March 14, 2008 in City

Planned Parenthood unhurt by racism charge

Erica F. Curless Staff writer
 

Planned Parenthood of Idaho has had no decline in donations or demand for health services in the wake of accusations that it encouraged a donation aimed at aborting black babies.

Officials apologized in February for an employee’s “serious mistake” for accepting a pledge from a donor – actually an actor hired by a student magazine – requesting the money go toward aborting a black baby because “the less black kids out there the better.”

CEO Rebecca Poedy criticized The Advocate, an anti-abortion magazine, for using “race-baiting” tactics and deception to smear Planned Parenthood and called it the “most cynical form of politicking.” Yet she said the employee has been suspended during a pending investigation and that the staff has received training to better respond to people who call with an offensive agenda.

The University of California, Los Angeles, student magazine hired an actor to make calls in July to Planned Parenthood affiliates in seven states, including Idaho, and portray a donor who wanted his money used to abort a black baby. Conversations in Idaho and Ohio were secretly recorded and released by The Advocate last month.

“In the wake of this incident, Planned Parenthood has received many messages of support from donors, community members and local organizations,” Poedy wrote in an e-mail Thursday. “Most importantly, we have not seen any decline in demand for our health services or prevention education programs.”

Jet Tilley, director of public policy for Planned Parenthood of the Inland Northwest, which provides services in North Idaho and Eastern Washington, said the affiliate hasn’t seen any negative effect.

“Our donors and people who support Planned Parenthood understand the truth about our organization – that we provide high-quality health services for people who tend to fall through the cracks,” Tilley said.

Last year Planned Parenthood of Idaho provided nearly $300,000 worth of services free to low-income Idahoans.

Editor-in-chief Lila Rose, who wrote The Advocate story, didn’t return phone calls or e-mails Thursday.

In February, Rose told the Idaho Statesman that it’s unacceptable for a nonprofit to accept donations that target specific races.

“They do not change their ways,” Rose said in the Statesman article. “They attack the whistleblower.”

The magazine also is calling for UCLA to cut its ties with Planned Parenthood.

In a Feb. 29 statement, Peody said the racist donation was never accepted and the staff member in question immediately notified her supervisor of the suspicious call and prepared an incident report.

Idaho Values Alliance, a longtime anti-abortion activist and conservative lobbyist, called for the firing of the Planned Parenthood employee.

In a press release, Executive Director Bryan Fisher wrote, “It turns out that blatant racism is alive and well in Idaho, but it’s not coming from the Aryan Nation types – it’s coming from way-left organizations like Idaho’s own Planned Parenthood. Idaho didn’t have room for Richard Butler and shouldn’t have room for Planned Parenthood.”

Tony Stewart, secretary of the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations, said Planned Parenthood isn’t considered a racist organization and that instead an employee made a “very bad mistake” after she was set up. “They failed to have all employees trained properly,” Stewart said. “I would just have hung up on them.”

He added that he disagrees that “blatant racism” is alive in Idaho.

“If that statement is correct then how do they explain that Senator Obama received the largest vote in any state so far with 80 percent of the caucus,” he said, referring to the Democratic presidential caucus in February.

Tilley of the Inland Northwest affiliate said that Planned Parenthood rejects racism and has a long history of social justice.

In fact, she said, Martin Luther King Jr. was the first recipient of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Margaret Sanger Award in 1966.


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