Planned Parenthood moves forward in Trump's administration
Betty Cockrum has added a pep talk to her morning routine. It’s simple, it’s short, it’s five words: “Get out of bed, Betty.”
Cockrum, leader of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, has seen her fair share of political upsets. However, when it comes to the results of the 2016 election, she said she’s never been so wrong.
The agenda and mood of Planned Parenthood’s post-election national meeting changed dramatically after Trump’s election, Cockrum said.
“When your fellow CEOs say, ‘It’s just no fun anymore. It just gets harder by the day,’ that’s tough,” Cockrum said. “You just got to goshoulder to shoulder and keep each other going.”
President-elect Donald Trump has flip-flopped on abortion rights through the years. Most recently, he told CBS’s Lesley Stahl he wants state government to mandate abortion access. When asked what would happen if women need an abortion in a state that bans it, Trump suggested women cross state lines to seek services.
Rep. Curt Nisly, R-Goshen, has already proposed an abortion ban to be voted on in 2017.
In Indiana, 9,430 women obtained abortions in 2011, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a sexual and reproductive health advocacy group. If Nisly’s bill passes, the thousands of abortions that happen every year would be criminally investigated on charges as serious as manslaughter or murder, Nisly said.
The bill, Protection at Conception, would be considered unconstitutional as a direct violation of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion in 1973.
Overturning this Supreme Court decision has long been a top priority for former Indiana governor and vice president-elect Mike Pence. While in Congress, Pence was the first to sponsor a bill to defund Planned Parenthood in 2007, and after three attempts it was eventually passed by the House of Representatives in 2011.
During his term as governor he signed eight anti-abortion bills, including HEA 1337, which gained national attention because of its additional ban on abortions on the basis of race, gender or genetic anomalies such as Down syndrome.
Making it one of the most restrictive abortion bill in American history.
While campaigning in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Pence told the crowd the new administration plans to appoint a conservative Supreme Court and send the Roe v. Wade decision to the “ash heap of history where it belongs.”
Now that Pence’s platform has reached the White House, he may finally get what he wants.
With its organization in the crosshairs of one of the most hotly contested social issues, Planned Parenthood officials are down but not out.
“You got to talk to yourself to even get out of bed right now, and we do,” Cockrum said. “We have to get up, and we have to put one foot in front of the other, and we have to motivate each other, and we have to push one another.”
The week after the election, Planned Parenthood reported a 1,700-percent increase in online donations, totaling $25,000 in the first seven days.
On Giving Tuesday, the organization delivered 4,700 thank-you letters to Pence’s Indiana office for the donations made on his behalf.
The night before the delivery, Deborah Meader, Bloomington’s Planned Parenthood volunteer coordinator, organized a thank-you night for Planned Parenthood and All-Options Pregnancy Center volunteers and supporters.
“This is because we have a reality TV star as our president, and I’m really stressed about it,” Meader said.
All-Options is part of the national pregnancy and parenting nonprofit Backline. The Bloomington location is the only brick-and-mortar full-spectrum pregnancy center in the country.
It offers peer counseling, diaper assistance, abortion funding and referral services.
Volunteers, counselors and local politicians alike shared one declarative statement as a response to the threat to Roe v. Wade.
“We will not go back,” Meader said. “I refuse.”
A Trump-Pence administration is one more battle in the war for reproductive rights activists. Activists have repeatedly described the election as a wake-up call, not a turning point.
The biggest challenge reproduction rights activists face is the generational gap, said Patti Stauffer, vice president of policy, strategy and compliance at Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky.
“Those before Roe understand what it looks like and are very, very terrified that there is a path to that again,” Stauffer said.
The current generation of activists and feminists have no point of reference of what access was like before Roe v. Wade and therefore never thought their right to an abortion would be threatened, Stauffer said.
“We’re trying to encourage and motivate those who haven’t known the difficult environment, but I think now, certainly with the election of Trump, people understand that stuff can happen when you’re not paying attention,” she said.
Stauffer, who was the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Kentucky before the organization’s 2013 merge with Indiana, works not only to educate and mobilize coalitions but also to play defense against state legislators who propose restrictive bills before they make it to the Statehouse.
Nisly is not alone in his pro-life agenda. The Indiana Right to Life PAC endorsed Senator-elect Todd Young, R-Indiana, and seven candidates, including Representative-elect Trey Hollingsworth, R-District 9, for the House of Representatives.
Indiana bills continue to set the stage for other conservative legislation and raise concerns that the political landscape Pence created in Indiana may be spread across the nation through Trump’s administration.
New Jersey Republicans said Trump’s pro-life stance encouraged them to move forward on the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a bill banning abortions after 20 weeks and claiming fetuses can feel pain at that point. New Jersey would become the 15th state to pass the bill.
On Tuesday, Ohio’s Republican-controlled Senate voted to pass the Heartbeat Bill, which would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat was detected, which generally happens six weeks into a pregnancy.
Indiana’s Heartbeat Act was proposed in both the House and Senate but never passed last year.
This week Texas lawmakers approved new rules requiring abortion providers to bury fetal remains. The rules will go into effect Dec. 19. This bill mirrors the restrictions of Indiana’s HEA 1337, which was considered to likely be unconstitutional by Judge Tanya Walton Pratt who issued an injunction this summer.
In the 43 years since Roe v. Wade, 1,074 state-enacted abortion restrictions have passed, according to the Guttmacher Institute as of 2015.
Of the total restrictions, 30 percent have been enacted in recent years from 2011 to July 2016. In 2016 alone, 46 laws have been adopted from the beginning of the legislative session in January to June, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
The loyalty these conservative politicians feel to their constituency, their party and the ultra-conservative movement is a tough barrier to break through, Stauffer said.
The “alt-right” movement, which has gained national attention after the appointment of Steve Bannon as chief strategist and senior counselor in the White House, didn’t form in a day or even a decade, Stauffer said.
Organizations such as Planned Parenthood considered how this political phenomenon would fuel pro-life groups, Stauffer said. However, Planned Parenthood let the ‘alt-right’ take control of the conversation for too long.
As a result, Stauffer said, the strategy has changed. Instead of frontal attacks, PPINK will continue to try to block bills and build a coalition.
With what Stauffer calls a mindful shift in strategy organizations such as Planned Parenthood can prepare for what feels like the inevitable — a challenge to Roe v. Wade.
“Some state is going to have to move a bill that will ultimately be the test case to Roe v. Wade, I think that Indiana would love to be that state,” Stauffer said. “Certainly Pence would have loved for us to be that state.”
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