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The Terminators

McCain and other Republicans threaten to shut down government over Planned Parenthood.

Following the release of so-called "sting videos" in which anti-abortion activists posing as researchers attempted to lure Planned Parenthood officials into agreeing to sell rather than donate tissue and organs from aborted fetuses, Republicans have been on the warpath against the health-care provider.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood officials have denied that they sell tissue or organs from aborted fetuses, although Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards has apologized for the tone that Planned Parenthood doctors expressed in the undercover videos.

The U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate have announced multiple investigations into Planned Parenthood and members of Congress have threatened to shut down government over federal funding for Planned Parenthood. Federal law already prohibits the use of federal dollars for abortion; the funding now received by Planned Parenthood goes toward cancer screenings, birth-control services and STD treatment for women and men, many of them low-income.

Sen. John McCain is one of the lawmakers who want to shut down government over Planned Parenthood funding.

"I don't like a government shutdown," McCain told NPR earlier this month. "But this is a clear case of totally improper use of taxpayers' dollars. I have an obligation to the taxpayers of Arizona."

McCain, who has frequently voted to restrict abortion rights, has previously supported fetal-tissue research, which holds hope in curing diseases such as ALS, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease (which claimed the life of McCain's old friend, former Arizona congressman Mo Udall in 1998).

But next year, McCain is facing a challenge from conservative state lawmaker Kelli Ward. In the past, when facing conservative challenges, McCain has often moved to the right in an attempt to inoculate herself against attacks, as he did when he promised to "build the dang fence" in campaign ads during his 2010 reelection campaign.

Congresswoman Ann Kirkpatrick (D-CD1), who hopes to challenge McCain next year, said that it was "completely unacceptable that out-of-touch Washington politicians, including Sen. John McCain, would attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, which provides vital preventative medical care to thousands of women in our state."

Kirkpatrick denounced "threats of another disastrous government shutdown over this, which would put local jobs at risk and cost our state's economy millions of dollars. It's time to focus on putting Arizonans back to work, not attacking their health care providers."

Unlike McCain, Congresswoman Martha McSally (R-CD2) has been more low-key in her reaction. She supports House committee investigations into whether Planned Parenthood affiliates have been profiting from tissue-donation programs and says she will "consider all these factors and recent court rulings when reviewing any potential legislation that comes to the floor of the House on this topic."

Earlier this year, McSally voted in favor of legislation that would have banned abortion past the 20-week mark except in cases of rape, incest or when the mother's life is endangered because she "believes in the dignity of life while ensuring protections for women," according to spokesman Patrick Ptak.

But when asked whether funding for Planned Parenthood should be cut off entirely, Ptak said McSally hadn't yet made a decision on that front. He told the Weekly that McSally "recognizes the importance of ensuring low-income men and women have access to affordable and available health care services. She has consistently supported Title X funding and stated its importance in providing preventative care, birth control, and other health services and avoiding millions of unintended pregnancies and possible abortions. She believes we need to make sure these funds are going to health centers that can provide this care and that these services are available to those who need them."

Ptak said that McSally supports current laws regulating how fetal organs can be being used for research.

Two Democrats who want to challenge McSally next year said they supported Planned Parenthood and fetal tissue research.

State lawmaker Victoria Steele said called the controversy over Planned Parenthood "a distraction from the real issues of jobs and the economy."

"Millions of women and men depend on Planned Parenthood for safe and professional medical care," Steele said. "If Congress defunds them, millions of people will lose access to free or affordable birth control, cancer screenings and basic preventive care."

Local physician and former state lawmaker Matt Heinz, who announced his plan to challenge McSally last month, said that it was "ridiculous" that GOP lawmakers were threatening to shut down government over Planned Parenthood funding.

"Most of Planned Parenthood's resources go toward contraception and STD testing and treatment, and furthermore, Planned Parenthood performed more than 865,700 life-saving women's cancer screenings last year," Heinz said.

Congressman Raul Grijalva (D-CD3) was the most vocal defender of Planned Parenthood, blasting the push to defund Planned Parenthood as "yet another attempt by the GOP to stand in between women and medical decisions pertaining to their very own bodies."

"The slow drip release of out-of-context videos that Republicans point to with feigned outrage smacks of a political hit job," Grijalva added. "Planned Parenthood provides a wide range of health services for women and families, including cervical and breast cancer screenings, and primary care services. It is time for the GOP—and their crony undercover 'investigators'—to recognize that Roe v. Wade is law of the land; that women have the right to determine what is best for themselves and their bodies; and that these schemes to undermine that Constitutionally protected right are deplorable and beneath the dignity of our national discourse."

Despite the release of the sting videos, Planned Parenthood remains more popular than Congress. An NBC/Wall Street Journal poll of 1,000 adults conducted July 26-30 showed that 46 percent had a favorable view of Planned Parenthood, while 30 percent had a negative view, which was a higher rating than the U.S. Supreme Court, any of the 2016 candidates for the presidency, the Democratic Party or the Republican Party. The poll's margin of error was +/- 3.1 percent.

Zona Politics with Jim Nintzel airs at 8 a.m. Sunday, July 26, on KWBA, Channel 8 on Cox and Comcast systems and Channel 58 on broadcast, Dish and DirecTV. This week's guests are Pima County Democratic Party Chair Cheryl Cage and Pima County Republican Party Chair Bill Beard.

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