Perhaps no single organization embodies the intense politics surrounding women’s reproductive rights in the US as profoundly as Planned Parenthood does. The iconic women’s health organization, which provides basic healthcare to low- and middle-income families, is no stranger to political targeting.
But attacks have intensified in the last two weeks after undercover videos released by the Center for Medical Progress–later reported to have been heavily edited and taken out of context–surfaced in the media. The video’s producers alleged that Planned Parenthood had been selling aborted fetal organs for financial gain. The group released a third video today.
The President of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards was quick to defend her organization, calling the move a “smear campaign,” and an attempt to “entrap” Planned Parenthood’s doctors. “This has been a three-year, well-funded effort by the most militant wing of the anti-abortion movement in this country to try to entrap doctors,” Richards told ABC.
Today, pro-lifers took their campaign to the streets, organizing under the banner #WomenBetrayed, and protesting in more than 50 cities, urging citizens to demand that their states investigate and defund Planned Parenthood.
“Women are supposed to help and support other women—not use them for profit and sell the body parts of their prenatal children,” said Kristan Hawkins, Students for Life of America (SFLA) president. “Planned Parenthood gets a half a billion a year in taxpayer dollars. We are calling on every state and federal government to cut off those funds immediately and investigate Planned Parenthood for possible wrongdoing.”
Although domestic politics around abortion, and specifically the role Planned Parenthood plays, is nothing new, both Democrats and Republicans have much to lose as they enter into the debate—with next year’s elections looming.
And it’s evident in their online organizing. Just a quick glance at the #WomenBetrayed website shows that the organization is focused on mobilizing young women against Planned Parenthood. The homepage is framed with young women holding signs proclaiming that they are the “Pro-Life Generation,” in a clear nod to Planned Parenthood’s “I Stand With Planned Parenthood” campaign.
As the political machines around women’s health heat up, male politicians in Washington are eager to latch onto the issue. Republican Presidential candidates Senator Ted Cruz and Rand Paul both showed up at #WomenBetrayed rallies.
Rand took the opportunity to announce that the Senate would vote on defunding Planned Parenthood:
— Senator Rand Paul (@RandPaul) July 28, 2015
A group of House Democrats has called for the Center for Medical Progress to be investigated, and the Huffington Post reports that more videos are set to be released.
The race for the White House and the fight to secure the women’s vote are clearly both well underway. And Planned Parenthood is caught in the storm.