Planned Parenthood is firing back at conservative lawmakers who want to defund the health care provider, starting with an ad campaign targeting four vulnerable Republican senators running for reelection next year.
Announced Tuesday, the ads will air in the home states of Sens. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), and Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), all of whom voted earlier this month to advance legislation that would strip Planned Parenthood of its annual government subsidy—and have since threatened to shut down the government in order to keep the reproductive health organization from getting its funding.
Those lawmakers say the attempted financial blockade is a response to recently released videos showing Planned Parenthood officials speaking candidly about the use of fetal tissue and organs for scientific research, but the organization says that nothing discussed in the footage is illegal, and charged conservatives with using the scandal as a mask for their anti-choice agenda.
"First Pat Toomey voted to defund Planned Parenthood—risking healthcare for millions of women," the Pennsylvania ad narrates. "Now Republicans want to shut down the government—to block funding for Planned Parenthood. What would a shutdown mean for Pennsylvania?"
In an interview with Politico, Planned Parenthood Action Fund president Dawn Laguens said the country's current political environment is the biggest challenge to the organization since the Roe v. Wade ruling of 1973.
"It is a serious and obviously coordinated attack to get rid of abortion in this country, to re-criminalize abortion in this country, to destroy Planned Parenthood because Planned Parenthood stands up for women’s rights, freedom and ability to access care that women and their doctors decide they need," she said.
The Hill reports:
Planned Parenthood is looking to emphasize the possibility of a Republican-led government shutdown, which it thinks would be deeply unpopular with voters.
Planned Parenthood points to a poll it commissioned from the Democratic firm Hart Research that showed about two-thirds of voters in Ohio, Pennsylvania and New Hampshire saying they would be less likely to support their Republican incumbent senators if they supported the defunding effort.
Threats from Capitol Hill to cut off financial aid to Planned Parenthood are nothing new. But the fervor surrounding the videos has seen an escalation of that effort at both the state and federal levels.
With Congress in recess for the summer, lawmakers in red states are looking at varying avenues to block Planned Parenthood's funding. Arkansas ended its contract with the organization for services to residents with low-income health insurance from Medicaid. Louisiana, Utah, New Hampshire, and Alabama have all made similar moves, although those actions would not go into effect until Congress returns to session in September, pending an appeal period.
Meanwhile, states including Florida, Texas, Missouri, Kansas, Ohio, and South Carolina launched investigations into their chapters of Planned Parenthood to ensure that the organizations were operating in compliance with state laws. On Monday, investigators in those states and others announced that all Planned Parenthood affiliates were operating legally.
Laguens said after that announcement that the findings expose what's really behind the defunding push. "This campaign by anti-abortion extremists is nothing less than a fraud, intended to deceive the public with patently false claims in order to pursue an extreme political agenda," Laguens said.
Planned Parenthood receives roughly $540 million from the government annually. None of that money is used for abortions.
This story was originally published on Common Dreams.