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Defending Planned Parenthood is Essential for the Whole Progressive Movement

(This opinion by LeeAnn Hall was originally published in Common Dreams)
Planned Parenthood is an easy target for rage and righteousness as we saw too plainly in the shootings in Colorado Springs late last month.
The ongoing conservative attack on Planned Parenthood funding depends on the same extreme rhetoric but, it’s also part of a broader trend, a strategy by the right to dismantle progressive infrastructure.
As destructive as we know right-wing operatives to be, we shouldn’t be surprised by their tactics – and we can’t allow ourselves to be divided or defeated by them, either.

Progressive groups and our members must reach across our issue silos, and our membership bases, whenever one of us comes under attack. Our support of Planned Parenthood provides a good example of how we can and should support each other.

This week I joined with a hundred other community leaders, organizers, and small business owners to place an advertisement in The Hill to tell lawmakers directly that we stand with Planned Parenthood. This followed a day of solidarity on December 5, when organizations and individuals around the country stood up for Planned Parenthood.

By speaking up and speaking together we are helping build a new kind of solidarity essential for today’s progressive movement.

A right to an abortion was upheld by the highest court of the land and is supported, in some or all circumstances, by 80 percent of the public. But abortion rights, and women’s health more broadly, are under greater attack today than ever. Why?

Many states have created bureaucratic hurdles and funding schemes that have made clinics that provide abortions and other essential women’s health services harder and harder to find. At the federal level rhetorical and policy attacks on Planned Parenthood have further jeopardized these rights.

Sure, it is largely because the rightwing politicians have been able to vilify Planned Parenthood and utilize their power at the state and federal level to limit access to abortions.

But it is also because for many years our movement for progressive social change has been too divided-up and focused internally on a narrow set of issues. We have tended to stay in our silos.

For my organization, the decision to stand up for Planned Parenthood was our first significant public foray into reproductive justice. Our decision came after a lot of discussion among organizers and grassroots leaders.

Ultimately, we knew we had to recognize the connection between attacks on women’s reproductive rights and many other issues affecting the lives of everyday people.

Low-wage workers, poor people, people of color, and immigrants depend on Planned Parenthood – 2.7 million women and men every year – for birth control, family planning and abortion services, cancer screenings, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted disease.

At a time when working people, and especially working women, are increasingly struggling to make ends meet, Planned Parenthood and other women’s health centers are providing essential services. Seventy-nine percent of Planned Parenthood health care center patients have incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level.

It’s no accident that the same politicians plotting to defund Planned Parenthood are leading the charge to eradicate the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Last week, just days after the Colorado Springs shootings, conservatives in the Senate were still debating legislation to dismantle both health care pillars.

If the attack on reproductive justice is part of a broader right-wing agenda, the singling out of Planned Parenthood also points to a prime right-wing tactic to advance that agenda: destroy progressive institutions.

Unfortunately, the right-wing has had success in the past with this tactic.

Just a few years ago, right-wing demagoguery, distortions, and budget cuts broke up ACORN, a national network of community organizations that was one of the strongest voices of low-income people in the country. Far too many progressive groups and individuals stood on the sidelines when ACORN was under fire. We lost strength as a result.

The latest legal challenge to the right of workers to collectively bargain and build unions will be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in January in the case of Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association which could dismantle public sector unions as we know them.

In recent weeks black student activists at the University of Missouri faced threats of violence in the wake of their successful organizing effort to unseat the University President. More recently five Black Lives Matter supporters were shot and wounded in Minneapolis by purported white supremacists.

Meanwhile, political leaders continue to make hateful comments about — and propose continued racist policy against — refugees and Muslims. Some voices may be more extreme than others, but xenophobia is widespread, as we saw in 30 governors’ reaction to Syrian refugees. Along with these rhetorical attacks, we’re seeing efforts to gut the programs that help refugees.

This is all infrastructure that we, as progressives, care about and need.

