It seems nothing can stop the Donald Trump train. He brought Fox News to its knees. Attempts to shame him for his abuse of Megyn Kelly didn’t work. (Turns out that you can’t use women as a punching bag for years on end and then turn around and tell your base that misogyny is wrong.) Donald Trump is a right-wing Frankenstein’s monster: After years of conservative media encouraging their base to embrace trolling and the politics of resentment, their creation has turned on its masters.
But now Trump might be brought low by the one thing that can still harm a right-wing darling: stating a fact. “Let’s say there’s two Planned Parenthoods in a way. You have it as an abortion clinic,” Trump told Sean Hannity in an interview that aired Tuesday. “Now that’s actually a fairly small part of what they do, but it’s a brutal part, and I’m totally against it and I wouldn’t do that. They also, however, service women.”
“We have to help women,” he added. “We have to look at the positives.”
His framing of this issue is misleading, since abortions “service women.” But Trump is right that Planned Parenthood’s abortion services are separate from their other services—which he praised—when it comes to federal funding. Medicaid patients can use Planned Parenthood to obtain contraception, STI treatment, and well-woman screenings, but they have to pay for abortion out of pocket. Title X funding is used solely by Planned Parenthood to subsidize the cost of contraception and doctor visits for uninsured patients.
Trump is, in other words, right. Not about much, but definitely about this. So much so that Planned Parenthood spokesman Eric Ferrero told the Daily Beast, “Donald Trump seems to have realized that banning all abortions, shutting down the government, and defunding Planned Parenthood are extreme positions that are way too far outside the mainstream for even him to take.”
Lila Rose, whose group Live Action helped publicize the videos accusing Planned Parenthood of selling fetal tissue, released a response statement saying Planned Parenthood is an “abortion conglomerate that is totally unnecessary.” John Nolte at Breitbart argued that Planned Parenthood’s policy of offering subsidized contraception but charging full price for abortions is “a shell game to skirt the laws that make it illegal for federal taxpayer money to fund abortions.” Daniel Davis at Town Hall echoed this, arguing, “Each federal dollar that goes to Planned Parenthood indirectly supports and perpetuates the abortion industry.”
It’s not true. If you want an abortion at Planned Parenthood, you pay the cost yourself, either out of pocket or by billing a private insurance company. Taking away women’s $20 birth control pills will not change that. It will just make the birth control pills cost more.
Trump seems to get this, which is why he’s carefully backing the status quo, in which birth control is offered at a below-market price but abortions are not. Maybe affordable contraception has been the target of this right-wing assault on Planned Parenthood all along.