Michigan Republican Rep. Tim Walberg keeps spouting lies about Planned Parenthood. But his town hall audiences aren't swayed by his dishonesty.
Republicans have a Planned Parenthood problem.
Specifically, they have a problem with speaking only in falsehoods when they talk about Planned Parenthood.
As part of the hostility to reproductive freedom that is so deeply ingrained in the GOP — and the Trump administration — many conservatives freely mislead the public about what Planned Parenthood does and flippantly imply that the organization is all but unnecessary. It is nothing new, but it is still repugnant.
And many voters are fed up — something Michigan Republican Rep. Tim Walberg discovered more than once in recent days.
At a town hall Monday, Walberg repeated the conservative talking point that funding Planned Parenthood receives from the government could and should instead be directed to other health centers — the implication being health centers that do not provide abortion services.
But before he could even get the full lie out — in which he repeated the inaccurate claim that Planned Parenthood uses a “major” and “significant” portion of its funding for abortions — the audience shouted him down with chants of “No!” and “Lies!”
The idea that Medicaid funding can simply be redirected to other health centers — as the GOP’s health care repeal plan aims to do — with no detrimental impact on patients is mendacious rubbish. As the Washington Post recently noted in a thorough report, the gaps left by defunding Planned Parenthood would be extremely difficult for other medical centers to fill quickly and easily, leaving many of the 2.4 million patients Planned Parenthood treats each year with no viable, comparable option for their health care.
And contrary to Walberg’s declaration, as has been explained to anti-choicers time and again, abortion accounts for only 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services.
Even if that number were higher, though, it would still be absurd to use it as some kind of proof of the nefariousness of Planned Parenthood. The organization provides abortions to those who need them; it would be callous to suggest there ought to be a cap on the number performed in a given year, simply to placate those who consider their personal sensibilities to be more important than the lives and needs of people who are pregnant but do not want to be.
But in the GOP’s never-ending yet plainly futile quest to eradicate abortion by wiping Planned Parenthood off the map, there is no room for things like facts, logic, or empathy.
Walberg himself proved this again Tuesday at another town hall event, when he responded to a request to explain his stance on Planned Parenthood by stating, “I’m pro-life. Planned Parenthood is pro-abortion.”
Again, the audience jeered and shouted him down, and continued to do so when he doubled down by claiming that the organization’s president, Cecile Richards, “had to admit,” while testifying before a congressional committee in 2015, that the majority of their work was abortions.
Richards said no such thing. While Planned Parenthood health centers do provide access to safe and legal abortion, the majority of their work is preventive care, such as birth control, cancer screenings, and STI testing and treatment.
But Walberg was not concerned with facts, saying, “The bottom line is: There is no reason we pay for an abortion entity to carry out their main function, and that being abortion.”
That ridiculous line not only drew more jeers, but one woman had plainly had enough, standing up and shouting, “This is not true! This is a lie, what he’s saying about Planned Parenthood,” before storming out of the room as Walberg looked on placidly and the crowd applauded her.
And she was right — federal funds do not pay for abortions — something even Walberg stated, in a confusing way, after another audience member mentioned it.
“As of now, there is not a single dollar that goes to pay for abortion,” he admitted. “Why? Because the Hatch Act is permanent, the Hyde Act [sic] is permanent. It’s there. But until Planned Parenthood evolves from being an abortion provider — the number one abortion provider in the nation, in fact in the world — it will not get — it’s legal, it’s legal. But the law says no funding goes to abortion providers.”
When the audience seemed puzzled by him seeming to refute his own statement, he shrugged and said, “You asked me to respond to where I stand on Planned Parenthood, so you just got it.”
What the audience “got” was lies and hyperbole — in other words, the typical anti-choice spiel.
It is unlikely that Republicans like Walberg, now with the damaging force of the Trump administration behind them, will ever back down from their dishonesty and heartlessness regarding Planned Parenthood in particular, and reproductive freedom more broadly.
But as the crowds at these town halls show, voters are getting pretty sick and tired of hearing the same baseless accusations from their members of Congress — and they may very well respond by making them ex-members of Congress the next time their names show up on a ballot.