After Pledging to “Protect” Planned Parenthood, Dean Heller Remains Opposed to Federal Funding for it

The Nevada senator attempts to clarify his conflicting remarks.

Robert Turtil/ZUMA

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Update, 4/19: Amid the confusion over Heller’s conflicting remarks, a spokeswoman for the Nevada senator confirmed he is “opposed to providing federal funding to any organization that performs abortion and is supported by taxpayers’ dollars.”

During a raucous town hall meeting in Reno, Nevada, Monday, Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) appeared to bow to pressure from angry constituents voicing their disapproval over his record supporting legislation that has targeted Planned Parenthood.

“I have no problems with federal funding for Planned Parenthood,” Heller said at a joint event with Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Nev.), adding that he would protect the women’s health organization.

But when pressed if he would commit to actively protect funding for the health care provider, the Nevada senator hesitated, asking, “At the federal level?” Heller then retreated, assuring voters he would “continue to look at this issue” and the question of whether federal funds should be allowed to cover all of Planned Parenthood’s “activities.”

Heller stopped short of mentioning the word abortion.

Attendees also slammed Heller for his vote last month in favor of allowing states to withhold public Title X funds from health care groups that also perform abortions, even though no taxpayer money can be used to fund abortions. (President Donald Trump quietly signed the legislation in a private ceremony on Thursday, officially reversing the Obama rule to protect federal family planning funds.) In January, a spokesman for the senator said that Heller did not support any federal funding for the organization.

Heller’s vacillating position is probably more a function of the vulnerability of his Senate seat heading into the 2018 midterm elections than it is a change of heart concerning support for the nation’s largest women’s health care provider. After all, Nevada voters supported Hillary Clinton in the presidential election.

Heller wasn’t exactly looking forward to Monday’s event—a reasonable outlook given the flood of contentious town halls around the country featuring Republican lawmakers being confronted by angry constituents. Despite the expected boos, he forged ahead, telling a group of conservatives in audio that was leaked last week that the town hall was “one of those boxes you’ve got to check off” before the upcoming election season.

Unsatisfied with one of Heller’s responses on Monday, one woman told him, “I’m not just a box to check.”

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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