States are much more likely than Congress to succeed in defunding Planned Parenthood, and some of the GOP presidential candidates are reminding voters they've already done that.
Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and former Texas Gov. Rick Perry have signed budgets in their respective states cutting millions of family planning dollars from Planned Parenthood and other health clinics that provide abortions.
"In WI, we defunded Planned Parenthood. The disgusting videos that @HillaryClinton won't condemn show we made the right decision," Walker tweeted on Wednesday.
Five years ago, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie eliminated $7.5 million in state funds for family-planning centers, which cut funds across the board but especially hit Planned Parenthood clinics.
"Now, with the most recent revelation, there's even more reason not to fund Planned Parenthood," Christie said Monday in South Carolina. "I've vetoed funding for Planned Parenthood and if I were president of the United States, I would do exactly the same."
And while Louisiana hasn't limited family-planning funds for abortion-providing clinics, Gov. Bobby Jindal was the first governor to start a probe of Planned Parenthood right after the first of two controversial videos showing top officials discussing fetal organ donations were released earlier this month.
The two videos, the first of several likely to be released over the next weeks, were obtained by an anti-abortion group called the Center for Medical Progress, which went undercover to catch top Planned Parenthood officials discussing how some doctors collect fetal organs and tissue for research purposes while performing abortions.
Planned Parenthood has apologized for the "tone" taken by the officials, who are shown discussing how fetuses are "crushed" during the procedure and at times appear to haggle over compensation for them. But the group has denied any illegal activity, noting that it is legal to be compensated for the overhead costs of collecting human tissue as long as no profit is made.
The footage has revved up Republicans, who have long wanted to strip funding from the country's largest abortion provider and have now started congressional investigations of Planned Parenthood's involvement in fetal donations.
But President Obama has said he won't sign a bill defunding Planned Parenthood, making it much more likely Republicans could find success at the state level. On Thursday, Massachusetts became the ninth state, along with Kansas, Missouri, Arizona, Indiana, Ohio, Georgia, Texas and Louisiana, to begin an investigation into whether the group is breaking the law by how it collects fetal body parts or the compensation it gets in return.
Five of those states are among the 12 that have cut funding for Planned Parenthood in the past, mostly by passing new laws withholding federal and state family-planning funds from women's health clinics if they provide abortions.
The way to do it isn't by withholding Medicaid funds. Arizona and Indiana passed laws prohibiting clinics that provide abortions from receiving any Medicaid reimbursements, even though Medicaid dollars can't be spent on abortions themselves. But federal courts struck down both, ruling that such laws violate Medicaid's freedom of choice provision.
"The stick here — as opposed to the carrot — is removing all your Medicaid dollars, and no state is going to risk losing all their Medicaid dollars," said Elizabeth Nash, a state expert at the Guttmacher Institute, which was founded by Planned Parenthood but is now separate from the group.
Instead, states have passed laws withholding family planning funds — over which they have more control — from clinics that provide abortions, or at least putting them last in line to get dollars. The new measures, many of them passed around 2011 and 2012, have cost Planned Parenthood clinics an estimated $1 million-$1.7 million in Ohio, $1.2 million in Texas and $1.1 million in Wisconsin.
Most states have concluded their legislative sessions this year. But if Republicans remain amped up about the issue next year, a whole lineup of red states could have the political will to strip more funding away from Planned Parenthood clinics, including Nebraska, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Georgia, Louisiana and the Dakotas.
Whatever happens legislatively, the controversy is enflaming GOP primary voters. And virtually every Republican presidential candidate has jumped on board with calls to either investigate or defund Planned Parenthood.
But it's not clear whether the issue will play as well for them in the general election. A Rasmussen poll taken in mid-July right after the first video was released found that 53 percent of voters have a favorable opinion of Planned Parenthood and 3 percent more voters have a very favorable view of the group (28 percent) than hold a very unfavorable view (25 percent).
"Whatever people feel about abortion, they don't think funding ought to be cut off for the cancer screenings and family-planning services that Planned Parenthood provides," said Democratic strategist Geoff Garin. "This is going to end up forcing Republicans to defend a position that really is a losing one."
But keeping the attention on the potentially graphic nature of fetal body parts donations, which is making many abortion rights supporters squirm, could help protect Republicans from Democratic attacks on their stances against abortion.
"Whether the controversy moves the needle for Republicans in 2016 remains to be seen, but the video clearly strikes a chord with centrist voters in both parties who don't vote either way on abortion, and it makes it harder for Democrats to make Republicans' pro-life stance a liability with swing voters, as they often try to do in presidential elections," one Republican strategist wrote in an email.