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Planned Parenthood funding debate meets California congressional races

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Sarah Weismer of Long Beach stands and chants along with Planned Parenthood supporters, staff and volunteers rallying on the Los Angeles City Hall steps to speak out for women’s access to reproductive healthcare on National Pink Out Day.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

With the congressional fight over Planned Parenthood dominating headlines around the country amid the threat of a government shutdown, California politicians are getting in on the action at the local level.

Some House Democrats who have had their seats targeted by the National Republican Congressional Committee as ripe for the taking are playing up their defense of the organization.

Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village), who is one of five at-risk Democratic incumbents getting fundraising and organizing help from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, blasted Republicans in an op-ed in the Ventura County Star last weekend.

“This obsession with taking away a woman’s constitutional right to make her own healthcare decisions has reached such a fever pitch that the Republicans in Congress are even threatening to shut down the federal government if they don’t get their way,” she wrote.

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Rep. Ami Bera (D-Elk Grove), who is a doctor, tweeted a photo of himself taking a woman’s blood pressure, emphasizing his support for Planned Parenthood and asking people to agree.

Rep. Scott Peters (D-San Diego) used his Twitter feed Tuesday to post a selfie showing off his pink tie for National #PinkOut Day, a Planned Parenthood-sponsored day of rallies around the country to support the organization.

In the Inland Empire, Republican Paul Chabot is using the secretly recorded videos of Planned Parenthood executives to rally his conservative supporters on Facebook and blast Rep. Pete Aguilar (D-Redlands) as he prepares for a rematch against the incumbent.

The controversy could help Chabot as he looks to court anti-Planned Parenthood voters willing to open their wallets to help make up a large fundraising gap in his attempt to unseat Aguilar, who beat him by about three percentage points in 2014.

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Chabot, who opposes abortion, said he would vote to remove all taxpayer funding for the practice and reallocate the money to pay for mammograms. (Actually, the government does not provide funding for abortions except in the case of rape, incest or to save the mother’s life.) But Chabot said he would not advocate shutting down the government to prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving funding.

“Would I push it to that level? The response is no,” said Chabot, a veteran. “I saw firsthand what happened with our military readiness during the last shutdown.”

Aguilar has responded by embracing his support for Planned Parenthood.

“Pete Aguilar is a fierce advocate for women’s reproductive rights. He’s a proud member of the Pro-Choice Caucus and has repeatedly fought back against House Republican attacks on women’s health,” said spokeswoman Sarah Weinstein.

The issue probably won’t cause serious revolts in the California districts held by vulnerable GOP representatives to which the NRCC is channeling extra donations through its Patriots Program.

Though Central Valley Republican Reps. Jeff Denham and David Valadao both voted to strip funding from Planned Parenthood, Republican strategist Mike Madrid predicted it probably will not cost them any votes.

“Valley-crats still are very conservative,” he said. “Democrats in the Central Valley are more conservative than Republicans on the coast.”

And though the issue is hot at the moment, it’s too early to know whether it will remain part of the political conversation by the state primary next year.

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“If we start to look at next June and next November, that is an eternity from now,” said Michael A. Moodian, a political scientist and instructor of leadership studies at Chapman University. “There will be other salient issues come June.”

Still, don’t expect Democrats to abandon the issue down the road.

A majority of Americans are opposed to cutting off federal funds to Planned Parenthood, according to two recent national polls by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center and the Wall Street Journal/NBC News.

“Republicans threatening to shut down our government over access to women’s healthcare is irresponsible and voters will hold them accountable for it,” said DCCC spokeswoman Barbara Solish. “Californians are tired of seeing Republican-manufactured crises get in the way of responsible governing.”

In the end, the three vulnerable California members targeted for protection in the NRCC program — Denham, Valadao and Rep. Stephen Knight (R-Palmdale) — got the message: they all crossed the party line in a 277-to-151 vote to keep the government funded at current levels through Dec. 11.

The majority GOP House members voted against it.

“Valley-crats still are very conservative,” he said. “Democrats in the Central Valley are more conservative than Republicans on the coast." 

And just because the issue is hot for the moment, it’s too early to know if it will remain part of the political conversation by the time of the state primary next year. 

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“If we start to look at next June and next November, that is an eternity from now,” said Michael A. Moodian, a political scientist and instructor of leadership studies at Chapman University. “There will be other salient issues come June.”

Still, don’t expect Democrats to abandon the issue down the road. 

A majority of Americans are opposed to cutting off federal funds to Planned Parenthood, according to two new national polls by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center and the Wall Street Journal/NBC News.  

“Republicans threatening to shut down our government over access to women’s healthcare is irresponsible and voters will hold them accountable for it,” said DCCC spokeswoman Barbara Solish. “Californians are tired of seeing Republican-manufactured crises get in the way of responsible governing.” 

In the end, the three vulnerable California members targeted for protection in the NRCC program — Denham, Valadao and Rep. Stephen Knight (R-Palmdale) — got the message: They all crossed the party line in a 277-151 vote to keep the government funded at current levels through Dec. 11.

The majority of GOP House members voted against it. 

Follow @jpanzar 

MORE ON PLANNED PARENTHOOD

Fiorina, pressed on Planned Parenthood, becomes even more extreme

Planned Parenthood chief takes on Republican critics in emotional hearing

The cost of defunding Planned Parenthood: Less healthcare for 650,000 women


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