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What 'defunding' Planned Parenthood means

<p>Republican insider Ed Gillespie, serving in his new capacity as a Romney campaign advisor and surrogate, appeared on "Fox News Sunday&amp
Romney surrogate Ed Gillespie on \"Fox News Sunday\"
Romney surrogate Ed Gillespie on \"Fox News Sunday\"

Republican insider Ed Gillespie, serving in his new capacity as a Romney campaign advisor and surrogate, appeared on "Fox News Sunday" yesterday, and made some interesting comments about women's issues.

Most of the exchange was fairly predictable -- Gillespie defended a foolish lie, for example -- but note the campaign surrogate's response when host Chris Wallace asked about Mitt Romney's plan to "get rid of" all federal aid to Planned Parenthood.

"Federal funding of abortion is not a noble thing to do. And so, defunding from a federal budget perspective of Planned Parenthood is not the same thing. [...]"[I]t's not fair to say not having federal funding for Planned Parenthood is defunding Planned Parenthood."

First, as Gillespie probably knows, federal funding of abortion is already prohibited under the law. The Romney surrogate may find political value in misleading Fox viewers, but Planned Parenthood has traditionally enjoyed broad bipartisan support from the left, right, and center -- before the more recent radicalization of the Republican Party -- in part because of the fact tax dollars are not used to terminate unwanted pregnancies.

Second, I'm fascinated by this notion that there's a distinction, from the Romney campaign's perspective, between taking away funding and "defunding." If I'm not mistaken, this is an entirely new level or rhetorical parsing -- Romney doesn't want to defund the women's health care organization; he simply wants to eliminate its funding. This is supposed to make sense.

As Gillespie sees it, Planned Parenthood will have some funding if/when a Romney administration takes away all of its federal assistance, so calling this "defunding" is "not fair."

For the record, Romney wants to eliminate all tax-dollar aid to Planned Parenthood and end funding for Title X altogether. Gillespie's creative spin notwithstanding, such a move would prevent countless American women from receiving necessary health care services.

The Romney campaign is right when it says the "get rid of" line is generally taken out of context -- the former governor said he'd "get rid of " Planned Parenthood, but in context, he was talking about scrapping public aid. But the phrase that keeps coming to mind is "distinction without a difference" -- if Republican policymakers end all public assistance for the group, Planned Parenthood as we know it will almost certainly cease to be.