PHOENIX — Parting ways with other congressional Republicans, U.S. Rep. Martha McSally said Wednesday Congress should not shut down the government over funding for Planned Parenthood.
McSally said a shutdown would not only hurt taxpayers but also end up costing a lot more money than keeping the government open. She cited a series of problems that resulted from the last shutdown in 2013.
But McSally, whose district includes Tucson, told Capitol Media Services the real irony is that even if the government does shutter Oct. 1, that won’t achieve the goal of some of her colleagues to defund Planned Parenthood.
The organization gets some of its $500 million a year through the Medicaid program for providing non-abortion health care to women, McSally noted. But Medicaid funding continues even if the government is shut down.
The rest of Planned Parenthood’s federal funds come through Title X family planning programs. Those grants went out in April, so, McSally said, bringing the government to its knees now would have no immediate effect.
“Look, I’m a fighter pilot,” said the retired Air Force colonel and former A-10 pilot. “I’m not a kamikaze pilot.”
Her views put McSally and 10 other first-term Republicans who share her opinion at odds with other GOP lawmakers who refuse to approve a new budget — or even a “continuing resolution” to keep the government operating — until federal funding for Planned Parenthood is ended.
Abortion foes have put up this fight for years. But undercover videos have stepped up the argument; some appear to show Planned Parenthood executives and others discussing supplying tissue from aborted fetuses to firms doing medical research; another purports to show Planned Parenthood staffers showing aborted fetuses to prospective tissue buyers.
Officials from Planned Parenthood Arizona have said they neither harvest nor sell tissue from aborted fetuses. The national organization has said the videos were altered.
McSally, who narrowly won office last year and likely faces a tough re-election bid, called the videos “nauseating and troubling.” But she said there are ways to deal with what they show short of shutting down the government.
“If people have broken the law, they need to be held accountable,” she said: federal law already criminalizes selling fetal organs for profit.
McSally said even if funding for Planned Parenthood could be cut off, it’s money that cannot legally be used for abortions. And she said that has broader implications for her constituents.
“I want to make sure that men and women in my community get access to preventative health care, birth control and what they need in order to prevent unwanted pregnancies,” she said. “We should not have low-income men and especially women caught in the crossfire as collateral damage, especially when none of this is even achievable.”
Cathi Herrod, president of the anti-abortion Center for Arizona Policy, disagrees. She acknowledged that federal law already prohibits using tax dollars for abortions. But Herrod said taxpayers effectively are subsidizing abortions.
“A dollar to Planned Parenthood for Title X family planning certainly frees up another dollar to support their abortion services,” she said. And Herrod said 183 other community health centers around Arizona can provide the same services.
Herrod said CAP is not taking a position on whether the government should be shut down over Planned Parenthood funding. But she made robocalls over the weekend to voters in Democrat congressional districts telling them to ask their lawmakers to end funding.
The futility of the fight aside, McSally said the experience of two years ago proves shutting down the government would be a mistake.
“The 16-day government shutdown in 2013 cost our economy an estimated $24 billion and stalled the creation of over 100,000 private-sector jobs,” she and the other 10 lawmakers wrote in a letter to their colleagues.
The letter also cites “unacceptable delays” in life-saving medical research and payment of disability claims to veterans during the shutdown, which also closed national parks to the tune of $500 million in lost revenue while also closing Head Start programs.
The Republican-controlled House already has voted to freeze funding for a year to allow Congress to investigate Planned Parenthood.
But that measure likely is going nowhere given that the Senate likely will lack the necessary 60 votes to bring it to the floor for debate. In any case, the White House has said the president would veto it.