Cecile Richards, the organization’s president, will have no such thing. “The minute we begin to edge back from that is the minute that they’ve won,” she said during an interview at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Monday. Despite the renewed push in Washington to stop the organization from getting government funding, Richards believes Planned Parenthood can win the culture wars and make abortion widely acceptable in America. “We’ve got to quit apologizing or hiding,” she said.
Technically, the federal government already prohibits funding for most abortion services. Under the so-called Hyde Amendment, first passed in 1976, organizations like Planned Parenthood can’t get reimbursed by Medicaid for performing elective abortions. But pro-life advocates often argue that Hyde doesn’t go far enough. Since Planned Parenthood can get public money for some of the other services it provides, taxpayer dollars still effectively go to fund abortions, they say.
This characterization is “completely inaccurate,” Richards said. Other health-care organizations, including many hospitals, provide abortions, she argued, and they, too, get reimbursed under Medicaid for their other services. “Somehow, Planned Parenthood is being held to a completely different standard,” she said.
Richards believes the political discourse around abortion has become toxic in recent years. “There was a time when the Republican Party embraced individual liberties,” she said. “In fact, many of our Planned Parenthood affiliates were founded by Republicans.” While more Republicans used to consider themselves pro-choice, she said, their ranks have been significantly been reduced—Richards name-checked Maine Senator Susan Collins and Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski as the only two left in the Senate.
Even in the face of so much opposition, Richards isn’t willing to have Planned Parenthood separate abortion from the rest of its health-care services—quite the opposite. She believes Planned Parenthood can and will win the culture wars to end “the stigma of abortion.”
“It’s more important than ever that we stand loud and proud for the ability of any woman—regardless of her income, her geography, her immigration status, her sexuality, her sexual orientation—to access the full range of reproductive health care,” Richards said. “We’ve got to pull the curtains back and be open and honest about this procedure that one in three women will have at some point in their lifetime, and their right to make that decision.”
Richards cited the way pop-culture depictions of abortion have changed in recent years. “I’ll shout out Teen Vogue and Cosmo and Glamour—women’s magazines that are putting abortion stories into their magazines. That’s never happened before,” she said. Or abortion will show up on television: Shonda Rhimes, who recently joined Planned Parenthood’s board, featured abortion in an episode of Scandal, “dealt with not in hysterical terms,” as Richards put it.