Planned Parenthood and judicial sparks fly at latest GOP debate

Abortion got a few mentions during Thursday night’s CNN-Telemundo debate between the Republican presidential candidates, though for the most part it simply reiterated ground that had been repeatedly visited in previous debates.

Marco Rubio hit Donald Trump for his repeated defenses of Planned Parenthood for doing “wonderful things” when they’re not busy killing babies:

Now, if he’s changed, we’re always looking for converts into the conservative movement. But the bottom line is that, you don’t have a record there to look at and say, “I feel at peace that when Donald Trump is president of the United States, he’s going to be firmly on our side on these issues.” In fact, very recently, he was still defending Planned Parenthood.

Trump responded:

As far as Planned Parenthood is concerned, I’m pro-life. I’m totally against abortion, having to do with Planned Parenthood. But millions and millions of women — cervical cancer, breast cancer — are helped by Planned Parenthood. So you can say whatever you want, but they have millions of women going through Planned Parenthood that are helped greatly. And I wouldn’t fund it. I would defund it because of the abortion factor, which they say is 3 percent. I don’t know what percentage it is. They say it’s 3 percent. But I would defund it, because I’m pro-life. But millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood.

Every time Trump repeats this, it gets a little more surreal. When he first stumbled into this minefield last fall, he backpedaled and left it at that. But now, while he’s at least explicitly endorsed full defunding, he still goes out of his way to praise Planned Parenthood for their supposed good deeds—and do so in terms extravagant enough that Cecile Richards goes on TV to thank him.

Trump has someone in his campaign knowledgeable enough to give him things like Bill Pryor’s name as a potential judicial nominee, but not on how Planned Parenthood’s “wonderful” services have been steadily declining over the years while their abortions increase? That they don’t do mammograms? That it’s wildly tone-deaf to praise an evil organization for the tiny sliver of good it does on the side?

Trump also brought up his now-discarded suggestion that might put his sister, Third Circuit Judge Maryanne Trump Barry, despite her ruling to uphold partial-birth abortion:

It’s wonderful to stand up for two days and do that. Now, Ted’s been very critical — I have a sister who’s a brilliant… excuse me. She’s a brilliant judge. He’s been criticizing — he’s been criticizing my sister for signing a certain bill. You know who else signed that bill? Justice Samuel Alito, a very conservative member of the Supreme Court, with my sister, signed that bill. So I think that maybe we should get a little bit of an apology from Ted.

While judges obviously do not “sign bills,” Alito did write a concurring opinion in that case, reaching the same conclusion to overturn the ban. However, it’s worth noting that Alito’s opinion was somewhat different (it actually opens with the words, “I do not join Judge Barry’s opinion”)—she opposed the ban on the “merits” and explicitly sought to protect Roe v. Wade, while he merely argued the court was bound by the most recent Supreme Court precedent (namely Stenberg v. Carhart). In any event, Alito making the wrong decision does not translate to Barry making the right one.

Finally, Ted Cruz pledged twice to hold Planned Parenthood accountable for their fetal organ trafficking crimes, the first time contrasting himself with Trump and the second making it a main point of his closing statement:

You know, this is another issue on which Donald and I have sharp disagreements. On Planned Parenthood, he thinks Planned Parenthood is wonderful. I would instruct the Department of Justice to investigate them and prosecute any and all criminal violations […] If I’m elected president, on the first day in office I will rescind every single illegal and unconstitutional executive action. I will instruct the Department of Justice to open an investigation into Planned Parenthood and prosecute any criminal violations.

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