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03.04.11

The GOP's Abortion Distraction

Rep. Mike Pence's push to defund Planned Parenthood is shortsighted political posturing that may score ideological points with a few voters but shifts focus away from serious issues like entitlement reform, says Mark McKinnon.

Republicans need to focus on smart, bold, and responsible measures that will have a real impact on our fiscal crisis. Playing around the fiscal margins and preying on effective and important programs just to score ideological points is unfortunate and politically ill-advised.

Instead of leading the way on serious entitlement reforms and cutting the military budget, the Mike Pences of the party are taking giant steps backward by suggesting we cut funds to Planned Parenthood. He and others believe that if we defund the organization, which helps counsel woman about their health and prevent unintended pregnancies, we could limit its ability to use other non-government money for abortions. (It is prohibited from using any direct federal funds.)

This is shortsighted political posturing. It's overreaching, and it's why Republicans get a bad name with many independent voters and women.

Fortunately, reasonable Republicans like Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL) are speaking out against the Pence bill to reflect a more responsible view: "I rise today in opposition to the [Pence] amendment," Dold said last month. "The elimination of family planning dollars would deny access to preventative care for millions of women each year. From the numerous conversations I've had with doctors, including my own sister, who is an OB/GYN, I believe in the importance of encouraging access to basic preventative care…

"While we must always ensure that funds are applied properly, completely prohibiting any funds from going to the main provider of Title X family planning services, I believe, would be shortsighted and would negatively impact the lives of women who depend on these health-care services."

Republicans may win with a very narrow constituency, but they make the party look narrow, intolerant and backward.

The Pence amendment is a bad idea that has very little public support. A recent Hart Research poll shows that 71 percent of voters, including 60 percent of those who voted for the Republican candidate for Congress in 2010, disagree with legislation to strip federal family planning funding from Planned Parenthood health centers.

Republicans would be well advised to keep their focus on real economic issues that have impact, like entitlement reform. When Republicans set out to score ideological points like this, they may win with a very narrow constituency, but they make the party look narrow, intolerant and backward, and do damage to prospects for growing the ranks of the Grand Old Party. 'Cause they make it look really old.

As vice chairman of Public Strategies and president of Maverick Media, Mark McKinnon has helped meet strategic challenges for candidates, corporations and causes, including George W. Bush, John McCain, Governor Ann Richards, Charlie Wilson, Lance Armstrong, and Bono.