The political wing of Planned Parenthood on Tuesday announced a voter-mobilization effort targeting the young, often low-income women who rely on the group’s clinics for gynecological exams, birth control and abortion.
The nonprofit expects to raise at least $10 million over the next 10 months to recruit patients, as well as their friends and families, to lobby legislators and vote for candidates who support Planned Parenthood’s agenda.
That agenda includes support for abortion rights, but the campaign will emphasize such issues as affordable contraception, comprehensive sex education in public schools and increased subsidies for the basic health-care services – including pap smears, breast exams and HIV tests – that Planned Parenthood offers. Some of those services have been threatened by budget cuts on the state and federal levels.
“To do the work we need to do, we simply have to have change” in the political climate, said Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
The campaign, called “One Million Strong,” will be the group’s most ambitious and expensive effort.
In the 2004 election, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund spent about $7.5 million on advocacy.
Planned Parenthood’s doctors will not directly ask patients to join the movement. But in the past, clinics have had considerable success getting patients to call legislators or send postcards to Congress simply by displaying political material in waiting rooms.
Other strategies include reaching out to young people at concerts and church services, canvassing door to door and using sites such as MySpace to identify supporters.
Planned Parenthood serves 5 million patients a year; one in four American women will visit a clinic at some point. Richards figures it should not be difficult to persuade those patients, who already trust Planned Parenthood with their health, to follow the group’s lead when it comes to political activism.
“People will come to know Planned Parenthood in an entirely different way,” Richards said.