Jessica Valenti, columnist for The Guardian, book author, and an outspoken feminist, recently interviewed Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood (who will be leaving that role this year), at a bakery in New York for an episode of “Eating Out Loud.” The two chat about food, family, politics, and Planned Parenthood, at “Butter and Scotch,” a bakery and cocktail bar in Brooklyn that donates $1 of every item purchased to the organization.
While the entire point of the segment is to humanize someone that has often, as Valenti says, gotten “flattened” because of politics — this is Valenti’s admission, not mine — this in and of itself is an irony that fails. It’s not that Richards isn’t human — (she and Valenti are actually quite likeable) it’s that Richards is the president of an organization that actively dehumanizes both the women it purports to serve and the babies aborted there.
Here is a sample of some of the most bizarre tidbits from the short segment.
The introduction contradicts the purpose of Planned Parenthood
The introduction to every segment appears to be a brief monologue that relates to the topic, and in this episode, Valenti says she makes certain foods for and with her daughter, to strengthen their bond and to pass on old family traditions while simultaneously making new ones. As a mother of four who loves food, I related to this. In fact, I’d love Valenti’s “Sunday sauce” recipe; it looked delicious (and maybe my kids would eat it!).
Valenti said that the tradition of making “Sunday sauce” took on more meaning as she began to realize and accept the fact that her pregnancy with her daughter was so difficult she would be unable to bear more children. She insinuates she had an abortion for health reasons, when she finally did later become pregnant again — and confirms this toward the end of the episode. “I make Sunday sauce to tell Layla, ‘I love you. This is enough,’” Valenti says.
There is a sweetness and vulnerability in this opening about which many women and mothers can probably relate: The yearning to have a baby, a sibling in this case, is strong. I felt this way after I miscarried my second pregnancy and before the birth of my second child. This introduction is surprisingly thoughtful and transparent, yet that’s what makes the entire episode so ironic: the segment profiles a woman who led the nation’s largest abortion provider for over a decade. While Planned Parenthood does provide some health care to women (more on that below) it also aborts 300,000 babies a year — babies that would make a family whole, would satisfy that yearning. To connect Planned Parenthood with the yearning for another child whom Valenti later aborted for health reasons, seems as sad as it is ironic.
There’s nothing human about what Planned Parenthood does
Valenti introduces Richards by positing that “some people don’t think of Planned Parenthood as a family organization but that’s what it is to me — and to the millions of people it serves every year.” At the beginning of the interview, following her admission that Richards has, after experimenting, finally submitted to using an all-butter pie crust — which is charming and useful in terms of baking — Valenti and Richards talk about family and politics. Richards own mother stayed at home to raise she and her three siblings, and then became Governor of Texas. “What I find is that the women who are in office, that have another life, they’re much better office holders.”
In addition, on the web site below the link to this segment, Valenti explains, “Because of the work Planned Parenthood does, Richards and women’s health leaders like her often get dehumanized — flattened in the same way that political issues do. I want everyone to know this incredible woman for who she really is, and all she’s doing for women like me every single day.”
The fact that both Valenti and Richards believe abortion is a merely a legal right and a choice — not murder — demonstrates a fundamental difference in ideology that will always exist between pro-choice and pro-life advocates. Pro-life advocates see Planned Parenthood, and women like Cecile Richards who support them, not necessarily as dehumanized robots but as functional tools of an ideological machine that thinks aborting babies is pro-family and that a woman’s choice matters more than valuing life in all its forms.
Planned Parenthood keeps touting “health care”
During the interview, Valenti asked Richards what PP is working now. Richards’ response was predictable: focus on health care. “Some people think the fight in Washington is simply about the right to safe and legal abortion about actually the fight is now including access to birth control,” she said. “We’re at a record low for teenage pregnancy … That didn’t happen without a lot of work, including work by Planned Parenthood to make sure there was better access to family planning.” Richards then encourages vigilance and the need for activism on this topic.
While Planned Parenthood does provide health care services to women, and Richards mentions visiting several Planned Parenthood’s in Speaker Paul Ryan’s districts that don’t offer abortions but do provide birth control, the talking point that abortion is only 3 percent of PP’s services is a myth and has been debunked repeatedly.
In 2015, The Federalist reported Planned Parenthood ran zero of the nation’s 8735 mammogram facilities. As for birth control, again, this is a fundamental difference between conservatives and liberals. The former believes individuals should be responsible for their own birth control, at best, or should receive it through private organizations, not an organization like Planned Parenthood, which receives taxpayer dollars through Medicaid. The idea that the government can and should provide health care is one which pro-life advocates generally fundamentally disagree. Furthermore, the idea that birth control constitutes health care is debatable.
Richards says the government should stay out of pregnancy decisions
This point, about federal subsidies, became all the more ironic when Richards told Valenti that, “People are the best to make their own decisions about their pregnancy not the government. And so trusting women to make the most personal decisions they’ll probably make in a lifetime is really important.” Pro-life advocates could not agree with this statement more. Yet, since Roe v. Wade the Supreme Court decision which made abortion legal in 1973, abortion has become a topic the government legislates and which lobbyists support or rally against.
“If members of congress could get pregnant, we would not be talking about birth control and Planned Parenthood, they would understand it’s a fundamental issue for women,” Richards said.
If Richards and Planned Parenthood are so passionate about the government staying out of health care, pregnancy, or abortion, why then does it happily receive $500 million in federal subsidies?
Planned Parenthood purports to be pro-woman
Valenti and Richards tried very hard to make Planned Parenthood seem pro-woman. Valenti had an abortion following her second pregnancy, because her first pregnancy with her daughter Layla ended at 28 weeks due to preeclampsia. Although she did not go to a Planned Parenthood, she praised the empathy and encouragement she received from her provider.
The sentiments expressed between the women were that whether Planned Parenthood provides abortions or birth control, the organization is here to help women. Many, many women believe this and the organization itself, the employees there, also likely believe this. But we’ve interviewed people who counter this assumption — who maintain that Planned Parenthood, while it purports to be pro-woman, either hurts the patients and staff during their day-to-day functions, but also fails to be pro-woman in philosophy or at its core.
How can an organization, which ends the lives of 300,000 tiny unborn boys and girls, claim to be pro-girl? How can an organization, which promotes abortion, which often causes moms emotional anguish and pain following said abortion, claim to be for all women? Sure many women probably receive some form of help or health care from them, but that does not mean its ultimate goal is not flawed, nor does it make it suddenly altruistic at its core.
Richards and Valenti are both smart, passionate, family-oriented women; unfortunately, they tout an organization and an ideology that hurts the things they want to promote. In this interview, the two women fail to humanize Planned Parenthood because its very purpose is dehumanizing and demoralizing to families and society.