The XX Factor

In the End, Maybe John Boehner Just Didn’t Love Fetuses Enough

John Boehner, soon-to-be-former Speaker of the House.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

At the end of October, John Boehner will resign from Congress. The dominant theory is that far-right conservatives pressured him to leave over his unwillingness to shut down the government over Planned Parenthood funding. Dead babies, a dead career, plus the pope—no wonder the guy was so emotional Thursday morning.

Boehner is not a fair-weather pro-lifer by any means. As the New York Times reports, his record is as fetus-fixated as any:

In one of his first moves as speaker, Mr. Boehner fought to end funding for abortions in the District of Columbia against a reluctant White House in the first near-shutdown standoff. He played a major role in forging the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, which the House passed this year, and has a 100 percent anti-abortion voting record.

But in recent weeks, the speaker of the House has rankled his erstwhile allies with what they consider a lack of resolve. Back in 2011, too, he refused to put the country’s basic government functions on the chopping block to make a symbolic stand against Planned Parenthood. “The goal here again is to cut spending and keep the government open,” he told the Christian Broadcasting Network. “ … What we want to do here is win the war not just win a battle and there will be an opportunity sometime in order to win the big war and we’re looking for that opportunity.”

In his statements about the recent leaked, heavily manipulated videos that claimed to show Planned Parenthood selling baby parts, Boehner has tried to be both a fierce advocate for forced-birth politics and a smart, rational legislator. “I could talk about the video but I think I’d vomit trying to talk about it. It’s disgusting,” he said at a press conference. He called on President Obama and Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell to denounce Planned Parenthood’s supposed dead-baby market, but proposed a measured way forward. “I want the committees to do their investigation. I want them to do their hearings. And, once they have, then we’ll decide what’s the proper course of action.”

But if Boehner truly believes that Planned Parenthood is killing babies and selling their body parts, that abortion is a genocide sweeping our nation, why wouldn’t he sacrifice the functioning of the U.S. government to stop it? “When an organization monetizes an unborn child—and with the cavalier attitude portrayed in this horrific video—we must all act,” he said in a written statement. In the mind of a ride-or-die pro-lifer, that kind of talk, without the government shutdown to back it up, rings false, and rightfully so.

It’s kind of sad, actually, that a legislator can do everything right by the anti-choice lobby short of the nuclear option and still not be radical enough to keep his job. Even if shutting down the U.S. government bullied the rest of Congress into surrendering on Planned Parenthood, cutting its funding wouldn’t even directly affect its ability to perform abortions—the organization only uses federal funds for its nonabortion services, such as contraception, HIV testing, and cancer screenings.

Who loves fetuses enough to take Boehner’s place? House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California, one of Boehner’s potential successors, was an original co-sponsor of the 2011 No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act, so that’s nice. But he appears to share Boehner’s wariness about a government shutdown. The cool thing about Congress is that members of the House can vote for anyone—politician, private citizen, whomever—to take up the gavel. Our vote is for Lila Rose, pro-life pop star and persistent purveyor of abortion sting videos, as the safest choice.