In a Morning Edition interview by host Steve Inskeep of Rep. Tim Scott, a freshman South Carolina Republican, the congressman used an interesting rhetorical tactic, one he is certainly not alone in using; he redefined abortion from being a social issue to a spending issue.
In a discussion about the spending agreement to fund the federal government for the remainder of the year, Steve asked Scott, who voted against the continuing resolution that avoided a government shutdown, why the big fight over taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood which, by federal law, can't use federal money to provide abortions in any event?
Scott's response was that the Planned Parenthood standoff really was about spending.
STEVE: Do you think it is appropriate for social issues or other kinds of issues to be involved in this larger debate over the budget and the economy?
SCOTT: It they're spending $300 plus million of taxpayer dollars, if it is a spending issue, all spending should be on the table. We're talking about military, we're talking about family and Planned Parenthood, we're talking about every other issue that comes to the table. If we can talk about police officers and fireman, why in the world would we not be able to talk about Planned Parenthood?
Steve invoked Indiana's Republican Gov. Mitch Daniel who has called for a "truce" on some social issues so Republicans could stay focused on fiscal issues.
Scott's response was that it was great that Republicans could disagree but he maintained that Planned Parenthood was a spending issue.
One reason for framing the issue this way is obvious. If abortion is a spending issue then it's not
While Scott seemed reluctant to go where Steve wanted to take him, other Republicans have been more willing to go there.
For instance, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), the anti-abortion congressman and leader in the House GOP for eliminating all funding to Planned Parenthood, told the Trentonian that he saw it his effort to zero out funding for the non-profit that provides women's health care, as a twofer.
An excerpt from a March 7, 2011 Trentonian story:
The conventional wisdom is that Republicans are forced to support either a budget that restricts abortions or a budget that cuts spending in areas unrelated to abortion.
Of course, the Republicans' "Pledge for America" says the new majority will do both. But negotiations over the federal budget threaten to force the GOP, including its 87 House freshmen, to choose between them.
Smith counters the conventional wisdom by saying that blocking funding for Planned Parenthood is an effective cut on federal spending, which means he can have his cake and eat it.
"There's no reason to be divided. These are twin objectives," Smith said, predicting many Republican freshmen opposed to abortion will vote with him.
The story goes on to cite a Republican freshman congressman from Arizona, Rep. David Scheikert who appeared to differ with Scott and Smith that abortion was a spending issue.
Freshman Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., isn't one of them. He opposes abortion. But he said he'd vote for a budget that lacks new restrictions on the procedure because current law already bans federal dollars from being used for most abortions. Banning taxpayer dollars from going to Planned Parenthood, he said, should be a battle for another day if it comes to a choice.
"If we're staying with that current policy, I think we'd still be safe," Schweikert said. "Because for me, it's substantially about the fiscal position" he took in last year's elections when it came to reining in the federal deficit.
That's an interesting division among anti-abortion House members. Some are willing to redefine their abortion as a spending fight. And some clearly aren't.