By Randall K. O’Bannon, Ph.D., NRL Director of Education & Research
With the bodies of more than 3.5 million unborn babies trailing in her wake, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards stepped down this week, ending an era, but not an empire.
In her 12 years, Richards not only ensured that PPFA would remain far and away the leading abortion “provider,” she also made the group much more politically powerful than ever before.
There are no plans to change that, as comments as recently as this week make crystal clear.
Planned Parenthood performed over 320,000 abortions in 2016, according to their most recent annual report. PPFA’s abortion numbers climbed during Richards’ tenure, even though the number of abortions were falling in the United States and even while other services were declining at Planned Parenthood.
This is no accident. Nothing happens at PPFA by accident. Increasing market share is the result of strategic planning and building at Planned Parenthood.
Under Richards, Planned Parenthood closed smaller clinics which did not offer abortions and opened giant new megaclinics which could handle high abortion volume. Revenues skyrocketed to $1.5 billion a year.
Richards is leaving, but Planned Parenthood clearly has no plans of reversing those trends. If anything, Executive Vice President Dawn Laguens and Planned Parenthood are accelerating.
Laguens takes over day-to-day operations while a search committee looks for a replacement. Comments Laguens made to Glamour magazine make clear the agenda remains the same.
After lamenting laws that “stigmatize” and make getting an abortion “almost impossible,” Laguens told Laura Norkin, “We’re going to fight and do everything we can to reverse that course; to change who’s in power between now and 2020.”
Glamour notes that one of the organization’s PACs–Planned Parenthood Votes–announced plans in March to spend $20 million to elect pro-abortion candidates and connect online with voters in eight key states.
Norkin does not specify those, but a CNN story identified Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, several of the “blue states” that Trump surprisingly won in the 2016 election.
Some of those same voters will be targeted by another new program, “Win Justice, “ a $30 million joint effort of Planned Parenthood with the Center for Community Change Action, Color of Change, and the Service Employees International Union started in mid-April. They say they aim to specifically mobilize “people of color and young people” in Florida, Michigan, and Nevada, on the heels of new polling data supposedly showing that young people are more likely shift in their views on abortion than older people.
According to an April 20, 2018 USA Today story, the Win Justice coalition feels the problem in past elections has been waiting until election time to try and engage these people. Win Justice aims to build those relationships by “authentically engaging these voters early and often,” with “Peer-to-peer texting, digital organizing, and resourcing and training community leaders to knock on doors and mobilize voters in their communities.”
Organizers added that “This program is focused on both immediate and long-term change by building an army of local leaders to lead this effort.”
Laguens told Glamour, “We are paying the price for the elections in 2010; this is their long shadow,” adding in PPFA’s typically understated manner, “We are really clawing our way back to any kind of democracy that actually reflects the true viewpoints of people in this country.”
Laguens is an old family friend of Richards. Laugens’s spouse worked as finance director for Ann Richards when Cecile’s mother ran for governor in Texas 25 years ago. She sees great opportunity in the “seismic” Me Too movement, bringing a wave of new female political candidates and 2 million new supporters for Planned Parenthood in the past year, 350,000 of which are teens. “These are big, big forces that are being unleashed in the culture,” Laguens told Glamour, “This is women’s moment.”
As executive vice president and “chief brand and experience officer,” Laguens takes credit for what Glamour describes as “heading off budget attacks from Mike Pence.”
As she manages Planned Parenthood Votes in addition to the group’s health services side, Laguens clearly intends for Planned Parenthood to do all it can to thwart Trump’s pro-life policies.
“When it comes to attacking women’s health and reproductive health access, they’re getting a lot done,” she told Glamour. “And in one year they have been pushing policies the likes of which we’ve never seen before.”
As noted above, Planned Parenthood’s political arms are keying on the coming midterm election. And it’s not just Congress.
“This is our last chance to flip some of those governors’ seats before redistricting,” said Deirdre Schifeling, the executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes told CNN.
Laguens acknowledged that abortion rates are lower, appearing in Glamour to attribute this to “more widely available contraception under Obamacare.” But making abortion “rare” has never been Planned Parenthood’s priority and it certainly isn’t Laguens’ priority.
“They used to say, abortion should be safe, legal, and rare,” Laguens told Glamour. “[I]t needs to be safe, legal, and fair.”
Laguens defended a bill in Maine earlier this year that would allow nurse practitioners to do abortions, making her and Planned Parenthood’s agenda plain.
“We need to not just protect access but expand to reproductive care that empowers women and their dreams” (Washington Examiner 2/13/18). (emphasis added).
With the number of abortions performed up and other services like “cancer screenings,” breast exams, and even birth control down, it’s clear what expanding “reproductive care” means to Laguens and Planned Parenthood.
The day after her puff piece in Glamour appeared, Laguens tweeted, “Thanks for talking about @PPFA’s bright future with me, @glamourmag!”