House Speaker John Boehner’s sudden resignation, amidst a tense battle in Congress over Planned Parenthood funding, may come across as a decidedly moderate move — and cast him as an unexpected ally to the national women’s health organization.
His unexpected announcement appears to be the result of growing pressure from his fellow congressional Republicans to defund the women’s health organization during budget negotiations to avert a looming government shutdown. But Boehner indicated that he would rather compromise on Planned Parenthood funding than risk another shutdown under his watch. As a growing number of GOP lawmakers called for his removal, he stepped down.
The organization itself, which has been under fire for months thanks to a video campaign accusing its employees of selling aborted baby parts, applauded his work: “While John Boehner was never a champion of women’s health in this country, even he recognized that defunding Planned Parenthood wasn’t what the American people wanted,” said Dawn Laguens, Executive Vice President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, in a press release.
After a summer of heightened controversy over Planned Parenthood, does this signal good news for the organization?
Not quite. Many see the Speaker’s resignation a sign to more extreme GOP lawmakers that they have the ability to bully their way to power — which, in this case, could be cutting off women’s access to reproductive health care.
“This is not a win for women’s health,” said Kellie Copeland, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio. “At the state level, this will encourage the right-wing faction of voters to continue pushing against reproductive rights.”
For evidence of this push, look no further than Boehner’s home state, where access to reproductive health care is in crisis.
Ohio has the second fastest abortion clinic closure rate in the country (it follows Texas). But unlike Texas, Ohio has been shuttering its abortion clinics slowly — and largely under the radar — over the past few years, leaning on new laws and loopholes for validation.
Since 2011, seven of the state’s 16 abortion clinics have closed, and many are facing a similar fate. Currently, two Ohio abortion clinics are suing the state over newer, stricter laws that could force them to close without a fair hearing. “If both facilities must shut their doors, abortion services in Southwest Ohio will be virtually eliminated overnight,” the lawsuit reads.
There’s also the question of who will replace Boehner.
“Part of me is terrified,” said Stephanie Kight, CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Ohio. “While Boehner certainly wasn’t a leader for women’s health, he seemed to be open to sensible negotiations. But now what?”
Kight said she feared that whoever fills the Speaker’s seat will likely be tougher on progressive health care. Copeland agreed.
“This is a bad omen. If Boehner, already being as extreme as he is, is being pressured by even more extreme Republicans to the point of him having to step down, it’s trouble,” said Copeland. “These people are dangerous and reckless and are taking over the Republican party. And the health of millions of people are on the line.”