The Tea Party tried to turn the group into the New Black Panther Party, and instead inspired an ongoing backlash
On Thursday I’ll be speaking at Planned Parenthood of Illinois’ annual gala, and I’m honored. (Tickets are available here.) I’ve always supported Planned Parenthood, but I think the group has helped change the political debate in this country in tangible ways over the last year or so, and I’m excited to talk about where we go from here.
We also have to thank the Tea Party, of course. My MSNBC colleague Chris Hayes joked on Monday that Tea Party extremists “thought they could turn Planned Parenthood into the New Black Panthers” – that Fox News boogeyman – but they were wrong. When they pushed to defund Planned Parenthood, they touched off a grass-roots uprising to defend not only the organization, but women’s health and freedom. It flared up again when Susan G. Komen defunded Planned Parenthood, and Komen had to reverse itself.
I think the attacks on Planned Parenthood are part of what is widening the gender gap behind President Obama. Reading David Corn’s absorbing “Showdown: The Inside Story of How Obama Fought Back Against Boehner, Cantor and the Tea Party” (I’ll write more on it soon), I was bewildered all over again that House Speaker John Boehner tried to force President Obama to cut federal funding to Planned Parenthood in their negotiations to avert a government shutdown last April. Obama wisely refused.
I’m not going to be partisan in my talk, because there are still Republicans out there who support Planned Parenthood and what it stands for. As Rebecca Traister and I wrote after the Komen debacle, Planned Parenthood was traditionally the staid, bipartisan women’s health organization, supported by Republicans like Peggy Goldwater, Prescott Bush and his son George H.W. Bush, Barbara Bush, Betty Ford – and of course, at one time, Ann Romney, and Mitt Romney’s extended family. I think it would be good for the country, not just for Planned Parenthood, if believing that women (and men) should be able to plan their families went back to being a bipartisan point of view. Actually, it is still a bipartisan point of view, it’s just that Tea Party extremists are trying to hijack the Republican Party and impose a fringe view on the rest of us.
But the double-barrel assault on Planned Parenthood, first by the Tea Party, then by Komen, woke women up to that new radicalism, one that put even contraception access back on the table. (Thanks, Rick Santorum!) I think it also woke up the women’s movement to the importance of placing contraception and abortion services in a full spectrum of women’s healthcare – as well as in the larger context of the kind of society we want. In the ’70s, the right grabbed the language of morality, love and family as its own. We’re taking it back. The assault on Planned Parenthood, and the spontaneous public backlash, reminded a lot of feminists that we’re the mainstream — the Tea Party radicals are not.
I’ll be talking about what we do with all that energy in my speech on Thursday. Hope to see some of you there.
Joan Walsh is Salon's editor at large and the author of "What's the Matter With White People: Finding Our Way in the Next America." More Joan Walsh.
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Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
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Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
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Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
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Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
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O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
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When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
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