The Live Action videos of a pro-life, ACORN-like sting operation against Planned Parenthood may not bring down the venerable women's health organization, but it shows how energized and motivated the anti-abortion movement is.
Here is text from a fundraising letter from Wisconsin Right to Life using the "breaking news" about the videos as fodder to beat the bushes for cash to "de-fund Planned Parenthood":
"Dear Friend of Life,
"Planned Parenthood must be defunded, and it must be defunded now!
"A recent undercover investigation -- the latest in a whole series from Lila Rose and our courageous friends at Live Action -- revealed Planned Parenthood discussing how to exploit innocent young victims of sex trafficking and how to cover up possible crimes.
"In these shocking undercover videos, filmed in New Jersey and Virginia, Planned Parenthood representatives counsel pimps for prostitutes on how to facilitate abortions for 14 and 15 year-old sex slaves! I know this is painful to read and incredibly disturbing. But how many more scandals must we endure before Congress cuts off Planned Parenthood's subsidies?"
The Live Action videos have not had the impact that the ACORN sting had, thanks in part to a quick and organized response from the left, described in detail by David Weigel at Slate.
The videos -- particularly the unsavory footage of a clinic receptionist in New Jersey trying to get in the good graces of the supposed "pimp" -- gave a boost to pro-lifers and their parallel-universe vision of Planned Parenthood as a nefarious organization out to make billions in profits by murdering babies and exploiting young girls.
But it didn't take much to puncture that story line with a majority of American women and their representatives in Congress.
It helped that Lila Rose doctored the audio to make the videos look worse than they were.
And then there is the whole problem of the bigger picture. After all, one in four American women have relied on Planned Parenthood for birth control, pap smears, cancer screening, and other basic health services at some point in their lives.
Only 10 percent of what the organization does is to provide abortions. The rest of its resources are focused on basic women's health care and something you'd think the anti-abortion folks could get behind: preventing unintended pregnancies. This is the immediate, lived experience of millions of American women.
That's one reason liberal groups were able to rally around Planned Parenthood and counter the "sting" before it got the kind of legs that did in ACORN. Another reason, according to Weigel, is that progressives realized that if they failed to take a stand against another ACORN-like attack, there would be no end to the slime-and-destroy campaign.
Thus, there is no snowballing, bipartisan drive to destroy Planned Parenthood. Still, the Republicans are making "getting the taxpayer out of the abortion business," as Wisconsin Right To Life's Barbara Lyons puts it, a top priority.
Cutting Planned Parenthood, the largest women's health care provider in the country, out of Title X, the Nixon-era federal family planning law, is a top priority for Republicans in Congress.
This week, the House is taking up legislation that would ban insurance coverage of abortion under the health care reform law and allow hospitals to deny abortion services to women even in emergency situations under the Protect Life Act, nicknamed "Stupak on Steroids," by NARAL.
Across the country, at the state level, anti-abortion forces are pushing their legislatures to opt out of abortion coverage in the federal health care law (five states have already done this), bring back abstinence-only education, require women seeking abortions to view ultrasounds, and stop the private use of emergency contraception by requiring doctor's exams and office visits for follow-up care for women who seek to use RU486 to end a pregnancy early.
The mood among anti-abortion groups is triumphant. "It's a very exciting time," Lyons says.
Planned Parenthood, NARAL, and other pro-choice groups are on the defensive, watching for more efforts to defund, more attacks, more rollbacks of health care coverage for women at the state and federal level.
Pro-choice forces are down, but not out. "We've worked too hard to sit back and watch these rollbacks of women's health. We're determined to be here for the women who rely on us," says Planned Parenthood Wisconsin's Amanda Harrington.
"We need people who have been touched by Planned Parenthood to tell their stories," she adds.
The new Republican leaders in the states and at the national level are mostly young, white, conservative men who came out of the pro-life movement. These are not your country club Republicans, whose membership used to include pro-choice women.
Nonetheless, there are many thousands of those women who are linked in one way or another to the state and federal government offices where women's health issues are being decided. Reaching out to them, in addition to rallying the troops as Planned Parenthood did in the wake of the Live Action videos, is part of the pro-choice movement's strategy.
Getting the great, big pro-choice and pro-women's-health community together is a monumentally important task.
It is instructive to realize how a vocal minority could take over the Republican party and shape public policy despite its fringe views -- opposing abortion in cases of rape and incest, insisting access to birth control should be rolled back, and attacking reproductive health care two generations of women have considered an unquestioned right.
Yet on the other side of the aisle, the Democrats decided to jettison the public option in health care reform -- despite majority support in public opinion polls -- as too edgy.
If ever there were a place to take a stand, it is on reproductive health care for women.
If you liked this article by Ruth Conniff, the political editor of The Progressive, check out her story "Obama, Mubarak: We Love Pro-democracy Protesters!"
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