Columbus Planned Parenthood Clinic Attacked

In recognition of Women’s History Month, Key Elements Group has covered issues facing women and the nonprofits that fight for greater gender equality.

This past year has seen an upsurge in violence directed toward nonprofit professionals working with and for women, especially those employed by the nonprofit health organization Planned Parenthood. In November of 2015, a gunman stormed one of the nonprofit’s clinics located in Colorado Springs, killing three. In the months of July and August 2015 alone, there were 849 acts of vandalism committed against Planned Parenthood clinics across the United States.

Much of the vitriol directed against the organization  – which provides invaluable health services to underserved women, including cancer screenings – stems from the exaggerated discourse revolving around its services. Though abortion accounts for a small fraction of the organization’s work, antichoice activists have reduced Planned Parenthood to this one particular service. The widely discredited video series released by the Center for Medical Progress (which recently came under investigation in Texas), were catalysts for violent acts directed toward Planned Parenthood. The Colorado gunman cited the heavily edited and doctored video as a primary inspiration for his murders.

Recent non-violent actions by antichoice activists and legislators have also stoked angry sentiment against the organization. As we discussed in a post yesterday, laws across the nation are effectively shutting down nonprofit clinics that provide safe access to abortions.

Governor John Kasich of Ohio recently signed a bill defunding Planned Parenthood at the behest of antichoice voices in his home state, and we are already seeing the effects.

A clinic run by the organization in Columbus, Ohio was defaced with the phrase “SATAN DEN OF BABYKILLERS GOD SEE ALLLL (sic) Mark 9:14” written in red lettering. The timing is certainly no coincidence. As the women’s health nonprofit was targeted by lawmakers due to dubious accusations, vigilante action followed course, further endangering the lives of workers who go out on the line for women on a daily basis.

The danger posed to Planned Parenthood and its staff across the country is a reminder of the courage of many nonprofit workers fighting at the margins for greater equality and better lives for the disenfranchised.

Planned Parenthood Files Lawsuit

The Center for Medical Progress (CMP) – an anti-abortion organization – made quite a stir last year when it released a series of videos purporting to show Planned Parenthood officials discussing profits made by illegally trading fetal tissue. Activists from the organization posed as employees of a fake biomedical company called Biomax Procurement Services and recorded meetings with workers from the women’s health nonprofit in a campaign to delegitimize the organization. During these meetings, activists proposed fake contracts to purchase fetal body parts, none of which were signed or agreed upon by the Planned Parenthood workers targeted by the scheme.

The veracity of what these videos depict has since come into question, as a congressional hearing designed to uncover wrongdoing at Planned Parenthood instead found an organization working entirely within the confines of the law. Eight state-level investigations have come to similiar conclusions.

Raw footage from the video series actually shows a Planned Parenthood executive repeatedly refuting an activist’s insistence that there was any precedent for selling fetal tissue for research, despite a final edit that altered what the individual in question said in order to mischaracterize Planned Parenthood’s operations.

Even if much of general public remains unswayed by CMP’s smear-campaign, the controversy has had a decidedly deleterious impact. Numerous state legislatures and governors have targeted Planned Parenthood, cutting funding and limiting women’s access to vital health services. In Colorado, a gunman cited CMP’s videos as justification for an attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic that killed three people. Workers for the nonprofit have spoken out over an increased number of death threats following the videos’ emergence.

Planned Parenthood, however, is poised to strike back. On January 14, the nonprofit filed a suit against CMP, alleging that the organization broke a number of state and federal laws, including the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. The suit seeks extensive monetary reparations for workers who have been forced to move, have been threatened with violence, or have been picketed at their homes. The lawsuit also states that – in the months of July and August 2015 alone – there were 849 acts of vandalism against Planned Parenthood facilities across the United States.

When a nonprofit’s identity and message is hijacked by a hostile party, the basic pursuit of its organizational mission becomes immensely difficult. Especially for an organization that provides life-saving medical services for disadvantaged women, the reckless falsification of evidence claiming unlawful and cruel behavior is, in itself, unlawful and cruel behavior. Nonprofit professionals should maintain a rigorous standard of truth, and abide by a considered approach to uncovering facts. In doing so, they can help marginalize noxious voices in the nonprofit world willing to lie to their audiences in order to achieve their goals.

Nonprofits, Sites of Gun Violence

The past week has been rough. Two mass shootings have left communities in Colorado and California torn asunder, and debate concerning gun violence the cause of these heinous acts has reached a new fever pitch.

In Colorado Springs, the single shooter involved in the incident expressed anger over the widely discredited anti-Planned Parenthood videos upon his arrest. “No more baby parts,” Robert Dear – the alleged shooter – told the arresting officers.

Reports out today indicate that Tashfeen Malik – one of the two suspects in the San Bernardino shooting – had pledged loyalty to ISIS, the murderous terror group responsible for the recent attacks in Paris and the bombing of a Russian commercial jet in Egypt.

Whatever the differences, there is one thing in common between the two shootings: both occurred at nonprofit centers that offer social services. While the target of the San Bernardino shooting was a holiday party for county officials, the building it took place in also houses welfare offices that assist people with disabilities. The target in Colorado was Planned Parenthood, which offers a variety of medical services to disadvantaged women.

Following the Colorado shooting, people rallied around Planned Parenthood on social media and reaffirmed their support for women’s health. But there could be other unforeseen consequences from these events. As mass public shootings enter various spheres of our nation’s rich social life, feelings of insecurity may grow. Nonprofit professionals and and the beneficiaries of basic needs assistance don’t need this fear. What they need is more support.

Acts of terror cannot win out over the philanthropy inherent to the human spirit. The boldest way to stand-up against this violence is to stand in the name of humanity, equality, and good will.

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