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GOP Candidates Use ‘Defund Planned Parenthood’ Rally Cry at Conservative Summit

Sofia Resnick

Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, and Rick Santorum called to strip Planned Parenthood of all funding at the annual Values Voter Summit.

Click here for all our coverage of the 2015 Values Voter Summit.

Socially conservative Americans began booing at the word “clean.”

As he introduced Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) to the stage on the first day of this year’s Values Voter Summit—a national conservative convention held annually in Washington, D.C.—Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) lamented that the government will likely continue to fund Planned Parenthood.

Division in the House of Representatives over whether to continue funding the health-care network, which is under investigation by GOP legislators because of deceptively edited videos released by an anti-choice front group, has threatened to shut down the government.

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But a shutdown now seems unlikely, following House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-OH) bombshell announcement that he will resign from the House. Bridenstine told the hundreds of “values voters” that based on talks this morning, the House is on track to pass a “clean” spending bill—known as a continuing resolution, or CR—that funds Planned Parenthood for non-abortion-related services.

The crowd’s boos shifted to wild cheers as Bridenstine argued that Boehner’s resignation opens the door to a more socially conservative House leader, someone like presidential candidate Cruz.

“[Cruz] has been exposing the fact that Republicans over and over again were continuing to fund things with CRs that are antithetical to the beliefs of the people in this very room,” Bridenstine said. “There are people running for president right now who say we need to defund Planned Parenthood. I will tell you Senator Cruz was saying that in 2013. Where were their voices when they were not running for president?”

Indeed, defunding Planned Parenthood has been a major talking point at this year’s Values Voter Summit. GOP presidential candidates Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum—along with Cruz—called to strip Planned Parenthood of all funding. Cruz promised that if elected president, on his first day in office he would ask the U.S. Department of Justice to “open an investigation into Planned Parenthood and these horrible videos.”

Several states and congressional committees have investigated claims made by the Center for Medical Progress that Planned Parenthood is illegally profiting from aborted fetal tissue and performing banned abortion procedures. None of these investigations have uncovered any wrongdoing.

That did not stop Santorum from declaring that Planned Parenthood is performing a type of abortion procedure called dilation and extraction, or D and X. More than a decade ago, abortion opponents in Congress dubbed this procedure “partial-birth abortion.” Santorum, as a U.S. Senator in the early 2000s, led the measure banning this type of abortion, a ban that was upheld in a landmark 2007 U.S. Supreme Court decision.

Santorum based his accusation that Planned Parenthood is breaking the law on his own viewing of the videos, as well as his authority on so-called partial-birth abortion. He said this procedure was one the causes of his ardent opposition to abortion access.

“I came to Washington, D.C., and I’ll have to be honest with you … I was pro-life, but I wasn’t a pro-life warrior,” he said. “It was only in a situation that’s similar to what’s happening here with Planned Parenthood, when we were made aware of this issue called partial-birth abortion, this horrific procedure.”

Of course, Santorum has long called for the criminalization of all abortions.

“We are never going to be blessed by God if we’re a country that kills our children in the womb,” he said.

Calls to defund Planned Parenthood continued throughout the afternoon to abundant applause, despite little likelihood this will happen this year.

The Senate on Thursday blocked a bill that would have defunded Planned Parenthood for one year.

Presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) scorned these declarations to defund Planned Parenthood, arguing that even if Congress were successful in this endeavor, it would not be enough in the cause to end legal abortion.

To “cut out the funding for one agency that provides abortion,” Huckabee said, “does not end the nightmare, the scourge [of abortion] …. As president of the United States, I will raise this question, ‘Is the unborn child a person or is it just a blob of tissue?’”

Audience-goers rose to their feet when Huckabee answered his own question—“It is a person”—and professed that the Fifth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution already recognizes fetuses as persons with full rights.

Of all the GOP presidential candidates to address the Values Voter Summit on Friday, only Donald Trump and Ben Carson did not mention the words “abortion” or “Planned Parenthood” during their speeches.

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