Campbell Brown, the former CNN and NBC News anchor, in Sunday's New York Times, called Planned Parenthood's behavior self-destructive because its purity test for political candidates means it will only back those who agree with 100% of its agenda.
To many readers her argument seems so sensible, but what's she really up to?
She argues that Planned Parenthood's position assures a partisan fight over whether the group will receive federal funds because the group doesn't reach out to moderate Republicans who support women's health issues. Her argument is cleverly devious. She gives two examples of moderate Republican who didn't get the groups' nod: Maine's U.S. Senator Susan Collins and an Illinois Congressman Robert Dold.
Planned Parenthood rejected Collin's because she voted to confirm New Jersey's Samuel Alito, Jr., a right wing Republican, to the Supreme Court. As a third circuit judge he had a horrendous record on women's right issues ranging from sex harassment to birth control and will likely vote to overturn Roe v. Wade as soon as he gets a chance.
Dold has to appear as a moderate because he is running in a district that is predominantly Democratic and supports a liberal agenda. What Brown doesn't tell you is that Dold opposes government assistance for women who cannot afford abortions and has taken the Grover Norquist pledge against new taxes, including taxing tax-dodging corporations and the wealthiest 1%. Without new taxes on the rich and corporations, our country will never be able to balance the federal budget, create jobs and fund health care programs for low and moderate-income women.
In case you don't know it, Norquist is the Republican party's top strategist, and has urged the Party to destroy groups like Planned Parenthood. In 2001, Norquist, head of Americans for Tax Reform, penned an article in the American Spectator that outlined a strategy to undermine the Democratic Party and block progressive taxes on business that upset his corporate clients. It called for destroying the "five pillars" of the Democratic Party -- unions, trial lawyers, big city mayors, voter registration groups, and progressive groups that receive foundation and federal funding.
Planned Parenthood falls into the latter two categories. The group has always been independent from the Democratic Party and had long time support from moderate Republicans. But Norquist helped develop the Republican Party's strategy of killing any group that might help to elect Democrats. Planned Parenthood serves poor and working class Americans -- black, white and Hispanic -- and combines its service work with a grassroots organizing strategy that emphasizes the exercise of political power. Because it educates women on issues and encourages electoral activity the Republicans have declared war on Planned Parenthood.
Republicans like Dold and Collins support their party's leadership and have not tried to stop the Republican Party campaign, which uses right-wing talk shows, columnists, and Tea Party activists, from disparaging Planned Parenthood. These manufactured controversies subjected Planned Parenthood to a torrent of media stories that required them to divert their staff from their core work and spend considerable time and money defending itself and rallying supporters. The Republican Party war against Planned Parenthood has sought to scare foundations and government into cutting off funding.
So Brown wants Planned Parenthood to reach across the aisle to help members of a political party whose aim is to destroy it! Brown should be scolding the Republican Party for its lack of support for women's health issues.
Finally Brown's claim that Planned Parenthood is hurting itself is ridiculous.
Most Americans understand and support what Planned Parenthood does, which is to provide health services to women and educate women about sex and birth control. Over 95 percent of women who have ever had sex have used at least one birth control method in their lifetime. What makes Planned Parenthood controversial is its abortion counseling and services, but even here public opinion is generally positive. About half of the public consistently support a woman's right to have an abortion under some circumstances. Women are generally more pro-choice than men. And among liberals, more than three-quarters support reproductive freedom.
Planned Parenthood plans to recruit "patient escorts" to accompany women to their health care clinics for door-to-door campaigning and bring a million pro-choice voters to the polls through phone-banking, direct mail and door-to-door canvassing using a progressive voter file to identify and mobilize pro-choice women to vote.
Today Planned Parenthood claims more than 6 million activists, donors and supporters nationwide who can be contacted via email and other social media for political work. Its website which provides information on birth control and sexually transmitted disease, attracts 33 million visits a year. Buttressing its base of support is a better strategy than "reaching across the aisle to members of a political party which aims to destroy them. The political arm of
Planned Parenthood opposes Mitt Romney because he's against federal funding for abortion, and vows to federally defund the group.
So why did Brown write her deceptive op-ed? Parading as a pro-choice journalist her job is to defame Planned Parenthood while shoring up independent and moderate Republican support for Romney. Her husband, Dan Senor, is a top Romney advisor, a fact that she doesn't disclose in her op-ed.
And why would the New York Times even print Brown's op-ed? Perhaps it's because the paper desperately searches for moderate Republicans, like Brown, who don't sound completely insane, a problem shared by Republicans across the country.
John Atlas's new book is Seeds of Change, The Story of ACORN, America's Most Controversial Antipoverty Community Organizing Group, Vanderbilt University Press (2010) and president of the National Housing Institute.