Health

The Crusade Against Planned Parenthood Is Getting Nonsensical

CREDIT: AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington prior to testifying before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee

Thanks to a series of selectively edited videos that accuse Planned Parenthood of trafficking fetal tissue, the national women’s health organization remains embroiled in controversy. And although incoming House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) acknowledged this week that it may not be possible to defund the group on the national level, Planned Parenthood critics are hardly giving up.

Against the backdrop of ongoing congressional inquiries into Planned Parenthood’s activities, abortion opponents have seized the momentum to make inroads on a more local level. Here are some of the ways they’re trying to go after the organization:

Dropping Planned Parenthood from government-run charity campaigns.

In Arizona, people who work for the government will no longer be able to donate to Planned Parenthood through the State Employee Charitable Campaign, thanks to a recent decision from the Gov. Doug Ducey (R) administration. Although the women’s health group has been eligible for those donations for decades, state officials decided to end the relationship because they “did not feel that this particular charity met the mission and standards they were looking for.”

In the past, the donations that Planned Parenthood collected through this charity campaign helped fund its health care services, including abortions for women who may struggle to afford that procedure on their own. “In fact, many of our donors specifically want to fund this service knowing that women in dire circumstances may not have the financial means to pay for a needed abortion,” Jodi Liggett, a Planned Parenthood spokeswoman, told the Associated Press.

Cutting funding to Planned Parenthood clinics that don’t perform abortions.

Although the current controversy surrounding Planned Parenthood is purportedly about how the organization handles fetal tissue resulting from abortion procedures, the efforts to crack down on the group extend far beyond abortion itself. In Kentucky, for example, a group of conservative lawmakers pre-filed a bill this week seeking to cut off funding for the organization, saying that they were “upset” by the videos. But none of the Planned Parenthood clinics in the state perform abortions, which means employees there aren’t dealing with any fetal tissue in the first place.

Making sure Planned Parenthood speakers don’t come to college campuses.

The conversation around Planned Parenthood has become so politically charged that the group isn’t even welcome on college campuses. This week, a group of St. Louis University law school students reorganized a previously scheduled event featuring a Planned Parenthood employee so that the discussion will take place off campus. Administrators at the school say that the event, which will focus on the “legal climate” that the group contends with in deeply conservative Missouri, is inappropriate for a Catholic school. Some students are accusing the university of bending to outside pressure.

Barring Planned Parenthood from teaching abstinence education.

Planned Parenthood, which has an education arm in addition to the side of the organization that provides direct health care services, is one of the largest sex ed providers in the country. Nonetheless, controversies related to abortion often compromise the group’s ability to offer these educational materials. In Texas, state officials are going to particularly extreme lengths to cut out the organization, adopting new regulations last month that prohibit Planned Parenthood from participating in the state’s abstinence programs. “We see a clear legislative directive of shifting state resources away from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers,” a health agency spokesman told the Texas Tribune. The move is merely symbolic, since the organization doesn’t participate in the abstinence education program anyway.

Asking Planned Parenthood to build a memorial to aborted fetuses.

A state lawmaker in Missouri made national headlines last month for floating a particularly unusual legislative effort to target Planned Parenthood in the aftermath of the video campaign. During a discussion about how state lawmakers can further tighten restrictions on abortion providers, State Rep. Rick Brattin (R) suggested writing a bill that would require Planned Parenthood to build a “Vietnam Wall type” memorial to honor aborted fetuses. “I know that sounds crazy, but by state law [fetuses are] given human status, so should there be a human memorial attached to that human life?” Brattin said.