New York Times' reporter Jackie Calmes has been the paper's pointman in its journalistic campaign in defense of the nation's largest abortion provider, in the wake of undercover videos by David Daleiden documenting the callous sale of baby organs for money, sometimes without the knowledge of the mothers.
Calmes, whose reporting has reliably shifted the subject from the gruesome videos to alleged Republican "overreach," laid out the organization's defense strategy on Sunday: "Reacting to Videos, Planned Parenthood Fights to Regain Initiative."
Calmes managed to avoid using the word "abortion" in relation to Planned Parenthood, but described Daleiden's group Center for Medical Progress as "anti-abortion." She also fast-forwarded past the gruesome content of the clips.
The undercover videos were made over more than two years, yet Planned Parenthood was taken by surprise when the first one was posted online in July. Now one of the biggest crises in the 99-year history of the organization, the nation’s largest provider of women’s reproductive health care, could reach a climax this week as conservatives want to shut down the government rather than help fund the group.
But Planned Parenthood has fought back and managed to put some opponents on the defensive after gathering information from its affiliates; hiring lawyers, crisis managers and video experts to document deceptive edits; and working to solidify support among donors, Democrats and, according to polls, a majority of Americans.
By Thursday, the Republican-controlled Senate could not even corral a majority to support a short-term bill to fund the government, but not Planned Parenthood, because several Republicans facing re-election had defected. And on Friday, Speaker John A. Boehner announced he would resign from the House before party conservatives could try to oust him from his post -- the proximate cause being his unwillingness to lead a shutdown of the government over Planned Parenthood when the new fiscal year starts on Thursday.
Calmes employed another example of the Times current "hard-line" insult of Republicans.
The Senate plans to pass such a bill by Wednesday, since Democrats have shown several times since July that they can block any measure that would defund Planned Parenthood. But because the bill would be short term, that would merely postpone a showdown with hard-line Republicans until December, when Congress must deal with a bill to increase the nation’s borrowing limit, another one that hard-liners hate.
While Republicans wrangle, Planned Parenthood at least publicly will be celebrating evidence that opponents have overreached -- as in 2011 when, both parties agree, Republican shutdown threats backfired politically -- and that support for it endures.
After boosting the group's plans for rallies and promoting its services like "contraceptives, cancer screening and routine exams mainly for low-income clients," Calmes spun Planned Parenthood's misdeeds away, minimizing the number of clinics that perform abortions, despite her opening euphemism of labeling Planned Parenthood "the nation’s largest provider of women’s reproductive health care."
About half of its nearly 700 clinics do not perform abortions, and federal law has long barred funding for most procedures. Only a few affiliates in three West Coast states have arrangements with researchers to provide tissue from aborted fetuses or, in Oregon, fetal placentas. As doctors captured in the videos describe, fees of $30 to $100 a specimen cover costs rather than providing profits, which would be illegal.
Many Republicans say the videos prove that Planned Parenthood is harvesting and selling baby parts. Greg Mueller, who heads a conservative communications firm working with the videos’ producer, said even some supporters of abortion rights were “repulsed.”
“No amount of spending or spin is going to change that,” he said.
Calmes quickly rushed to Planned Parenthood's defense, asserting uncited polling data:
Mr. Mueller cited findings from focus groups that were moderated last week in Denver by Kellyanne Conway, a Republican pollster. But Ms. Conway, in an interview, did not dispute the accuracy of polls showing consistent support for Planned Parenthood and against defunding it.
Calmes noted the partisan break in support for the organization.
The group, which once enjoyed bipartisan support, has relied almost solely on Democrats since abortion opponents gained sway over the Republican Party in the Reagan era. Its heft with Democrats flows from its grass-roots support, and willingness to spend freely on advertising and get-out-the-vote efforts in key states.
Within two days, Planned Parenthood posted its own video: Ms. Richards denied that it had profited from tissue sales and apologized for the uncompassionate tone of a doctor in the initial video -- addressing complaints among supporters.....
The number is low partly because Planned Parenthood’s affiliates, especially in more conservative states, do not want to invite controversy. Yet a 1993 federal law allows fetal tissue for research, and supporters included two current Republican leaders: the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and Representative Fred Upton of Michigan, the chairman of a committee investigating Planned Parenthood.
Calmes concluded with a victory pronouncement from Planned Parenthood's executive vice-president:
Ms. Laguens said, “We’re on the verge of our centennial, and we plan to be here for another 100 years.”