CLEVELAND— This year’s Republican platform is the first to mention Planned Parenthood by name. The Fifth Amendment of the platform, dedicated to “Protecting Human Life,” opposes the “use of public funds to perform or promote abortion or to fund organizations, like Planned Parenthood, so long as they provide or refer for elective abortions or sell fetal body parts rather than provide healthcare.” It also supports a “human life amendment to the Constitution,” as well as advocates legislation that would extend the Fourteenth Amendment’s protections to apply to children before birth.
Though talk of abortion has been scarce at the convention—Ted Cruz mentioned protecting human life in between boos from Trump delegates and Mitch McConnell promised that Donald Trump would sign legislation defunding Planned Parenthood—the 2016 Republican platform is one of the party’s most extreme attacks on women’s healthcare. In addition to human life amendments and defunding Planned Parenthood, the platform cites the 2015 videos by David Daleiden’s Center for Medical Progress. Though the videos, which claimed to show Planned Parenthood selling fetal remains for profit, were widely discredited, they resonated with Republican leadership, resulting in a House investigation and multiples states passing fetal remain laws.
Even though the issues of abortion and women’s healthcare have been subsumed by talk about ISIS and immigration and political correctness, Planned Parenthood Votes’ communications director Erica Sackin says, that despite the talk (or lack thereof), “Trump and Pence are a dangerous ticket” for women’s reproductive health. The organization has been in Cleveland since Friday, handing out condoms packaged in pink and blue with anti-Trump slogans. Planned Parenthood says they’ve been well-received by the Cleveland crowd, “we’ve been hearing from Republicans who say ‘thank you’ and ‘we don’t agree what our party is doing.’” Sackin notes that that kind of response isn’t unusual, the Republican platform is extreme and only represents a sliver of the party.
But that fringe has a powerful spokesperson in vice presidential candidate Mike Pence. Ending abortion access has been one of Pence’s defining issues for his nearly decade-long political career. As a member of Congress, Pence introduced numerous six bills to defund Planned Parenthood. He pioneered the “defund Planned Parenthood bill,” which is now a staple of every Congressional session. “Pence was willing to shut down the government in order to block access to care and he pushed it again and again and again while he was in Congress,” Sackin, director of political communications for Planned Parenthood, said. In 2011, with a government shutdown over the budget looming, Pence made his own demand: to defund Planned Parenthood.
As governor of Indiana, Pence continued to “sign legislation that attacked Planned Parenthood and reproductive care in Indiana.” Sackin was referring to HB 1337, a notoriously broad bill that covers everything from sex-selective and disability-based abortions to requiring women to bury fetal remains.
Though Pence’s Wednesday night speech was standard convention fare (a rather vast departure from nearly every other speech this week), focusing on family and affinity with the presidential candidate, he made only a passing mention of abortion. But Pence, Sackin warns, has been “leading an anti-woman crusade for nearly a decade.”
Planned Parenthood argues that Pence’s selection as the vice presidential candidate is evidence of Trump’s position on abortion. That position has been, at times, incoherent. In one day he changed his position on abortion three times, arguing that women who have abortions should be “punished.” And anti-abortion groups aren’t entirely convinced that Trump is one of them. In a June op-ed for the Washington Post, the president of Students for Life of America, expressed doubts over Trump’s commitment to the cause after the Republican nominee remained silent on the Supreme Court’s decision in Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt.
But Planned Parenthood insists that the rift is less about ideology and more about presentation. “Pro-life people are mad that he’s not using their rhetoric,” Sackin says, but, she adds, “when he said he believes a woman should be punished, he just put into words the policies that anti-abortion groups have been put into policy.” The pure spectacle of Trump is a smokescreen that detracts from the fact that he’s sympathetic to the anti-choice movement and, as McConnell said during his Tuesday speech, a President Trump would have signed legislation defunding Planned Parenthood. “This is one of the most extreme tickets for President that we’ve seen in generations,” Sackin said.