Editors’ Note: Today we’ve got a very special guest post from Kara Loewentheil, the president of the LSRJ board and a 3L at Harvard Law School. Kara brought this story to my attention and I suggested she write about it, since I couldn’t think out of fear that my head might explode. Luckily, Kara was able to keep it together. Here she is:
Although the conversation in question took place over the summer, it is only now making its way through the blogosphere: a taped recording of a phone call in which an anti-choice organization, posing as a racist prospective donor, offers a donation to Planned Parenthood of Idaho if they will use the money specifically to perform abortions on African-American women because, the fake “donor” said, “the less black kids out there the better.” It’s hard to even know where to start with how disturbing this story is, on multiple levels. First, of course, there is the fact that anti-choice organizations are using their time and money to try and trick reproductive health care providers into saying or doing something that can be used to stir up negative publicity. It’s this kind of duplicitous behavior aimed at not only tarnishing the reproductive justice movement but diverting its resources away from patient care and into defensive action and media response that many reproductive justice activists find incredibly frustrating.
But more important, of course, is Planned Parenthood of Idaho’s reaction to the fake donation offer. The charge of racism is particularly weighted in the reproductive health care and reproductive justice movements. While reproductive justice itself is a movement that was born out of the experiences of women of color in particular, the mainstream reproductive health and rights communities have often unfortunately been out of touch with the needs of marginalized populations, particularly poor women of color. The history of experimentation on the bodies of poor women of color in this country has given rise to a healthy skepticism about the ways that the mainstream medical community behaves in treating the reproductive health needs of women from these communities. It’s thus clear that even assuming the best of intentions, reproductive health care providers must go above and beyond in distancing themselves from this legacy.
Planned Parenthood of Idaho apologized for the caller’s responses and called her approach “a serious mistake.” Bloggers and activists have disagreed on how to interpret the tape – whether the Planned Parenthood employee was happy and eager to accept the donation, whether she was confused and flustered, etc. It’s impossible for us to know. You can hear the tape recording of the phone call here and read the transcript here, and see what you think for yourself.
Hopefully we can all at least agree not only that reproductive health care providers should be very clear about their rejection of such offers, and that we would all be better off if the anti-choice organizations making these calls would put their time, money, and volunteer energy into doing something that actually improved reproductive health care for women and their families.