Planned Parenthood doesn't have many friends in the Republican Party: House Republicans have tried to strip it of any federal funding, and several GOP-controlled state governments have approved bans on all state support for the women's health group, because it performs abortions. (The procedure makes up 3 percent of Planned Parenthood's services.) But then there's freshman Rep. Robert Dold (R-Ill.), who not only wants Planned Parenthood to keep its funding, but also just introduced a bill that would prevent agencies and governments from denying it family-planning dollars just because it offers abortion services. Here's a look at Dold's plan to "save" Planned Parenthood:
What's Dold's deal?
Dold represents a suburb of Chicago that's pretty liberal socially, and even before bucking his party on Planned Parenthood, he was already "something of a unicorn" on Capitol Hill, says Kate Nocera at Politico: "He's a pro-choice Republican." He was one of just seven House Republicans to vote against last year's measure to strip all federal Title X family-planning money from Planned Parenthood, and the only one to "stand up and speak out against defunding" the bill, as he tells Politico.
What would his bill do?
Dold says his Protecting Women's Access to Health Care Act would ensure that "when it comes to participation in the Title X program, health care providers such as hospitals and health care clinics, including Planned Parenthood, cannot be discriminated against and excluded simply because they choose to offer additional services, separate from Title X." Under federal law, taxpayer dollars can't pay for abortions, but many conservatives argue that when Planned Parenthood gets federal funding to perform breast exams, pap smears, and contraceptive services, that frees up money it can use to perform abortions.
Will lawmakers actually approve it?
In making his pitch to reporters Wednesday, Dold says he hopes to "bring both sides together" to support women's health, but "this is sure to be a daunting task," says Laura Bassett at The Huffington Post. Republicans are pretty solidly against Planned Parenthood, and they control the House. Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), who has launched an investigation into Planned Parenthood's use of federal funding, pointedly asks Politico, "I wonder how many Republican co-sponsors he'll get."
What other reactions is Dold getting?
Obviously his "decision to stand with the abortion business is already drawing fire from pro-life advocates," says Steven Ertelt at LifeNews. And equally predictable: Dold is getting "kudos" from pro-abortion rights advocates and people who appreciate a good maverick. But mixed in among it all is a healthy dash of bewilderment. A pro–Planned Parenthood Republican? — "cryptozoologists around the world are buzzing with excitement over the discovery of a thought-to-be extinct creature," says Erin Gloria Ryan at Jezebel.
Is Dold hurting the GOP brand?
His remarks, and the nature of the bill itself, do "implicitly rebuke his party's leadership and the conservative base," says Sahil Kapur at Talking Points Memo. But this "also has a political upside for the GOP." President Obama and the Democrats are cleaning the party's clock among women voters, and "Dold's legislation, even if it's not taken up by GOP leaders, could help soften the party's image among women."
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- The mystery behind China's aggressive push into space
- Yes, Republicans can impeach President Obama
- Here's the schedule very successful people follow every day
- What religious traditionalists can teach us about sex
- The 5 best and worst states for a well-lived life
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why Texas' abortion rates aren't falling as quickly as everyone expected
- Why all drugs should be legal. (Yes, even heroin.)
- The 6 best low-cost smartphones
- 7 ideas from ancient thinkers that will improve your modern life
Subscribe to the Week