Politico: Groups unite vs. Planned Parenthood

This article originally appeared on Politico.com on February 2, 2011.


Groups unite vs. Planned Parenthood
By: Sarah Kliff

Anti-abortion groups will launch today an aggressive campaign aiming to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding.

A new website, Expose Planned Parenthood, went live late Tuesday backed by a coalition of national and local anti-abortion groups. The website, previewed exclusively to POLITICO, will serve as a hub for the movement’s efforts to bar Planned Parenthood from receiving any federal funds.

The new campaign throws yet another obstacle in the way of already embattled abortion rights supporters, who have so far largely focused their activism on pushing back against H.R. 3. Republicans frame the bill as a way to bar taxpayer funding of abortion, but abortion rights advocates contend that it significantly restricts the definition of “rape” in a way that would curtail women’s rights.

That legislation, introduced by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), is set to be heard in Judiciary Committee’s constitution subcommittee next week.

“I’m surprised, given that the number one issue right now is jobs, that the Republican leadership would make an extreme position like [H.R. 3] one of their top three priorities of the session,” Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), who co-chairs the House Pro-Choice Caucus, told POLITICO in an interview. “American voters … They’re not focused on abortion, they’re focused on how to get jobs.”

Since H.R. 3 was introduced last month, reproductive health advocates have seized on a provision that tightens federal regulations to only allow government-funding for abortion for pregnancies in which the mother’s life is endangered, or that are the product of incest or “forcible rape.” Activists argue that the new wording, first reported by Mother Jones on Friday, could have the effect of barring the federal funding of abortions that are covered under current law. Medicaid, for example, could be barred from covering abortion in cases of statutory rape, to which a minor may have consented.

“This legislation is a stark departure from the status quo and not only infringes on the rights of women to choose, but taxes them for their choices. It is a massive intrusion on a woman’s right to choose,” Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.), the other co-chair of the House Pro-Choice Caucus, said in a Tuesday statement.

The new anti-Planned Parenthood campaign, led by Susan B. Anthony List and Live Action, also includes Concerned Women for America, Americans United for Life, 40 Days for Life, Students for Life, the Family Research Council, and New Jersey Right to Life.

“If there is a point where we can say ‘this is too much,’ this is it,” Susan B. Anthony List president Marjorie Dannenfelser told POLITICO. “Contributing to a group willing to be a chief ally in the exploitation of women and girls is indeed too much. Taxpayer support of Planned Parenthood is just that.”

The site hosts an online action center where anti-abortion activists can lobby their members of Congress to support Rep. Mike Pence’s (R-Ind.) Title X Abortion Provider Prohibition Act, which would strip the group of federal funding. The outreach campaign will ask activists to lobby members through emails, letters to the editor and letters to local Congressional offices.

Signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1970, the Title X family planning program is the only source of federal funds dedicated solely to family planning and reproductive health. The provision provides coverage for contraceptives, pelvic exams, breast exams, safer-sex counseling, and basic infertility counseling, among other provisions. Title X programs provided family planning services to 5 million women and men through 4,500 community-based clinics in 2008, according to the Department of Health & Human Services.

By law, no Title X funds can be used for abortions.

Health and Human Services dispersed $16.9 million to Planned Parenthood in 2009, according to a GAO report published last year.

The new Expose Planned Parenthood website comes on the heels of an anti-abortion video released Tuesday, that allegedly shows a Planned Parenthood employee advising minors to provide false information in order to obtain an abortion.

The FBI launched an investigation into the issue after Planned Parenthood reported a series of strange visits to their clinics in mid-January.

The video was shot by 22-year-old Lila Rose, an anti-abortion activist who has previously worked with James O’Keefe on undercover videos shot inside Planned Parenthood clinics. O’Keefe did a series of undercover sting videos on ACORN workers during the last presidential campaign.

“The horror exposed in the video released yesterday was not an isolated incident,” says Dannenfelser. “The unbroken chain of Planned Parenthood’s violations is appalling. Yet, this organization insists that it deserves taxpayers’ continued support. The moment for taxpayers to reject their compulsory funding of the exploitation of women has arrived.”

Planned Parenthood has pushed back against the footage, arguing that the videos are edited and shot by activists who they reported to local law enforcement shortly after the visit occured.

“The edited tape that is being publicized today by Live Action, an organization that has vowed to ‘take down’ Planned Parenthood, was shot during a visit by Live Action activists with secret cameras at Planned Parenthood health centers in New Jersey on January 13,” Stuart Schear, Vice President for Communications for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told POLITICO in a statement. “As soon as these visits were over, Planned Parenthood employees immediately reported to Planned Parenthood management that two highly unusual visits occurred within hours of each other by persons that claimed to be engaged in sex trafficking.”

Planned Parenthood’s national office has been working with FBI on the issue. Earlier this month, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder notifying him of the visits the clinics and their suspicion that they “may be a hoax.”

Moreover, Planned Parenthood has previously pushed back against legislation that would end its Title X funding.

“Americans want Congress to focus on fixing the economy and creating jobs, not proposing bills that will take away basic health care from millions of women and families,” they said in a statement to POLITICO earlier this month. “The reality of Rep. Mike Pence’s bill is that millions of women who rely on Planned Parenthood health centers for their primary and preventive health care, including annual exams, lifesaving cancer screenings, contraception visits, and testing and treatment for STDs, would lose access to their main source of basic preventive health care. This is not what Americans voted for in 2010.”

This is not the first time that Planned Parenthood’s federal funding has come under attack. While serving in the House, Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) repeatedly introduced legislation similar to the Pence bill.

Jonathan Allen contributed to this report.

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