Senator Chuck Jones (R-AL*) recently became a co-sponsor of a bill that would defund Planned Parenthood “once and for all” in the words of the Senator.
Long a rallying cry for conservatives, the goal to defund–that is, eliminate all federal funding for Planned Parenthood–is inspired by concerns about the morality of abortion, which is one of many procedures performed at Planned Parenthood clinics.
Federal funds cannot be explicitly used for funding abortion procedures under current law. However, critics of federal funding for Planned Parenthood note that funding is inherently fungible and can be used for many different purposes. Thus, the critics argue, so long as Planned Parenthood is still performing abortions, any federal funding that goes to the organization is ultimately indirectly supporting abortions–a notion that is appalling to many of Senator Jones’s more religious constituents.
The amount of the funding is less than $1 billion in one recent year, which is a trifle relative to the overall federal outlays of $3.85 trillion in FY 2016.
But for Senator Jones and his followers, it was never really about the money. At a monthly press briefing this week, Senator Jones was asked by reporters to explain his position, and he responded with a question of his own, “How can we force any of our citizens to pay for actions they find morally repugnant? Government should not be in the business of legislating morality–that’s why Planned Parenthood must be defunded.”
The Senator’s strong and forceful position on the topic represents an early effort to fulfill his campaign pledges from the past election. Senator Jones’s rhetoric during the campaign focused on key conservative issues of winning the War on Drugs and protecting the right to life (of unborn fetuses in the US).
At the press briefing, the Senator also took the opportunity to give an update on drug policy, noting that the Senate was nearing a landmark bipartisan agreement to increase funding for the Drug Enforcement Agency to “give them the tools they need to protect our children.”
While details on the new legislation were scarce, the discussion was consistent with his past rhetoric. Specifically, Senator Jones described the Drug War as a fight against the “forces intent on corrupting our youth with vile foreign intoxicants.”
In response to this description, one reporter mentioned that some people don’t view consuming drugs as corrupting or harmful. How might they feel about having their tax dollars spent to deprive peaceful drug-users of their liberty?
Recognizing the apparent contradiction, Senator Jones sought to clarify his earlier comments on the proper role of government policy, “Government should not legislate morality, unless it’s my morality.”
Senator Jones went on to say that virtually all of his Senate colleagues held similar views, and it had helped them find common ground on the most long-term legislative priorities for the upcoming session.
*Note that the Senator mentioned this piece is not a real person, and the quotes attributed to him are also fictional. The general information, including source links, provided regarding Planned Parenthood was all factual, however.