| AUSTIN, Texas, July 16
AUSTIN, Texas, July 16 Planned Parenthood on
Monday sued the state of Arizona in an effort to overturn a law
that blocks funding for its health clinics because the
organization also performs abortions.
The law, signed by Governor Jan Brewer in May, is part of a
national campaign against Planned Parenthood orchestrated by
conservatives Republican lawmakers who oppose abortions. In the
past two years, 13 states have taken steps to eliminate funding
for Planned Parenthood, and the organization has filed lawsuits
in six of them, including Arizona.
Planned Parenthood says abortions account for only 3
percent of its services, which include cancer screening and
"It is wrong for the state to tell Arizonans who they can
and cannot see for their healthcare. The men and women of this
state have the right to see the healthcare provider they deem is
best for them," said Bryan Howard, president and chief executive
officer of Planned Parenthood Arizona. The group, whose legal
team for the case includes the American Civil Liberties Union,
filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Arizona, according to
Amy Rezzonico, spokeswoman for state Attorney General Tom
Horne, said the attorney general had not yet seen a copy of the
complaint and declined comment.
Planned Parenthood has won injunctions in five states --
Indiana, Kansas, North Carolina, Tennessee and Texas -- arguing
that it is being punished for providing constitutionally
protected services and that women's access to preventive
healthcare is being blocked.
The lawsuit challenging the Arizona law is the latest salvo
in trench warfare between conservative Republicans and Planned
Parenthood across the country.
"We're in court and in legislatures in almost every state in
the country," said Cecile Richards, president of Planned
Parenthood Action Fund. "It has just gotten crazy. This is what
I hear from women -- Republican women, independent women all
over the country: They cannot believe that the Republican Party
leadership is on a crusade to end birth-control access in
A DIFFERENT ERA
The issue of reproductive rights was not always a partisan
one, as the history of Planned Parenthood in Arizona shows.
Peggy Goldwater, the wife of conservative icon Barry Goldwater,
the U.S. senator and 1964 Republican presidential nominee, was a
co-founder of Phoenix's Planned Parenthood in the 1930s.
Some years later, when Peggy's college-age daughter Joanne
became pregnant before she was ready to have a family, it was
Barry Goldwater who arranged an abortion, Joanne Goldwater said.
In those days before the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade
ruling made abortion legal, Joanne Goldwater had to stand on a
street corner waiting for a van to take her to a remote house,
where the procedure was done on a table, she said.
"I will absolutely never forget that as long as I live,"
Joanne Goldwater said. "That night was just imprinted in my
mind. I wouldn't want any young person to have to go through it.
It was a traumatic experience for me."
Joanne Goldwater's daughter CC Goldwater, a political
independent, has continued the family tradition and serves as a
trustee of Planned Parenthood in Arizona.
"To see the funding be taken away -- it's just ignorance;
it's unbelievable," said Barry Goldwater's granddaughter.
A FACTOR IN NOVEMBER?
Activists have recently broadened their focus beyond
restricting access to abortion to cutting funds for family
planning. They say it is not right to force taxpayers to send
money to Planned Parenthood because it is impossible to separate
its family planning services from the abortions it provides.
"Legislators want to enact policies that protect taxpayers
from subsidizing the abortion industry," said Elizabeth Graham,
director of Texas Right to Life. "They've sent a clear message
to Planned Parenthood or any other agency that provides
abortion: Stop doing abortion, and you can have all the
health-care dollars you want."
Planned Parenthood oversees a network of nearly 800 clinics
offering birth control, gynecological exams and care for
sexually transmitted diseases. It gets almost half its revenue,
$488 million in 2010, from government grants and reimbursements
for services to low-income women. It is the nation's largest
provider of abortions, but it says only about 12 percent of
Planned Parenthood patients receive abortions.
Last year, Republicans unsuccessfully tried to end federal
funding for Planned Parenthood, and presumptive Republican
presidential candidate Mitt Romney has vowed to "get rid" of
The issue has not been prominent in the presidential
election campaign, but Mark Jones, chairman of the political
science department at Rice University in Houston, said that
could change in the runup to November.
Romney is fighting an uphill battle to win the votes of
white women, and if Planned Parenthood and others succeed in
convincing women that abortion rights are threatened, he said,
some voters could turn out who otherwise would not vote.
"He's much better off if economic issues are highlighted
rather than social issues," Jones said.
Planned Parenthood and its supporters say the latest assault
threatens to leave low-income people without access to cancer
screenings and birth control. It is fighting back by raising
money, beefing up its legal team and campaigning against state
and federal candidates such as Romney.
The Arizona law challenged by Planned Parenthood on Monday
could mean that almost 3,000 Medicaid patients receiving birth
control and other preventive care at Planned Parenthood will no
longer be eligible, said Howard of Planned Parenthood Arizona,
who is a Republican.
The lawsuit comes less than a week after the Center for
Reproductive Rights and the American Civil Liberties Union in
Phoenix filed a lawsuit challenging another Arizona law that
bans most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The 20-week
limit is based on controversial research suggesting a fetus
feels pain by that stage of development.
Anti-abortion advocates have long wanted to target Planned
Parenthood, but until recently it was not politically feasible,
said Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the Susan B. Anthony
List, a Washington, D.C., group that works to elect
"No one wanted to be perceived as being against family
planning," said Dannenfelser, who said her group co-wrote model
state legislation that was the basis for the Arizona law. "Any
effort to defund (Planned Parenthood) was doomed to fail."
That changed in 2010, after anti-abortion Republicans swept
federal and state elections. Richards said Planned Parenthood's
state and federal battles stem from a proposal by U.S.
Representative Mike Pence, an Indiana Republican who last year
spearheaded an unsuccessful effort to strip funding for Planned
Parenthood from the federal budget. Pence is the Republican
nominee for governor of Indiana in the November election.
Pence's proposal followed the release of videos by an
anti-abortion group that showed Planned Parenthood workers
agreeing to help underage prostitutes get abortions. Planned
Parenthood has said the videos were deceptively edited but that
it would retrain its staff.
Pence's campaign made it politically acceptable to attack
Planned Parenthood, Dannenfelser said.
"There was a low rumbling that got louder, there was a
tipping point, and now there is great momentum," she said.
There is momentum on Planned Parenthood's side, too.
In the past year it has gained more than 1.5 million
supporters, financial and otherwise, Richards said.
At the end of May, Planned Parenthood Action Fund announced
its endorsement of Obama and said it would spend more than $1.4
million on an anti-Romney ad campaign.
"We're going to make sure every woman in America knows where
candidates stand," Richards said. "What we have seen
consistently is that when a politician says they're going to get
rid of Planned Parenthood, women don't support them."
During the 2010 election, Planned Parenthood political and
advocacy organizations spent more than $900,000 on federal
elections, mostly through ads benefiting Democrats, according to
the Center for Responsive Politics.
Anti-abortion groups vow to keep the pressure on Planned
Parenthood by scouring state budgets to identify and try to
eliminate tax dollars for the group.
"We're making sure that we've found all the money, and we'll
take it away if there's any left," said Texas Right to Life
(Aditional reporting by David Schwartz; editing by Greg McCune,
Lee Aitken and Douglas Royalty)