Bentley’s ‘win’ a costly defeat

Published 11:09 pm Tuesday, December 8, 2015

When an Alabama politician makes a very public mistake that costs taxpayers money, what does he do?
That’s easy. He declares it a win for the state.
Or in the case of Gov. Robert Bentley in defending his knee-jerk decision in August to terminate funding of Planned Parenthood, he utters the word “win” with such frequency that he apparently hopes it will hypnotize the public.
“I am pleased,” Bentley told reporters Monday. “It was a win. Headlines might not show that it was a win, but it was a win.”
It was not a win. It was an embarrassing failure.
Between the repeated declarations of a “win,” Bentley managed to communicate that the state of Alabama will pay $51,000 in legal fees to Planned Parenthood Southeast.
It’s not a lot of money as a percentage of the state budget, but it represents more than two decades’ worth of the type of funding that Bentley withheld from the organization. He prompted Planned Parenthood’s lawsuit when he announced he would terminate state Medicaid payments to the organization.
In the two years before his announcement, the state had paid a grand total of $4,351.37 to Planned Parenthood. All of that amount was for contraceptives.
State and federal laws already prevent tax dollars from funding abortions. And, as Planned Parenthood has been explaining since a video was released in July, fetal tissue for medical research comes exclusively from two of its 700 centers — one in California and one in Washington state. It also explained that it does not sell fetal tissue, which would be prohibited by federal law.
Bentley may not have known this, however, because he sent the letter terminating funding — and, of course, the news release bragging about it — without first contacting Planned Parenthood.
Abortion is an impossibly complex issue of biology, religion and law. Intelligent, moral people hold sincere and contradictory beliefs as to the extent to which the state should intervene in a mother’s decision on whether to have an abortion.
But Bentley’s failure was not about abortion, it was about homework. He latched onto a viral video on social media and used it as his rationale to start a legal battle he could not win. He wasted $51,000 in taxpayer money — and dragged the state into yet another humiliating legal defeat — to avoid paying a couple thousand dollars to help low-income women receive contraceptives.
“It was a win for us. Did it cost some money? Yes,” Bentley said. “But it was a win for us.”
No, governor. Repeat “win” all you want, but it was a well-deserved defeat.
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