.

After all the abuse and neglect pro-lifers have taken from the party who claims to stand for us, it’s hard to argue with any of that.

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In the HuffPo article Graham cites, Robert Kuttner says:

Speaker Paul Ryan warned his troops that Republicans, going into an election year, could not withstand the bad publicity of being held responsible for another government shutdown. He wanted a deal more than he wanted to appease the far right.

Indeed. The new House Speaker who was supposed to herald a new golden age of unified, principled governing instead preemptively surrendered within days of taking office, dishonestly claiming it was the Constitution, not the lack of GOP willpower, that tied his hands.

This week, Ryan tried to put a happy spin on the latest spending omnibus during an interview with Bill Bennett. On Planned Parenthood, he said:

First of all, we did put the riders on Planned Parenthood to prevent them from having any money going toward abortion – like we have in the past – and we maintained all of our Hyde Amendment protections for pro-life. So we maintained our pro-life riders[.]

In other words, they maintained the status quo that was already agreed to. Never mind that the money still indirectly helps Planned Parenthood do more abortions. No recognition that discovering Planned Parenthood is even more evil than we thought just might mean defunding them warrants more effort or urgency than before. Ryan continued:

[B]ut what we realized was the Planned Parenthood defunding bill was going to get filibustered in the Senate, so we weren’t even going to get past the U.S. Senate with a Planned Parenthood bill in the omnibus[.]

And it didn’t occur to you that having the people you’re trying to defund literally on tape talking about selling the organs of children they’ve killed could possibly reframe voters’ impressions of who the debate’s extremists are and pressure some of the problem senators into changing their minds? Doesn’t the role of a leader have something to do with leading opinion in the right direction?

[S]o we used the one tool we could use to prevent a filibuster and advance this bill, which is called reconciliation. So we have Planned Parenthood defunded in the reconciliation bill. You can use this bill once a year and we used it for this.

This is supposed to be the big saving grace that makes pro-lifers forgive Ryan for giving Planned Parenthood our money? Congratulations, reconciliation gets the defunding bill past the Senate… where it will promptly be vetoed by Barack Obama and therefore do no more good for the babies than if it were filibustered.

This could not be simpler: until a pro-life president is in office, attaching defunding to regular appropriations bills and then putting pro-aborts on the spot for shutting down the government is the only way Planned Parenthood can conceivably be defunded.

There is no legal element that makes a presidential veto less responsible for a government shutdown than a Congress sending him something he doesn’t want; if anything his decision to veto is the more direct cause. It’s purely a matter of optics. If Republicans can’t convince the American people that defunding Planned Parenthood is important and that Democrats are the ones making everything else hostages of the abortion industry, the only reason will be because they lack the conviction and competence to make the case. There’s no external constraint forcing them not to.

Paul Ryan is essentially saying he would rather stick to empty gestures he already knows won’t work rather than take any risks for or put real effort into something that might. This dishonorable, impotent approach to leadership is the latest in a long train of abuses that certainly justify Reverend Graham’s decision to declare his independence from the Republican Party.

And while it’s by no means unprecedented for influential figures in the conservative coalition to express their disapproval for the GOP, party leaders should take seriously the possibility of the many evangelicals who revere him following Graham out the door—the letdowns might finally be numerous enough to bring on the Republicans’ political extinction.

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