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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

NARAL and Planned Parenthood (UPDATED)

Thanks to all your calls, faxes and letters a firestorm has broken out in the Connecticut pro-choice community over the decision of NARAL and Planned Parenthood to ask their members to thank Joe Lieberman for his Alito vote. I'll keep you posted as I hear more, but it looks like the consistent effort we've been applying has really started to take hold. I'm really, really encouraged. Thanks to everyone who has taken time to make the effort to thank NOW for getting it. We appear to have finally hit the mark.

Velouria left this comment over at the HuffPo in response to my post about Planned Parenthood and NARAL and I thought it was quite good:
For the record... PPFA was not able to participate in any electoral work until it started it's PAC just prior to the 2004 elections. Until then they had only a C3 status which does not allow for endorsements or money raising for candidates. They then endorsed John Kerry as their first candidate. In addition they have been working the past few years to create a network of national folks to contact lawmakers and raise the volume of pro-choice voices. PPFA (and NARAL) were the main players in the 2004 March For Women's Lives, the under-reported and largest protest in American history (over 1.125 million).

These issues are complex and ever changing. The right has created a battle plan that keeps pro-choice America on the defensive constantly, with trumped up issues like 'fetal pain' and so-called 'partial birth abortion'. It is the American people who voted for right wingers who get legislation after legislation designed to take away reproductive rights. And, in response, PPFA fundraised to fight legislation in the court systems. I betcha many of you have no idea how many court battles they have fought in the name of choice and access to reproductive health care. You are correct in that PPFA, NARAL and other groups failed to win at this point. Much of this is due to many being slow to believe reproductive rights are under attack anyway and called these groups hysterical. There is truth in the accusation everyone failed in framing the issue correctly. It is true that candidates should be cut off when they are not up to pro-choice snuff, and these groups need to be accountable for that. I will agree there have been serious missteps but to write off this very important agency, who is on the front line every day, is lunacy... and quite frankly what the right wants.

PPFA does raise money, but I can tell you it is not nearly as much as the right has in their deep pockets. This battle has been raging on all fronts and has been escalating. Without Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country, many women AND men would have NO health care at all. In addition to providing basic healthcare to the severely underserved and advocating for reproductive rights on a daily basis, Planned Parenthood workers are on the front line in this battle. Many receive clinic bomb threats, anthrax treat hoaxes, hate mail and phone calls, and have to walk a gauntlet of screaming lunatics DAILY. Those folks deserve support. So PPFA not only tries to hold together the battle weary affiliates across the country, it is also working to grow support and fight bad legislation. These groups are not unlike all non-right wing groups and politicians... on the short end of the stick... unaware of how strategic and powerful their opposition had become. EVERYONE blew it and now is not the time to jump ship. We need to tell them to get strategic now and work toward electing sane folks into office.
Absolutely. The people on the front lines of Planned Parenthood are heroes, day in, day out, every day of the week. From the people who are willing to staff clinics in places like South Dakota where doing so can get you killed, to the doctors who risk flying in an out of hostile territory just do do their job out of conviction, to the people in the community who defend its right to be there. These are extremely brave souls who deserve every bit of support we can give them.

But the fact is that Planned Parenthood has now gotten into the political endorsement game, no doubt because they have to. And the credibility that their endorsement lends to political candidates in states where pro-choice actually matters, like Connecticut and Rhode Island, is huge.

While it's open to debate how much influence NARAL's decision not to support anti-choice Langevin in the Rhode Island race had on his decision to drop out, it was perceived as significant. Their endorsement may not mean a lot in Alabama, but it means a lot in solidly pro-choice New England states. Further, their decision to continue to support Lincoln Chafee and Joe Lieberman even after their disastrous vote on Samuel Alito is a signal to other Senators that is okay to vote like this in the future and keep your official pro-choice credentials in the process. NARAL and Planned Parenthood are rubber stamping these votes. How exactly do they plan on coming out and fighting the next Supreme Court Alito-lite nomination if they don't start yanking chains now?

Whenever major media outlets need an official quote from the pro-choice movement, they call NARAL and Planned Parenthood. If they are not speaking up against this bullshit, nobody is.

The problem is that in doing nothing they are actively hurting their own ability to do the good work that Planned Parenthood consistently does. If the South Dakota Rapist Rights bill goes through, it won't matter how many brave souls are willing to staff an abortion clinic, they won't be able to do so. I've said it before and I'll say it again: there is no more important task right now before the pro-choice movement than changing the balance of power in the US Senate and breaking up the Gang of 14, something that -- as Chris Bower says -- has a very good chance of happening this fall.

If Planned Parenthood and NARAL put themselves in the position of granting the pro-choice seal of approval to people who don't deserve it in places where it's really meaningful they don't really leave us much choice but to go after them as a way to go after those they continue to endorse.

I wish it were otherwise but it is not. I can scream about how Lieberman and Chafee are not truly pro-choice all day but their constituents aren't going to listen to me or any other blogger if NARAL and Planned Parenthood are telling everyone not to worry, they're great.

It shows just how behind the times these organizations are that they would put so much energy into something like the "March for Women's Lives" in this day and age when the impact of an action like that depends on the media's willingness to cover it, something they quite obviously haven't been willing to do for a good long while.

NARAL in particular is sitting on a mountain of cash they did not spend to fight the Alito nomination. They need to make a real commitment to make up for this by getting into these races early and committing all that loot they've been hoarding to fighting in the races and apply it where it can actually do some good. This is not a time for moderation. The battle for the next Supreme Court vacancy begins now, and if they don't understand it we're just going to have to keep screaming until they do.

Right now it's imperative that people like Ned Lamont get every dime they can to muster the resources to cut through the media ice. You can do what NARAL and Planned Parenthood don't seem to understand (yet) that they need to do by giving to Ned Lamont here.

Update: The Supreme Court just dealt a big blow to pro-choice clincs, saying they could not use extortion and racketeering laws against the clinic bombing, doctor killing forced birth lobby.