A controversial video is roiling the abortion debate, and Republicans are trying to pounce

Mike HuckabeeAPIn this April 18, 2015 file photo, former Arkansas Republican Gov. Mike Huckabee speaks at the Republican Leadership Summit in Nashua, N.H.

Republicans are wading back into the abortion debate, on the heels of a controversial video that shows a discussion of using tissue from aborted fetuses. 

Earlier this week, a video the group charges was heavily edited surfaced. It featured a Planned Parenthood doctor appearing to explain how the health-services organisation collects tissue from aborted fetuses for medical-research purposes.

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards apologised for the tone of the doctor in the video on Thursday, but said that it does not make money off aborted fetal tissue.

But the video sparked immediate outrage on the right, with Republican leaders vowing to investigate the organisation and Republican presidential candidates quick to call for more restrictions on abortion.

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) tweeted that America needs to “foster a culture of life.”


NOLA notes that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) called for a state investigation into Planned Parenthood clinics operating in his home state, and is attempting to block a new clinic from opening until the investigation is complete.

And in a statement to Breitbart on Wednesday, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) railed against Planned Parenthood as a whole.

“Planned Parenthood has proven to be a repulsive, revolting, stomach-churning enterprise that should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” Huckabee told Breitbart.

“What makes America unique is our respect and sanctity of the value of every single human being,” Huckabee added. “Planned Parenthood does not represent these values and deprives millions of children of their God-given right to life and liberty.”

And anti-abortion gears are spinning again in Congress. 

The day after the video was released, House Speaker John Boehner called for an investigation, along with other party leaders in the chamber. Politico reports that party leaders are also planning to push several pieces of anti-abortion legislation, including de-funding Planned Parenthood.

Senate Republicans are also hoping that outrage over the Planned Parenthood video will give them momentum to push a 20-week abortion ban bill similar to the one that passed the House earlier this year. Presidential candidate and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) said Friday that he would use “every legislative vehicle” possible to get a vote on his amendment to strip Planned Parenthood of funding.

“This agency deserves our scorn not our tax dollars. I plan to do whatever I can to stop them,” Paul said.

The GOP looks to be hoping that outcry over the video may be a successful way into an abortion debate that’s proven precarious for the party in recent years. 

The challenge for Republican candidates is that while the vast majority of Republicans generally oppose abortion, it remains a controversial issue that a majority of Americans tentatively favour. But as The Washington Post notes, the 20-week-abortion ban is actually supported by the majority of Americans, presenting a narrow lane for Republicans to pursue anti-abortion policies that are popular. 

But recent history shows when Republicans start talking about abortion, they get into trouble. 

Clumsy, false statements about abortion helped sink several major Republican candidates in 2012. Then-Senate candidate Todd Akin’s infamous comments about “legitimate rape” put many Republican candidates on the defensive  — former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R) was forced to denounce Akin multiple times following the stumble.

The statements also played into the “war-on-women” narrative pushed by Democrats in 2012. Female voters disproportionately voted for President Barack Obama in 2012, helping him win reelection.

And Republicans have already run into trouble trying to pass anti-abortion legislation this year.

In January, congressional Republicans were forced to withdraw and revise a 20-week-abortion ban bill after opposition from women in their own caucus over a controversial provision that would have restricted abortions for rape victims. 

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