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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Cruz Distorts Trump’s Position

Sen. Ted Cruz mischaracterized Donald Trump’s position on Planned Parenthood, claiming that both Trump and Hillary Clinton “support taxpayer funding for it.”

In August 2015, Trump suggested he might be open to federally funding portions of Planned Parenthood unrelated to abortion, but since then he has been clear in saying he supports entirely defunding Planned Parenthood until it stops performing abortions.

Cruz, who trails Trump in the race for the Republican nomination for president, appeared on all five major Sunday shows on May 1 — what’s known in the business as a “full Ginsburg” because Southern California attorney William H. Ginsburg was the first to pull off the feat in 1998 — and on three of them, Cruz made the same claim about Trump and Democratic front-runner Clinton both supporting taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood. In December, Congress passed a spending bill that again included about $500 million in Medicaid reimbursements to Planned Parenthood for health services to low-income people, as well as Title X payments to provide family planning services.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” Cruz argued that Clinton and Trump are “flip sides of the same coin.” As an example, he said, “Donald and Hillary both support taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood.”

Cruz parroted the same lines on CBS’ “Face the Nation,” portraying Clinton and Trump as “rich New York liberals,” and adding that, “Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton agree they think Planned Parenthood is wonderful. They both support taxpayer funding for it.”

And on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Cruz said Trump can’t criticize Clinton on Planned Parenthood, “because he agrees with her. They both say it’s terrific and — and that it should keep taxpayer funding.”

Asked for backup, the Cruz campaign provided a link to a Conservative Review “fact check” on Trump’s alleged support for Planned Parenthood funding. The Feb. 13 article cites two statements from Trump. The first is one Trump made in an Aug. 11, 2015, interview with Chris Cuomo on CNN. The statement suggests Trump might be open to federal funding for portions of Planned Parenthood unrelated to its abortion services.

Cuomo asked if Trump thinks “Planned Parenthood should be funded because of all of the health care that it provides outside of abortions to women, especially women of low means.”

Trump, Aug. 11, 2015: Well, the biggest problem I have with Planned Parenthood is the abortion situation. It’s like an abortion factory frankly. You can’t have it and it shouldn’t be funding and that should not be funded by the government. I feel strongly about that.

That’s my biggest problem with Planned Parenthood because it really — if you look at it and you look at the work they do, it really has become so heavily centered on abortion. You can’t have that.

Cuomo: They say it’s only 3 percent of what they do and the money that does go toward abortions is not the money that comes from the federal government. That they separate —

Trump: What I would do is look at the individual things that they do and maybe some of the things are good, I know a lot of things are bad. But certainly the abortion aspect of it should not be funded by government.

Cuomo: So you would take a look at it before you defund it. That’s what is being asked for right now. Many in your party are doing the opposite. They are saying defund it and then look at it. You’d say look at it first.

Trump: I would look at the good aspects of it. I would also look as I’m sure they do some things properly and good and good for women. I would look at that. I would look at other aspects also, but we have to take care of women. We have to absolutely take care of women. The abortion aspect of Planned Parenthood should not be funded.

The Conservative Review article also cites an interview Trump gave to Sean Hannity on Fox News the following day in which Trump said Planned Parenthood does “good things” apart from abortion services. But Trump had more to say than that, and in fact, foreshadowed his position since then.

Trump, Aug. 12, 2015: Let’s say there’s two Planned Parenthoods in a way. You have it as an abortion clinic. 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. … A lot of women are helped. So we have to look at the positives also for Planned Parenthood.

Hannity: But if they are doing abortions, then they can allocate other resources to other things. Why should the taxpayers pay for an organization that …

Trump: Maybe unless they stop with the abortions, we don’t do the funding for the stuff that we want.

That “maybe” became a more definitive campaign position in the following months.

In an interview on “Fox News Sunday” on Oct. 18, 2015, Trump said, “But Planned Parenthood should absolutely be defunded. I mean if you look at what’s going on with that, it’s terrible.”

In an interview on Fox News on Feb. 18, Sean Hannity asked Trump about federal funding for Planned Parenthood, and Trump responded, “I said defund. I didn’t say pay. I said I have a lot of respect for some of the things they do, the cervical cancer on women. They do many, many good things. I know many women …

So, Hannity asked, “no taxpayer money”?

“No,” Trump said, “not while they do abortions. I made that clear.”

On NBC’s “Meet the Press” on Feb. 21, Trump again praised Planned Parenthood for doing “some very good work. Cervical cancer, lots of women’s issues, women’s health issues are taken care of.” But he said as long as it provides abortion services, it should not get any federal funding.

“Planned Parenthood does a really good job at a lot of different areas. But not on abortion,” Trump said. “So I’m not going to fund it if it’s doing the abortion. I am not going to fund it. Now they say it’s 3 percent and it’s 4 percent, some people say it’s 60 percent. I don’t believe it’s 60 percent, by the way. But I think it’s probably a much lower number. But Planned Parenthood does some very good work. But I would defund as long as they’re doing abortions.”

In a Feb. 25 Republican debate, Trump said of Planned Parenthood, “I would defund it because of the abortion factor, which they say is 3 percent. I don’t know what percentage it is. They say it’s 3 percent. But I would defund it, because I’m pro-life. But millions of women are helped by Planned Parenthood.”

(As we have written in the past, abortions represent 3 percent of the total services provided by Planned Parenthood, and nearly 13 percent of its clients received an abortion in 2014-2015 — assuming no person received more than one abortion.)

Trump repeated his position when being questioned by reporters on March 2.

“Look, Planned Parenthood has done very good work for some — for many, many — for millions of women,” Trump said. “And I’ll say it and I know a lot of the so-called conservatives, they say that’s really — because I’m a conservative, but I’m a common-sense conservative. But millions of women have been helped by Planned Parenthood. But we’re not going to allow and we’re not going to fund as long as you have the abortion going on at Planned Parenthood, and we understand that and I’ve said it loud and clear.”

So Trump has fairly consistently praised many of the services provided by Planned Parenthood. And at one time, he suggested that he would “look at the good aspects of it” unrelated to abortion services when considering federal funding for Planned Parenthood. But he has since said — repeatedly — that as long as Planned Parenthood continues to provide abortion services, he would defund it.

That’s a far different position from Clinton, who in August released a video in which she described threats to defund Planned Parenthood as “a full-on assault on women’s health.” In fact, she told Fusion, “I am not only against defunding Planned Parenthood, but I would like to see Planned Parenthood even get more funding.” In January, Clinton said she would “say consistently and proudly, Planned Parenthood should be funded, supported and protected.” Clinton said, “As your president, I will always have your back.”