Planned Parenthood: The Nonprofit Canary in the Coal Mine

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By Billy Hathorn (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

January 5, 2016; Washington Post and Rolling Stone

As the 115th Congress gets underway, many of the causes and rights that organizations in our sector fight for are at severe risk of being compromised or completely eradicated. Perhaps no other organization is feeling the brunt of an impending Trump administration in so brutal a fashion as Planned Parenthood.

As NPQ reported last week, Conservative Congressional leaders, including House Speaker Paul Ryan, have vowed to defund the organization, which provides more than 2.5 million men and women with family planning support and other crucial health care services, as part of their dismantling of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Through an effort known as budget reconciliation, a method of expediting consideration of limiting certain legislative measures, GOP members have promised to deliver to President-elect Trump on the very day he is sworn in proposed repeals of specific parts of the ACA, including a sudden stop to the approximately $500 million in federal grants and Medicaid reimbursements Planned Parenthood receives each year.

In a statement last week, Speaker Ryan heartily endorsed the GOP’s anticipated move and confirmed Planned Parenthood legislation would be included in the reconciliation bill. Vice President-elect and staunch women’s rights adversary Mike Pence unsurprisingly announced that Trump would make repealing the ACA and signing the GOP’s bill a top priority. Meanwhile, Trump has wavered on the issue, most recently cautioning through Twitter that moving so hastily to repeal the ACA might actually not be such a good idea after all.

As the GOP tries to figure things out, Planned Parenthood and activists in the women’s and reproductive rights movement have their game plan fully in motion. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards put very frankly that her organization and its supporters are not going down without a fight. After all, the 100-year-old nonprofit’s mission is deeply rooted in the fight for the fundamental right of choice.

[Come January,] we will be launching the largest “Stand with Planned Parenthood” campaign in our history to agitate and engage our millions of supporters around the country to make sure we’re telling the story of what people are poised to lose. […] We will make sure that every single senator who votes on the issue of whether patients can come to Planned Parenthood is fully aware of the millions of people who are going to lose health care, including thousands in the states they represent.

With a continuous flow of call-to-action emails, social media posts, and a Facebook Live video giving followers the opportunity to engage in a discussion about the GOP’s attacks on health rights, Planned Parenthood’s campaign is alive and well. The national organization, its local chapters, and other human rights organizations like the ACLU are coming out of the gate strong with messages ranging from the pointed “These Doors Stay Open” to the educational breakdown of exactly what Planned Parenthood federal dollars support. (Hint: It’s not abortions.)

And Planned Parenthood supporters are answering the call. On Friday, volunteers gathered in Washington, D.C. to personally deliver 87,000 signed “#StandWithPP” petitions to Speaker Ryan’s office. The petitions request that Planned Parenthood funding be protected through Medicaid and Title X. The male and female volunteers, sporting their bright pink “I Stand with Planned Parenthood” t-shirts, were ultimately blocked from delivering the petitions by armed security guards reportedly sent by Ryan himself.

But Planned Parenthood and its army of activists, donors, and volunteers remain undeterred. In addition to its relentless communication efforts, Planned Parenthood is organizing nationwide rallies, community forums, and volunteer trainings to arm its supporters with the resources and local allies necessary to mobilize and take action. Those willing to call their U.S. Senator or Speaker Ryan directly are provided with a script to follow verbatim. The organization is inviting supporters to share stories of their personal experiences with the organization, humanizing the importance of the campaign in a way that perhaps a tweet or Facebook post may not so effectively achieve. Online retailers have joined the fight too, with one selling a tote bag listing the various services Planned Parenthood provides under the facetious “All I Got at Planned Parenthood” headline. The site states funds collected from tote purchases will benefit the organization and as of Thursday evening reported $20,000 has been raised.

The challenges to Planned Parenthood, the women who make use of its vital services, and those who support it will likely only grow once the new administration is in full force. There is a real and serious attack on the rights of men and women everywhere—many of whom are from vulnerable populations and are already underserved—to have a say in their most personal health care choices. As ultraconservative Kentucky governor Matt Bevin tweeted this week, the freedom to choose is the most American value we have…now, if only his interpretation of that value also applied to women and their bodies.—Lindsay Walker