Randy Hall | Staff Writer/Editor | Wednesday, June 14, 2006
A spokesman for a conservative group called the decision "outrageous."
"We're going to channel our strength, our outreach, our power, and work with our pro-choice allies to help progressive voices win across America," said Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Richards, the daughter of former Texas Gov. Ann Richards, made the comments at the liberal "Take Back America" conference.
"The skies are looking better for progressives this November, but the threat to Roe v. Wade and the threat to family planning in this country are probably as great as they have been for the last 30 years," Richards said.
"And with Sandra Day O'Connor gone and Samuel Alito now sitting on the Supreme Court, anti-choice extremists have the bit in their mouth, and they're ready for action," she added.
Richards blamed the situation on politicians such as U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) and President George Bush, "who have abandoned public support for family planning, birth control and sex education."
The debate, she said, is being driven by "a bunch of ideologues who have not done a single thing in their lives to help children or to improve women's health-care access in this country," she noted.
"Had enough?" Richards asked. "Well, I have."
She noted that Planned Parenthood has 860 health centers around the country in 50 states and has more members, employees and staff than the 50 state Democratic parties combined.
"We have the potential to swing the vote in 2006, 2008 and 2010, and that's a lot of power," Richards said.
"The question is: What are we going to do with it? And the answer is: We're going to use it," Richards declared. "We're going to marry our current reality as the largest reproductive health-care provider in this country with our opportunity to be the largest kickass advocacy organization in this country.
"We're taking on the opponents of choice in the states and the districts where they live," she said. "Planned Parenthood has got to become more political so that health care can become less politicized."
As proof of the need for such action, Richards pointed to the situation in South Dakota, where "less than a month after Alito was confirmed," the legislature passed a bill banning abortion (or "criminalizing abortion," she said).
"I'm very happy to report that last week, the people of South Dakota filed nearly 38,000 signatures in that state, more than twice what was needed, to put this law on the November ballot so that the people of the state can vote this law down," she said.
"At Planned Parenthood, we provide safe and legal abortions in this country, and thank God we do," Richards said. "But that is only 10 percent of what we do. The other 90 percent of our work is to prevent unintended pregnancies and provide vital health care to 5 million women and teens every single year.
"If the far-right legislators in South Dakota are so concerned about the number of abortions, I invite them to link arms with Planned Parenthood -- because for 90 years, we have done more to prevent unintended pregnancies than any other organization in America," she added.
"The battle we're fighting about is not abortion," Richards stated. "It's about the most fundamental question of whether women or families should be able to plan their pregnancies and their families.
"So let me put it to you this way: I'll be damned if we're going to stand by and let George Bush or Sam Alito or Rick Santorum dismantle a woman's right to choose in this country," she said.
"I look forward to building a progressive America and taking back America."
As Cybercast News Service previously reported, Richards assumed leadership of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America in mid-February even as the organization faced the possibility of curtailing services in her home state of Texas.
Jim Sedlak, executive director of the conservative American Life League's STOPP International, called Richards' comments "outrageous."
"Planned Parenthood just released its latest annual report showing it received $272.7 million in taxpayer money, and now, its president exclaims that she is going to use the 'power' of the organization to get people she likes elected to office," Sedlak said. "It appears then that our tax money is going to be used to elect public officials."
Sedlak said the Internal Revenue Service should immediately revoke Planned Parenthood's tax-exempt status.
"Planned Parenthood has always tried to hide its political activity behind its lobbying group -- the Planned Parenthood Action Fund," Sedlak noted. "But when its president clearly states that Planned Parenthood will use its 860 health centers and all its employees and staff to do political work, it has clearly positioned itself as a political organization and violated the basic rules of a 501 C-3 organization.
"Now that Ms. Richards has said, in her own words, 'Planned Parenthood has got to become more political,' people all across the country should bring any PP political activity to the attention of the IRS and to the attention of elected officials," he added.
"It is time we cut off its tax-exempt status and stopped giving it our tax money."
See Earlier Stories:
Planned Parenthood Federation Names A New President (Jan. 10, 2006)
New Planned Parenthood Head Faces Home State Clinic Cuts (Jan. 20, 2006)
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