The string of Planned Parenthood sting videos and their shocking revelations will "silence" pro-choice Democrats who are seeking to avoid electoral defeat and/or setbacks against abortion rights, Daily Beast writers Samantha Allen and Olivia Nuzzi argued in their July 30 piece, "Why Dems Don’t Want to Talk About Planned Parenthood."
"[T]he CMP videos have given pro-lifers plenty of gross-out pull quotes, leaving Democrats in the presidential race struggling to respond," Allen and Nuzzi lamented, going on to offer their readers a little history lesson from the Bill Clinton era and debates over partial-birth abortion:
Considering the history of abortion politics, the reason for this silence seems almost obvious: Democrats fear another 1996.
In 1996, the pro-life community was preparing for what would have been its first major legislative success since the Supreme Court legalized abortion 23 years earlier. President Clinton had vetoed a ban on so-called partial-birth abortion—referred to in the medical community as intact dilation and extraction (IDX), a controversial and now illegal procedure in which a fetus is removed intact by dilating a woman’s cervix—but the House had voted to override him, and Republicans expected the Senate would do the same.
The mood among pro-lifers was triumphant.
“It’s a huge victory,” Ralph Reed, then-director of the Christian Coalition, told The New York Times. “It’s the first time since Roe v. Wade that Congress is poised to outlaw an abortion procedure and the first time the pro-choice side has had to defend the indefensible.”
The Republican-controlled Senate ultimately failed to override Clinton’s veto, but the debate over “partial-birth” abortion had an immediate impact on American public opinion.
As Congress debated the “partial-birth” abortion ban, public support for legal abortion under all circumstances tumbled back down to 25 percent and, over the next few years, unqualified opposition to abortion crept upward again.
It wasn’t difficult to see why. A New York Times op-ed from September 1996 described the procedure in the most gruesome of terms: “[A] doctor pulls out the baby’s feet first, until the baby’s head is lodged in the birth canal. Then, the doctor forces scissors through the base of the baby’s skull, suctions out the brain, and crushes the skull to make extraction easier.”
[H]istory has shown that managing a heated public conversation on abortion is next to impossible. Before IDX procedures were made illegal, they were rare, accounting for about 0.2 percent of abortions performed in the year 2000, according to the Guttmacher Institute. But social conservatives latched onto the graphic details of the procedure until it became the epicenter of the abortion debate. Questions of its medical efficacy (many of the women who spoke to President Clinton ahead of his veto had the procedure because their lives were in danger) were largely obscured by detailed descriptions of suction and skull crushing.
Today’s Democratic candidates face a similar predicament: Talk openly about the practice of fetal tissue donation and risk sounding “ghoulish” by associating yourself with grisly medical imagery; refuse to address it and cede ground to abortion opponents who are determined to exploit this imagery to defund Planned Parenthood and pass stringent restrictions on abortion.
There's a third option for Democrats which doesn't seem to occur to Nuzzi and Allen and which would not require Democrats to become pro-lifers: end federal funding of Planned Parenthood. Being pro-choice needn't require federal taxpayer dollars to finance the abortion industry. Private citizens can still donate to Planned Parenthood and liberal-leaning states are perfectly free to donate to state-level Planned Parenthood affiliates.