Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, in need of a boost for his presidential campaign, is launching an attempt to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood by amending a multi-year highway bill.
Paul said he introduced an amendment Wednesday seeking to eliminate nearly $500 million in funding for Planned Parenthood. He cited undercover video that appears to show officials from the organization, at times in graphic terms, discussing the methods and price of providing fetal tissue from abortions.
Planned Parenthood, which provides health services including abortions, says it “follows all laws and ethical guidelines,” and that the costs are for transportation and delivery of fetal tissue donations from women to medical research. The organization says it does not make any profit from it.
One of Paul’s rivals for the Republican nomination for president, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, also is talking about pushing an amendment to defund Planned Parenthood. It’s questionable whether such an amendment could pass without sinking the entire highway bill, or even if it will come up for a vote.
But the multi-year bill making investments in the nation’s highways is a tempting target because it has a deadline of the end of the month and is a chance for senators running for president to make a political statement before the August congressional recess and the first presidential debate.
Paul, who has been running what he calls a “Libertarian-ish” campaign focusing on personal freedom and the right to privacy, has previously downplayed the issue of abortion.
Asked at a Philadelphia campaign stop in May whether he would highlight the issue, Paul replied that he “didn’t run for office because of the social issues.”
But he said Wednesday that “the continued disregard and disrespect for human life at Planned Parenthood, a partially taxpayer-funded organization, is shocking and appalling.”
Paul could use the support of Christian evangelicals for his campaign, who have an outsized influence in the Republican caucus in the key early voting state of Iowa.
Polls show Paul has been stuck in the middle of the pack among the crowded Republican field in recent months, while Donald Trump has surged into the lead with inflammatory statements and constant media attention.
Paul’s $7 million in second quarter fundraising, while heavy on small donations that are indication of grassroots support, is behind that of Republican rivals Cruz, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Ben Carson.
Paul, just like he did with his opposition to renewal of the Patriot Act, is launching a fundraising appeal tied to his promise to seek a vote on defunding Planned Parenthood.