Swiftboating Planned Parenthood

Written by Ralph E. Stone. Posted in Healthcare, Politics

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Published on September 22, 2015 with No Comments


By Ralph E. Stone

September 22, 2015

Remember the organization “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” and its smear campaign against 2004 presidential candidate John Kerry?  Named after the group, the discredited, Republican-funded campaign against Kerry became known pejoratively as “swiftboating.”

Like Kerry, Planned Parenthood is being “swift-boated” by the Republican Party and anti-abortion groups.  In July 2015, David Donaldson, an anti-abortion activist, released videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing the illegal sale of fetal tissue.  The videos totally misrepresent what Planned Parenthood does.  In fact, the organization follows federal law, allowing women to donate fetal tissue for research, and charging small amounts to cover costs. Abortion services are only 3 percent of its services. But the videos took on a life of their own.

Notwithstanding the fallaciousness of the videos, the Republican Party has jumped on Planned Parenthood to highlight their anti-abortion stance.  On September 18, 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives voted mostly along party lines to freeze federal funding for Planned Parenthood.  The vote was largely symbolic as Democrats in the U.S. Senate have enough votes to kill the legislation and, if not, President Obama would veto the bill.  There is some GOP sentiment to shut down the government unless Planned Parenthood is defunded.

Attacks on Planned Parenthood even found its way into the Republican presidential campaigns.  Chris Christie, Scott Walker, and Jeb Bush bragged about defunding Planned Parenthood in their states. Ted Cruz called the group “an ongoing criminal enterprise.”  And Carly Fiorina compared the organization to the threat from Iran.  Even Donald Trump jumped on the anti-Planned Parenthood bandwagon saying that Republicans should shut down the government rather than fund the organization.  And Ben Carson joined fellow Republican presidential hopefuls Rand Paul and Ted Cruz at a rally in Washington calling for the defunding of Planned Parenthood.

It is not coincidental that these attacks on Planned Parenthood coincide with attacks on reproductive health facilities across the country, including cyber attacks, threats, and arsons.  The FBI is now investigating these attacks.

What would be lost if Planned Parenthood went out of business?  The New England Journal of Medicine sums it up best:

“We strongly support Planned Parenthood not only for its efforts to channel fetal tissue into important medical research but also for its other work as one of the country’s largest providers of health care for women, especially poor women. It is shameful that a radical anti-choice group whose goal is the destruction of Planned Parenthood continues to twist the facts to achieve its ends. We thank the women who made the choice to help improve the human condition through their tissue donation; we applaud the people who make this work possible and those who use these materials to advance human health. We are outraged by those who debase these women, this work, and Planned Parenthood by distorting the facts for political ends.”

Unfortunately, if a falsehood is repeated often enough, too many people will start believing there must be some truth to the accusations against Planned Parenthood.  That seems to be the GOP strategy.

Ralph E. Stone

I was born in Massachusetts; graduated from Middlebury College and Suffolk Law School; served as an officer in the Vietnam war; retired from the Federal Trade Commission (consumer and antitrust law); travel extensively with my wife Judi; and since retirement involved in domestic violence prevention and consumer issues.

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