Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Behind the Scenes in the Attack on Planned Parenthood

By Gary Berg-Cross

Edd Doerr, Explicit Atheist and others have discussed the “brou ha ha” around HHS mandated regulations on birth control and the claim of a religious exemption for Catholic institutions based on conscience. Some conservative pols have characterized that struggle as another front of the war on religion, while many see it as an attack on vulnerable, often poor women, ever a silenced majority.

I find it interesting that while this has been going on we’ve seen an attack on Planned Parenthood and its funding. Activists had been applying political pressure on Komen for years to not support health care provider Planned Parenthood because it offers abortion. An example was the deceptive Video ‘Sting’ attacking Planned Parenthood which as called a “Dishonest Hit Job is Part of Religious Right’s Campaign to Deny Women Access to Reproductive Health Care” by People for the American Way.

The anti-abortion crowd found a vehicle for their attach by getting some leverage on the Komen Foundation. Karen Handel, a Republican who once ran for governor of Georgia on a platform calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood, seems to have been at the center of that effort. During her campaign for office she wrote when she pledged to eliminate all state funds for breast and cervical cancer screening to the group if she were elected governor:

“[S]ince I am pro-life, I do not support the mission of Planned Parenthood,”

After failing to become governor in a tea-party like campaign. Handle became senior Vice President (for public policy) of the Susan G. Komen charity almost a year ago and seems to have continued her campaign. According to the Huffington Post Komen insiders say Handel got defunding on the agenda and spent months pushing a plan to shift the organization's grant strategy and collaborate on a bit of a witch hunt. Emails reveal that handle was the prime instigator and argued that Komen could just say that the change is policy came about because Planned Parenthood was under investigation no one can blame us for being political HuffPo has internal emails. This lead Komen’s apparently passive and narrow thing Board to cut off funding for 17 of the 19 Planned Parenthood affiliates in December.

This is surprisingg to many but an examination of Komen leaders by Mother Jones and others shows them to be consistently conservative and opposed to Planned Parenthood. Founder and CEO Nancy G. Brinker ,who is the face we largely see in TV defending the action, served under George W. Bush as chief protocol officer for the U.S. She later served as ambassador to Hungary. Reports have noted that both she and her now late husband, Norman, have been major Republican donors.

Another member of Komen’s Advocacy Alliance Board is Jane Abraham. She is the General Chairman of the anti-choice and anti-science Susan B. Anthony List. She seems pretty political since she is on its Political Action Committee. One of Abraham roles has been as a leader to establish what they call “crisis pregnancy clinics”. These are designed to prevent any abortions. What they do is mislead women about their health and reproductive rights. Want to know another interesting connection. Abraham works with Maureen Scalia, well known wife of Supreme Court Justice Antony Scalia.

And there are other interesting political and perhaps religious connections. Ari Fleischer, former press secretary for George W. Bush pops up. I’ve been surprised and disappointed to see him and Ralph Reed on CNN as “political” commentators. It seems that discredited, conservative voices have vampire like abilities. Ari, a prominent right-wing pundit of Pinocchio level lying fame who some identify with political Chabatists, was apparently quietly involved in hiring Handel, and making the interviews of prospective candidates discuss how to handle controversy about Komen’s relationship with Planned Parenthood. Fleischer views on Planned Parenthood are documented in his book, Taking Heat. He criticized it as a partisan, ideological organization that receives undeserved positive coverage in the press. Such things seem like fuel for tea party activists, who act like bullies and are the real promoters of culture war with hot button issues that divide people. And of course Ari was available to discuss how to give Komen positive press and shield it from backlash. One hand washed another in conservative political circles.

But all that has failed and Handle has resigned. Sensible things can happened when people pay close attention to a scandal and what it reveals. And part of what it reveals is a confluence of influence makers who get leadership roles in institutions with good missions and sterling reputations. This allows work behind the scenes on conservative, often hybrid religious-political agendas. This is an old story. Some might remember how the Red Cross provided a leg up on the political career of some Republican chairman going back to Elizabeth Dole and Bernadine P. Healy, M.D. More recently Bonnie McElveen-Hunter was head of American Red Cross. She has a nice resume. Before that job she was ambassador to Finland, and before that worked for Eliz Dole's presidential bid!

The Democratic Underground argues that such things were rewards for her:

“financial support of the Bush campaign. McElveen-Hunter was reported to be one of just 15 people who raised more than $1 million for Bush's presidential run. She headed Bush's effort to raise money from women, a campaign called "W is for Women."

She personally gave $102,750 to Republican candidates and party committees during the campaign, including $100,000 in soft money to the Republican National Committee. She also contributed $5,000 to the Bush-Cheney recount

None may dare call it a conspiracy, but it does show a bit of how the system and money work and how organizations collaborate to accomplish their agenda. Such top down, power elite control occasionally get frustrated by energetic, truly grassroots responses. OWS comes to mind here, but in this case it had come from women and progressive activists who have found a voice and shone a light on a wicked brew of politics and power pushing its agenda hidden away from view. It's perhaps another episode in the struggle with reactionary forces that insist on looking back rather than ahead for wisdom.

1 comment:

Edd.Doerr said...

Thanks, Gary. Excellent column.