As community organizations, unions, grassroots activists, and faith leaders we must look to the shows of support for Planned Parenthood as an example of our ability to stand together. If there’s one thing we need lots of these days, it’s solidarity.

LeeAnn Hall is the executive director of the Alliance for a Just Society, a national organization that advocates for health, economic and racial justice. 

Progressive Leaders Unveil Shared Populist Agenda

MEDIA ADVISORY CONTACTS:   Populism2015 logo

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Jacob Swenson-Lengyel (jacob@npa-us.org), 312-316-3973

PROGRESSIVE LEADERS UNVEIL SHARED POPULIST AGENDA

Populism2015 Conference Will Bring 1,000 People From Across the Country Together in Washington, D.C. this Weekend

Washington, D.C. – Progressive leaders today unveiled a new shared populist agenda on a media conference call in advance of the Populism2015 conference. This agenda is galvanizing the progressive populist community and defining the debate going into the 2016 elections.

“There is a bottom-up progressive populist sentiment building in this country,” said George Goehl, Executive Director of National People’s Action, “It’s no secret that we are looking for political leadership, but we are also not waiting for that leadership. Populism2015 and the agenda we are organizing is one sign of that. The ideas in our agenda create a clear line in the sand for all candidates. At the end of the day the question is simple: do you stand with everyday people or do you stand with big-monied corporate interests?”

“This platform has been shaped by the key issues that determine the direction of our communities and our national economy,” said Roger Hickey of the Campaign for America’s Future. “We are taking the questions raised by our platform to the national political debate and to communities across the country.”

“In 18 months, we will go to the polls and choose a new president. Those candidates and all the others on the ballot in 2016 will have choices to make,” said Fred Azcarate, Executive Director of US Action, “Will they stand with working families and advance bold ideas that create an economy and a democracy that works for us all? Or will they side with the rich and Wall Street?”

“When you organize, you can win. Our power is in our numbers,” said LeeAnn Hall, Executive Director of the Alliance for a Just Society. “Our organizations have worked together on many issues to put the powerful on notice and to demand accountability from corporations ­– and from Congress.  We will use that strength to wrest our nation back from the corporate class, from the bankers and billionaires who put profits ahead of people.”

“Collectively we bring together a team of 600 organizers who will fight to move these ideas into the national conversation,” said Goehl. “They will be working in Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and beyond to make sure candidates of both parties have to articulate where they stand on these issues.”

Populism2015 is sponsored by National People’s Action, Campaign for America’s Future, USAction, and Alliance for a Just Society, four organizations that collectively employ more than 600 professional organizers, with on the ground operations in 32 states, and a network of more than two million activists. For more information visit https://populism2015.org/

What:         POPULISM2015: BUILDING A MOVEMENT FOR PEOPLE AND THE PLANET

Who:        National People’s Action, Campaign for America’s Future, USAction, Alliance for a Just Society

When:     Saturday, April 18 – Monday, April 20, 2015 Registration 3 p.m. April 18 | First session: 6 p.m.

Where:     Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington D.C.

Highlights:
Plenary: Sun. April 19, 1:30 pm with Rep. Keith Ellison and Vien Truong of the Greenlining Institute
Rally: “Don’t Trade Away Our Future,” Mon. April 20, 12pm at 600 17th Street NW, Office of the US Trade Representative, Opposing Fast Track and the Trans-Pacific Partnership featuring Senator Bernie Sanders, CWA President Larry Cohen, National Radio Commentator Jim Hightower

Website:     populism2015.org

Social Media:  #Populism2015, #PeoplePlanet1st

Leaders Available for Interviews Before Conference

  • Robert Borosage, Campaign for America’s Future

  • George Goehl, National People’s Action

  • LeeAnn Hall, Alliance for A Just Society

  • Fred Azcarate, USAction

    To arrange interviews with the conference leaders and grassroots activists contact Isaiah J. Poole (ipoole@ourfuture.org), 202-641-1414 or Jacob Swenson-Lengyel (jacob@npa-us.org), 312-316-3973.

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