Chairman of the Republican National Committee Reince Priebus speaks in Boston on July 31, 2014.
Steven Senne/AP

Fact check: GOP chair’s abortion flub

Updated

If Republicans are so confident in their positions on abortion and contraception, why do they keep shying away from discussing them – or changing the subject to something different altogether? Nowhere was this clearer than in a recent interview by the head of the Republican National Committee. 

On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Sunday, host Chuck Todd asked RNC Chair Reince Priebus about his agenda, and then followed up with, “One of the things in here that you didn’t mention, there’s a lot of social issues. Why was that?” He added, “It seems like you’re nervous about it. Are social issues working against you guys?”

Then Todd got even more pointed, bringing up the recent court decision allowing a Texas abortion law to go into effect, closing 13 more of that state’s clinics. “You don’t like a lot of regulation on businesses, except if the business is a abortion clinic,” Todd said. 

Priebus replied, “Well, you obviously have to talk to someone in Texas. But the fact of the matter is that we believe that any woman that’s faced with an unplanned pregnancy deserves compassion, respect, counseling, whatever it is that we can offer to be …”

Todd cut in, “But 80% of those clinics are gone. It’s something that they have to drive 200 or 300 miles for that compassion?” 

That’s when Priebus either veered wildly off topic or outright misrepresented the law, depending on how you read it. “No, look, listen Chuck. The issue for us is only one thing,” he said. “And that’s whether you ought to use taxpayer money to fund abortion.”

This is a complete non-sequitur. It has nothing to do with the Texas law, which requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at local hospitals, convert their buildings to mini-hospitals, and use a less-safe protocol for emergency contraception, as well as banning abortion after 20 weeks. As for taxpayer funding for abortion, it has been barred under the federal Hyde Amendment since 1976, except for in cases of rape and incest. Some states provide their own Medicaid funding for the procedure, but Texas follows the Hyde standard. The law in question did nothing to change that. 

It is also completely inaccurate to say that for Republicans, either nationally or in the states, “the issue for us is only one thing.” Is that why the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives has since 2011 passed a bill defunding Planned Parenthood’s contraceptive funding on the grounds that it also provides abortions (without federal funds) and a federal ban on abortions after 20 weeks?  Is that why the Republican takeovers of statehouses across the country meant more abortion restrictions in three years than in the entire previous decade, the vast majority of which had nothing to with undoing what tangential public funding is still left?  

Priebus didn’t comment on that. 

Abortion, Reince Priebus and Republican Party

Fact check: GOP chair's abortion flub

Updated