Planned Parenthood: Not Goldman Sachs

The lobbyists and Representatives who want to take down Planned Parenthood have embraced a strange rhetoric that fuses “morality” with (purported) fiscal responsibility. And now the governor of Maine, a fiercely independent state that traditionally resists government regulation of bodies and lifestyles, has threatened to drastically cut state family planning funding. The director of Concerned Women for America of Southern Maine, defending the state and federal cuts, takes the fiscal responsibility route. Referring to Planned Parenthood, she says:

“If their argument is the other services that they provide, if it’s that worthwhile as a non-profit, they can do fund-raising. They should not be getting it from the taxpayer.”

Hey, that’s a good idea. In that spirit, I would like to ask the U.S. Government to please cut its defense budget and have bake sales instead—though I suspect that $708.2 billion (page 1-1) will be harder to rustle up than the $75 million that the House of Reps wants to withhold from Planned Parenthood.

And Concerned Women for America might not like that trade, considering their stance on “National Sovereignty.” Yes, in addition to condemning stem-cell research and gay marriage (and gay people), Concerned Women for America wants to remind you that “neither the United Nations nor any other international organization should have authority over the United States in any area.” CWA generally identifies as “fiscally conservative;” they have also supported the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

While some of Planned Parenthood’s foes are sticking to the old pro-life tactics of demonizing and sensationalizing abortion procedures—Rep. Jackie Speier briefly and brilliantly responded to such a speech, by Rep. Chris Smith—many of those trying to kill Title X are claiming they’re on an anti-business crusade. They’re hoping to depict Planned Parenthood as an inflated corporation, dangerously powerful and drunk on profits. They figure they can tap into anti-Wall Street sentiments—and crazy as it is to align Planned Parenthood with Goldman Sachs, they’re probably can. Anger and fear are not clear-eyed.

In a stupefying move in January, Rep. Smith’s crony Rep. Michele Bachmann sought to associate Planned Parenthood with oil companies, large banks, etc., calling the clinic “big business” and “the Wal-Mart of big abortion.” So the true kingpin of American corporate power is a group of community health clinics that provide free and low-cost cancer screenings to women who can’t afford them elsewhere.

Bachmann is not the only one claiming that Planned Parenthood epitomizes American capitalist greed: Lila Rose, who has led the charge to paint PP as aiders and abetters of sexual abusers and sex traffickers, made sure to call the organization a “corporation” when she talked to the New York Times.

Jackie Speier, in her speech on the House floor, slammed her colleagues for seeking to distract Americans from the problems that they, the public servants, have been elected to solve. Clearly, these colleagues know how this campaign might make them look—petty, misguided, callous, and irresponsible—and so they’ve made a concerted effort to frame it in terms of economics, as a populist, common-sense measure.

Planned Parenthood provides primary obstetric and gynecological care for many women. This includes services that you’d think “pro-life” advocates would support: prenatal care (which can help reduce infant mortality), breast cancer screenings, ovarian and uterine cancer screenings, HIV testing, and contraception.

This is the work Planned Parenthood does, and it’s not making anyone rich. The bottom line is that the Representatives behind this attack don’t want to pay for a low-income woman’s pap smear. But we already knew that.

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  • sscathens

    duplicate post made in error, ok to delete, otherwise please read post below

  • sscathens

    Kathleen, think about this, we’d like your comments.

    Your post above, like nearly everything that’s been written on the recent resurgence of attacks on Title X, focuses on an anti-choice campaign that threatens Planned Parenthood by broad cuts to Title X as a whole.

    Of course defunding Title X threatens Planned Parenthood, but isn’t the larger issue being missed by focusing on Planned Parenthood, and that is that Title X funds affordable family planning services through numerous venues, including other clinic chains and public health services/county health departments in general?  Your piece did focus on an anti-choice campaign that focuses at least superfically in media sound bites on Planned Parenthood, but it’s similar to other reporting and advocacy that conflates threats vs advocacy of Title X to threats vs advocacy for Planned Parenthood.

