Markey Hits Trump Rule Aimed At Planned Parenthood; Catholic Group Calls Markey ‘Professional Panderer’

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U.S. Senator Edward Markey came out swinging Tuesday against a Trump administration regulation that would prevent Planned Parenthood from receiving millions of dollars in federal funding, but the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts said Markey twists with the wind and isn’t to be trusted.

Markey headlined a press conference at the Planned Parenthood location in Allston on Tuesday morning.

“We’re here today because the Trump administration’s discrimination against women knows no boundaries. From the halls of the Supreme Court to the halls of local health centers, the Trump administration is waging an all-out assault on women’s reproductive health. Donald Trump thinks a woman’s right to choose is still up for debate. It is not,” Markey said, according to a video posted on his Facebook page.

Title X provides federal funds to clinics that provide contraception to poor people. President Donald Trump’s Department of Health and Human Services announced February 22 a new regulatory rule requiring that clinics that receive Title X funds not perform abortions at the same site and not refer patients for abortions. Administration officials say they are following the spirit of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the federal government from spending federal funds for abortion.

The new regulation is widely seen as targeting Planned Parenthood, which provides contraception at the same clinics where it performs abortions, and which receives about $60 million a year in Title X money.

Planned Parenthood, which refers to the new regulation as a “gag rule,” is feeling the heat, as an official made clear during the press conference.

“Under this harmful policy, it will make it illegal for health care providers in the Title X program to refer patients for an abortion. As a result, health care providers like Planned Parenthood are forced into an impossible situation:  withhold information from patients, or get pushed out of the program,” said Dr. Danielle Roncari, medical director for Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts, while wearing a white doctor’s coat.

Markey referred to the new Trump administration rule as “this radical agenda.”

“In Massachusetts, in fiscal year 2017, Title X service sites received more than $6 million to provide care to 75,000 Bay Staters who otherwise might not be able to afford it, including low-income women, young women, and women of color who are especially likely to receive care at Title X-funded centers,” Markey said.

Abortion opponents say poor people can get the federally subsidized medical services at local health clinics that don’t perform abortions.

Markey, though, described the new policy as an attack on women.

“This Title X rule is just another line of attack in the Republican plan to take women’s rights back to the 19th century,” Markey said.

But the Catholic Action League of Massachusetts called Markey’s comments “shameless sycophancy from a professional panderer.”

“Ed Markey is terrified that what happened to Congressman Joe Crowley in New York and to Congressman Mike Capuano in Massachusetts — a member of Congress who stayed closer to his constituents than Markey ever did — is going to happen to him. That is why he stood next to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez to embrace the unreality of the Green New Deal and that is why Markey, a graduate of four Catholic schools, showed up at Planned Parenthood this morning,” said C.J. Doyle, executive director of the Catholic Action League, in a written statement.

Crowley, a 10-term member of Congress from the Queens borough of New York City, unexpectedly lost the 2018 Democratic primary to Ocasio-Cortez, who has quickly become the most talked-about member of Congress. Capuano, a former mayor of Somerville elected the same year as Crowley (1998), also lost his Democratic primary last year to a left-wing challenger, Ayanna Pressley, who at the time was a Boston city councilor and now is a member of Congress.

Markey, 72, went to a Catholic elementary school and then Malden Catholic High School in Malden, followed by Boston College and Boston College Law School. He’s up for re-election in 2020.

Doyle described Markey as flexible when political expediency has dictated a shift in positions.

“Ed Markey has always been known for a certain elasticity of principle. To advance his political career, Ed Markey, as a state legislator, attacked the leadership of his own party. In Congress, he has reversed himself on a host of issues including abortion, forced busing, and school prayer. He also flip flopped on the death penalty when he was a state representative. No one should be surprised by any position he takes and no one should take seriously any of his posturing,” Doyle said in the statement.

Boston Herald columnist Joe Battenfeld pointed out Markey’s anti-abortion past in a column in February 2013, when Markey as a longtime congressman ran (successfully) for the U.S. Senate seat vacated by John Kerry when he became Secretary of State. A day later, The Boston Globe explored his 1983 switch on the issue.

He had a long way to go.

During Markey’s first run for Congress, a story in the October 21, 1976 issue of The Boston Globe included the following sentence referring to an independent, Harry Chickles, who was also running for the seat:  “Chickles is sympathetic to Markey’s candidacy but differs with the Democratic nominee on proposed constitutional amendments banning abortion and busing which Markey supports.”

A spokesman for Markey could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.