Republican Candidates Take Aim at Planned Parenthood, Mention Organization 23 Times in Debate

September 17, 2015


David Cay Johnston

Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter previously with The New York Times. He’s currently a columnist for Al Jazeera America as well as a contributing writer at Newsweek. His latest book is Divided: The Perils of Our Growing Inequality. He has been covering Donald Trump for various publications for decades.

John Nichols

political writer for The Nation and the author of Uprising: How Wisconsin Renewed the Politics of Protest, from Madison to Wall Street. His piece for is headlined "Unlike Trump, Rand Paul Actually Made Some Sensible Points During the Debate."

We now turn to the Republican candidates’ views on Planned Parenthood, which was mentioned 23 times during the three-hour debate. Defunding Planned Parenthood has become a cornerstone of the Republican Party platform during the campaign thus far. On Wednesday night, Governor John Kasich, Senator Ted Cruz and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina all said they would move to defund the organization. Fiorina even linked her opposition to the Iran nuclear deal with her opposition to Planned Parenthood, saying, "One has to do with the defense and security the nation, and the other has to do with the defense of the character of this nation." For more, we’re joined by Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter David Cay Johnston and political writer John Nichols.


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: But we’re going to end with Planned Parenthood, which was mentioned 23 times during the Republican debate. This is Governor John Kasich of Ohio, followed by Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, then Carly Fiorina.

GOV. JOHN KASICH: I agree that we should defund Planned Parenthood. I don’t know many people in America that don’t think that we should. And in my state, we’re trying to figure out how to get it done, because we are threatened with the federal government taking all of our Medicaid money away.

DANA BASH: Thank you. Senator Cruz?

SEN. TED CRUZ: We shouldn’t be sending $500 million of taxpayer money to funding an ongoing criminal enterprise. And I’ll tell you, the fact that Republican leadership in both houses has begun this discussion by preemptively surrendering to Barack Obama and saying, "We’ll give in because Obama threatens a veto."


DANA BASH: Ms. Fiorina.

CARLY FIORINA: I’d like to link these two issues, both of which are incredibly important—Iran and Planned Parenthood. One has something to do with the defense of the security of this nation. The other has something to do with the defense of the character of this nation. ...

As regards Planned Parenthood, anyone who has watched this videotape—I dare Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama to watch these tapes. Watch a fully formed fetus on the table, its heart beating, its legs kicking, while someone says we have to keep it alive to harvest its brain. This is about the character of our nation, and if we will not stand up and force President Obama to veto this bill, shame on us.

AMY GOODMAN: Twenty-three times Planned Parenthood was mentioned. That was Carly Fiorina. Thirty seconds, John Nichols.

JOHN NICHOLS: Look, they’re setting up the potential shutdown of the federal government over the issue of funding women’s health and women’s health groups and agencies. This is a huge deal. It was poorly dealt with in the top-tier debate, those segments that you saw there. Interestingly enough, in the second-tier debate, where you saw Lindsey Graham and some others talk about the foolishness of shutting down the federal government over this, you had a better exchange. But here again, this was a place where the moderators should have stepped in and said, "Hey, hold it. You’re saying people are overwhelmingly against Planned Parenthood. There’s a lot of evidence to suggest people want to fund Planned Parenthood, and there’s also a lot of controversy about that video." And that was a point where you really did not see enough of a challenging and a countering of some narratives that were simply off base.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you both for being with us, John Nichols of The Nation, speaking to us from Madison, and David Cay Johnston, Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, speaking to us from WXXI in Rochester.

This is Democracy Now! One of the issues that was hardly touched on last night—I mean, the fires were not mentioned, in California, though the debate was in Simi Valley, California—was the issue, overall, of climate change, a real debate on that taking place. We’re going to talk about that in a moment. Stay with us.

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