    Planned Parenthood is considered almost a synonym for “prochoice movement” and “reproductive health clinic” but for most people it’s just a clinic or clinic network , an awesomely good clinic or clinic network , but clinics and a clinic network nonetheless.  It does have a public affairs wing/c(4)/PAC that does legislative action, public awareness campaigns regarding repo law and policy, etc, but that’s not the same identical thing as the clinics themselves which is what most people think of when they read or hear the words “Planned Parenthood.”

    Planned Parenthood ought to be considered no more equivalent to the prochoice movement that is responding to the current Title X issue — or rather this critical campaign they’ve got going equals the prochoice movement — than a NOW “round” (the round NOW signs that say among other slogans “Keep Abortion Legal”) equates NOW with the part of the prochoice movement involved clinic defense, though that sign became so ubiquitous at pro-choice counterdemonstrations a few years ago one couldn’t blame laypeople for making that association. That implicit branding of clinic defense wasn’t in any way detrimental to pro-choice concerns, of course, but there was never the impression that the anti-choice movement was targeting NOW, it was clear that anti-choice protest and actions were targeting clinics and the pro-choice movement overall.

    One problem that this misassocation may cause is that people who might be potential allies who live in a community which is not served by a Planned Parenthood clinic affiliate won’t relate to a campaign that focuses on the impact of defunding Planned Parenthood, but they might more likely relate to a campaign that worked “public health clinic” or “nonprofit comprehensive women’s clinic” into the sound bites.

    We want to make it clear though that we do NOT blame Planned Parenthood, in particular Planned Parenthood public affairs for this focus on the impact on Planned Parenthood clinics.  We have had numerous discussions about this with public affairs spokespeople over the years and we think they’re just doing their job and doing it very well.  When we find statements from spokespeople and public affairs-like people with other clinic affiliate networks and organizations like NAF (National Abortion Federation) they similarly speak appropriately for their own clinic affiliates and members.  But many other clinic affiliate networks have either downsized or reorganized as PP affiliates so that they have relatively less of a collective voice in making a media and movement statement. 

    The biggest problem we see is that spokespeople for the pro-choice movement overall, especially advocates in especially liberal states and communities, appear to be speaking for primarily their own communities and states and for the serious, extensive impact that it will have on Planned Parenthood clinics in their communities.  It’s reasonable for them to speak for their clients and constituencies, of course.

    But the impact of defunding Title X on their states and communities overall may be actually less than the impact on relatively conservative states and communities who have few if any Planned Parenthood clinics, where affordable reproductive services are provided primarily by public health clinics and private clinics that may not even have any network affiliation at all but which do receive Title X funds.  

    It seems likely that relatively liberal states and especially college towns in those states will likely retain some sort of Planned Parenthood clinic presence if they’ve had a well-supported clinic or clinics in the past, but defunding Title X threatenes many more public health clinics and independent and smaller clinic network chains whose provision of reproductive health services would be impacted just as much if not more.  But we’re not reading much about those other clinics in advocacy pieces anywhere — and if pro-choice advocacy doesn’t directly address their concerns, how can we expect the mainstream media to do a better job?

    The upshot of all of this for us is another example of a pro-choice campaign that intentionally or not at least appears to favor advocacy of supporters in relatively liberal states and communities, college towns, and large urban areas over red-state, flyover country – which has become most of the country in the last twenty years or so – favoring advocacy of supporters who will then wonder why popular opinion seems to view feminists and pro-choice advocates as favoring self-indulgent behavior in liberal communities and college town playgrounds rather than relatively young and lower-income working class people, families in particular, nationwide.  

    This isn’t just a problem of pro-choice advocates letting the opposition define the terms of our battles and victories, this is part of a shift in priorities that pro-choice campaigns have taken over the last ten years or a little more that at least appears to favor relatively liberal states and communities over more conservative ones.


    —southern students for choice, athens