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Priebus's RNC rebranding effort takes a detour

Associated Press

Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has spent the last several weeks trying to subtly reposition his party. The gist of Priebus' pitch is that his party is struggling, not because of policy, but for reasons having to do with culture and rhetoric. In particular, the RNC chair has suggested the party's rigid social conservatism has alienated women and younger voters.

Today, however, it appears the RNC's rebranding effort has taken a detour. Priebus has published an item on a far-right website, Erik Erickson's, arguing that the media has engaged in a "cover-up" to hide "Democrat-Backed Planned Parenthood's support for infanticide."

[Last week] in Florida, lawmakers held a hearing about a bill to protect the lives of babies born during an attempted abortion procedure. The bill requires the abortionist to provide medical care to the newborn. It might seem obvious that a newborn should be cared for -- but not to Planned Parenthood.

They sent a lobbyist to the Florida legislature to testify in opposition to the bill.

From there, Priebus notes the testimony of a Planned Parenthood lobbyist who, understandably, couldn't answer questions about specific medical procedures, but explained that her organization believes medical decisions "should be left up to the woman, her family, and the physician." The RNC chair interpreted this as support for infanticide.

The President, the Senate Majority Leader, the House Democratic Leader, and the Chair of the Democratic National Committee (in whose home state this hearing occurred) made funding Planned Parenthood an issue in the 2012 campaign. They should now all be held to account for that outspoken support. If the media won't, then voters must ask the pressing questions: Do these Democrats also believe a newborn has no rights? Do they also endorse infanticide?

Oh my.

First, while I'm certainly not in a position to speak for Planned Parenthood, but I'm reasonably certain the group does not believe "a newborn has no rights" and does not "endorse infanticide."

Second, the fact that news organizations didn't much care about a Planned Parenthood lobbyist who couldn't answer specific questions about specific medical procedures in hypothetical treatment scenarios is not evidence of a "cover-up."

Third, support for Planned Parenthood has traditionally been bipartisan.

And finally, in the larger context, why in the world is Reince Priebus doing this? He and his party took a beating in 2012 over Republican opposition to Planned Parenthood, so in the midst of a rebranding campaign, Priebus wants to focus anew on condemning Planned Parenthood?

This feels a bit like under-the-radar pandering -- maybe Priebus wrote this for RedState, as opposed to a mainstream outlet, in the hopes that only the GOP base would see it -- but the party chairman is still taking a risk.

Update: I heard from the Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliate, which said the following in a statement: "Last week, a panel of Florida state legislators demanded speculation about a vague set of extremely unlikely and highly unusual medical circumstances.  Medical guidelines and ethics already compel physicians facing life-threatening circumstances to respond, and Planned Parenthood physicians provide high-quality medical care and adhere to the most rigorous professional standards, including providing emergency care. In the extremely unlikely event that the scenario presented by the panel of legislators should happen, of course Planned Parenthood would provide appropriate care to both the woman and the infant."

Perhaps Priebus and RedState can run a correction?