As It Prepares For War, Planned Parenthood Is Training A Political Army
by Emily Atkin May 17, 2016 ThinkProgress
PITTSBURGH, PENNSYLVANIA — For Planned Parenthood, this election season means war. And you can’t win a war without an army.
So Planned Parenthood is building one: An army of pro-choice advocates trained in how to win political campaigns. On Friday, the women’s health organization held its biggest-ever volunteer training event in Pittsburgh, where nearly 1,000 activists from 48 states were taught how to build grassroots political support for reproductive health and abortion rights.
The training is just one part of what Planned Parenthood says will be the most expensive electoral effort in its 100-year history. Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards told ThinkProgress that her organization plans to spend at least $20 million to help win key Senate races and the presidency this November. While some of that money will go toward paid media like radio and television ads, a large portion is going toward building a grassroots army that can help elect Hillary Clinton to the White House. (Planned Parenthood endorsed Clinton in January.)
“This was, I believe, the largest volunteer training we’ve ever had in the history of Planned Parenthood,” Richards said on Monday. “They represent one slice of what is an enormous volunteer army that Planned Parenthood is building across the country.”
“We’ve never done anything like this before,” added Kelley Robinson, who organized the event for Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “This is a defining moment for our organization when it comes to thinking about how to build our power.”
Power is something Planned Parenthood could use. Last year, an anti-abortion sting campaign falsely accused the organization of selling fetal tissue for profit, which led directly to renewed defunding efforts in Congress and, indirectly, to a shooting at one of the organization’s clinics. In the last year, the Republican-led Congress voted to defund Planned Parenthood at least eight times. And while presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump once said the organization did “very good work,” he has since taken a harsher tone against the organization and abortion in general. On Sunday, he said he would nominate pro-life Supreme Court justices, suggesting they might vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. He also once suggested punishment for women who receive abortions, a position he later recanted.
This combination of anti-abortion rhetoric in state legislatures, Congress, and the presidential race means Planned Parenthood must build a similarly diverse strategy.
In addition to advertising and social media campaigns, it must have people on the ground, spreading the word about the importance of reproductive healthcare. And the organization can’t just focus on winning the presidency — it has to target down-ticket races as well.
“The importance of taking back [the U.S. Senate] is paramount,” said Deirdre Schifeling, Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s executive director. “It’s important to take back the presidency, it’s also equally important to flip the Senate. The [House of Representatives], we think is probably two cycles away. But we can flip the Senate.” [Read whole article]