Planned Parenthood likes to think of itself as above all reproach -- a champion of women's rights and also (as its annual report claims) the nation's "social justice movement."
But this week, in front of Planned Parenthood offices at 1108 16th St. NW in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, a group of black pastors and pro-life activists (joined by two GOP congressmen) will demand a congressional audit of what the group alleges are a pattern of racist practices, funded by taxpayers, at Planned Parenthood abortion clinics.
Planned Parenthood's latest trouble began when a feisty pro-life student magazine called Planned Parenthood offices in seven states, posing as an openly racist donor seeking to make sure his check could be earmarked to abort "a black baby." The resulting phone conversations are horrifying listening. (Judge for yourself at www.youtube.com./watch?v=zwif0VMW3c4.)
According to the group, Planned Parenthood officers in at least four states agreed not only to accept the racists' check, but to actually earmark the donation for that purpose. "The less black kids the better," the caller tells one Planned Parenthood employee. "For whatever reason we'll accept the money," was one typical response.
The Planned Parenthood Action Fund is promising to spend $10 million this election cycle. "These donations come even as Planned Parenthood is defending itself against a range of civil and criminal complaints in several states, and critics charge that the organization is trying to buy influence in Congress," notes ABC News.
It's a smart investment for an affluent organization (a budget surplus of $114 million and assets of more than $1 billion) that gets more than one-third of its income, or almost $337 million in 2006, from the taxpayers.
The current racism charge can't help but revive memories of a similar sting operation that revealed many Planned Parenthood clinic employees were willing to tell a caller posing as a 13-year-old girl with a 22-year-old boyfriend how she could avoid triggering mandatory child sex abuse reporting requirements at the clinic.
In each case, Planned Parenthood's national leaders have responded poorly, seeking to deflect attention away from the behavior of its own employees to the motivations of those who made the phone calls.
Sure, these are pro-life activists doing these sting operations. But here's the real question: What is it about Planned Parenthood employees that makes them so easy for pro-life activists to target? Why do Planned Parenthood officers lack the minimal sense of decency to tell a man who wants to make sure there are fewer black kids in the world where he can go with his money? Or even worse: When faced with a child sexually exploited by a pedophile, why didn't Planned Parenthood employees want to call the police?
I do not believe that Planned Parenthood is explicitly racist (though its founder, Margaret Sanger, certainly was), any more than I believe that Planned Parenthood workers actively want to encourage pedophilia.
But here's what we've learned: Planned Parenthood is an organization staffed by people committed to the proposition that there is never a good reason not to have, support, fund or perform an abortion. In their own minds, their sacred mission to destroy human life puts them above the normal rules and even laws that any minimally decent person (whether pro-choice or pro-life) would recognize.
Help pedophiles and racists? For too many Planned Parenthood employees, it's apparently all in a day's work.
That's a clear product of a corporate culture created by Planned Parenthood, which views the organization as above normal rules and laws.
And the vast right-wing conspiracy cannot possibly do more damage to this organization's reputation than its own leadership does in dismissing the indefensible.
Maggie Gallagher is a nationally syndicated columnist, a leading voice in the new marriage movement and co-author of The Case for Marriage: Why Married People Are Happier, Healthier, and Better Off Financially.