This week, Hillary Clinton released What Happened, a chronicle of her failed 2016 presidential campaign, and she devotes a section to the state of “reproductive rights” in the U.S. In it, Clinton takes issue with her primary opponent Bernie Sanders’s charge that Planned Parenthood is just another part of the “establishment.”
“Few organizations are as intimately connected to the day-to-day lives of Americans . . . as Planned Parenthood, and few are under more persistent attack,” Clinton counters. “I’m not sure what’s ‘establishment’ about that . . . ”
Though Clinton wasn’t willing to deem Planned Parenthood “establishment” when she penned her book, perhaps she will be now that the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation is honoring the organization with its annual Lasker-Bloomberg Public Service Award. This is widely considered one of the most prestigious awards in medicine and is often referred to as the “American Nobel,” because 86 previous awardees have gone on to win a Nobel Prize.
According to the foundation, Planned Parenthood will receive the award for its provision of “essential health services and reproductive care to millions of women for more than a century.” Past Lasker-Bloomberg awards have gone to public figures such as Bill and Melinda Gates, Michael Bloomberg, and even Lyndon B. Johnson.
This award, granted by one of the most influential groups in medical research, bestows on the abortion provider yet another medal of honor from the powers that be, another indisputable piece of evidence that, in American public life, it doesn’t get much more “establishment” than Planned Parenthood. It would be absurd to suggest otherwise.
For instance, consider that Planned Parenthood collects over half a billion federal dollars every year in Medicaid reimbursements, and has for nearly five decades. Removing that funding to keep taxpayer dollars from funding abortions has been a Republican goal for almost the entire time, but it has yet to be accomplished for even one fiscal year.
And the love goes both ways. From the 2012 election cycle through the 2016 cycle, Planned Parenthood’s advocacy and political arms spent over $38 million in support of Democratic politicians.
Courts are notoriously willing to rule in favor of abortion providers, regardless of how sound the cases against them might be. Last summer in Florida, a federal judge blocked a state law that would have prevented state money from going to organizations that provide abortions (i.e., Planned Parenthood). And this February, another judge ruled that Texas couldn’t defund Planned Parenthood’s Gulf Coast affiliate, even though the state provided evidence of the group’s involvement in breaking federal and state law to profit from selling the fetal tissue of aborted babies.
Courts are notoriously willing to rule in favor of abortion providers, regardless of how sound the cases against them might be.
Planned Parenthood’s establishment status is bolstered by complicit media that prefer to give the abortion group the kid-glove treatment. When the fetal-tissue-trafficking scandal emerged two years ago, most outlets ignored the undercover videos displaying potential lawbreaking on the part of Planned Parenthood, and reporters often distorted the facts in order to paint the accusations of illegal activity as fraudulent.
Despite these and other examples of the powers that be embracing Planned Parenthood, the group truly has done nothing to earn the exuberant praise that the Lasker Foundation — along with so many other public figures — is heaping on it.
One would think, for example, that a group being honored for contributions to medicine wouldn’t simultaneously be subject to congressional investigations into allegations of illegal fetal-tissue trafficking. Planned Parenthood supporters portray this investigation as nothing more than a political witch hunt, the kind of “persistent attack” that Clinton refers to in her book. But witch hunts cease to be witch hunts when they uncover evidence of substantial wrongdoing, as this congressional investigation did.
What’s more, medical doctors worthy of receiving awards for their public service don’t attend conferences where they discuss performing gruesome, illegal intact partial-birth abortion procedures. Mainstream health-care organizations don’t institute abortion quotas and provide incentives to clinic workers for exceeding abortion estimates. Clinics dedicated to providing actual health care don’t repeatedly distort the truth about what services they offer.
But these inconvenient facts probably wouldn’t change anyone’s mind at the Lasker Foundation. After all, the organization’s founders, Albert and Mary Lasker, were close allies of Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger. Mary donated to Sanger’s American Birth Control League and joined its board, while Albert is credited with proposing the name “Planned Parenthood,” which the ABCL adopted in 1942. Likely because of that history, the Foundation is perfectly content to confer “establishment” status on Planned Parenthood and downplay its involvement in abortion — parroting, for example, the infamously incorrect claim that abortion procedures account for a mere 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services.
Clinton is wrong to portray Planned Parenthood as some kind of radical outsider group taking on the established order. The Lasker Foundation’s decision to honor Planned Parenthood with its annual public-service award is merely the latest proof that the abortion organization is praised and supported by powerful cultural forces far more often than it is persecuted in any meaningful way.
— Alexandra DeSanctis is a William F. Buckley Jr. Fellow in Political Journalism at National Review Institute.