The Planned Parenthood Story That Could Cause a Shutdown is Staying Alive Over Recess

Eric Gay/AP

With Congress out for recess, primed to return in September and segue straight into a government-spending fight with Planned Parenthood at the center, antiabortion groups are trying to keep the momentum on their side.

They want Planned Parenthood defunded. They even think the controversy over fetal-tissue donations ensnaring the women's health organization gives them an opening to get a 20-week abortion ban passed. But they need to keep the pressure on Republicans in order to make anything happen.

So antiabortion groups are enlisting volunteers to head to the innumerable congressional town-hall meetings being held over the next few weeks and making sure members continue to hear that their constituents want them to act.

Susan B. Anthony List, which claims more than 350,000 supporters, is sending regular alerts to its backers. They are urged to attend town halls and ask questions—to call on House members to continue investigating Planned Parenthood and ask senators to explain their vote on a recent measure to defund the group. They want to know if officials have actually watched the tapes at the center of the firestorm.

"We see this as a great moment of opportunity," said Mallory Quigley, communications director for Susan B. Anthony List. "So absolutely, we want to keep it top of mind for legislators while people are home for the recess."

The groups are also pushing members to act on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which would ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy except in cases of rape or incest or if the mother's life is at risk. It passed the House in May with 242 votes and went to the Senate, where mirror legislation has 45 sponsors. But it would need Democratic support to overcome a filibuster in the upper chamber.

Abortion opponents have some work to do: A Monmouth University poll released last week found that 53 percent of Americans had not heard about the controversial videos, and pluralities had a favorable view of Planned Parenthood and opposed efforts to defund it.

"This is the most pressing human rights issue of our day," Quigley said. "We want the legislators to hear directly from their people, especially while they're in their district."

Some members seem to be getting the message. House Ways and Means Health Subcommittee Chairman Kevin Brady, a Texas Republican, said in an interview last week that Planned Parenthood was "on the tip of everybody's tongue" at the events he had held during the first week of recess.

Abortion opponents also believe they'll be bolstered by new releases; another clip from the Center for Medical Progress, the antiabortion group that produced the sting videos of Planned Parenthood officials allegedly discussing the sale of fetal body parts, was released on Wednesday. More are promised. Planned Parenthood has maintained that the videos are deceptively edited and do not reflect the group's actual practices. Under current law, no federal funding can legally be spent on abortions.

The 2016 Republican presidential primary campaign is also helping keeping the issue afloat. Quigley said that Mitt Romney's strategy in 2012 of avoiding talking about abortion had "failed" and she was encouraged by some GOP candidates going on the offensive on Planned Parenthood. During the first Republican debate last week, abortion was by far the most prominent health care issue as opposed to the recent conservative favorite, the Affordable Care Act.

"I believe that every single human being is entitled to the protection of our laws, whether they can vote or not, whether they can speak or not, whether they can hire a lawyer or not, whether they have a birth certificate or not," said Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida during the debate. "And I think future generations will look back at this history of our country and call us barbarians for murdering millions of babies who we never gave a chance to live."

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