At last we have an answer to this puzzler from almost exactly a year ago, when Politico first reported on the meeting between Cecile Richards and Ivanka Trump Kushner. At the time, it seemed that Ivanka had wanted to open a back channel to Planned Parenthood, although what purpose that would serve was not terribly clear. After all, Republicans bitterly oppose the federal subsidies that the nation’s largest abortion-clinic chain receives, and Donald Trump insisted that he sign a bill to cut off their federal funding. It didn’t take long for Richards to personally and publicly attack Ivanka, and that seemed to put an exclamation point on the naiveté of such an effort.
Perhaps it was even more naive than first thought. Richards recounts the meeting in her memoirs, People reported yesterday, as more ambitious than just a back-channel gambit. Ivanka and Jared Kushner both pitched a way to increase federal funding, Richards claims — by getting her to agree to stop providing abortions.
Richards calls it a “bribe”:
In a riveting passage from Cecile Richards’ new memoir, the Planned Parenthood chief says Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump were, during Donald Trump’s 2016 transition as president-elect, so eager to be recognized as shrewd political dealmakers that the soon-to-be first daughter and her husband made an offer that felt like a “bribe”: an increase in federal funding for Planned Parenthood in exchange for its agreement to stop providing abortions. …
Once in the clubhouse, the couples chatted about their families before getting down to business. According to a statement from Planned Parenthood given to Time.com, the purpose of the meeting “was to make sure that Ivanka Trump fully understood the important role Planned Parenthood plays in providing health care to millions of people and why it would be a disastrous idea to block people from accessing care at Planned Parenthood.”
After Richards explained this, she writes that Kushner told her Planned Parenthood “had made a big mistake by becoming ‘political.’ ”
“The main issue, he explained, was abortion,” Richards writes. “If Planned Parenthood wanted to keep our federal funding, we would have to stop providing abortions. He described his ideal outcome: a national headline reading ‘Planned Parenthood Discontinues Abortion Services.’”
According to Make Trouble, Kushner said that if Richards agreed to the plan then funding could increase, but he urged them to “move fast.”
It’s not clear how discussing how to increase the flow of government subsidies to an organization that gets over $500 million a year would count as a “bribe.” Planned Parenthood lobbies hard for those subsidies, while also lobbying federal and state governments on other policies. A conversation about unlocking more federal grants through policy changes by an organization is no more or less a bribe than a conversation about unlocking more political contributions for politicians that are willing to delivery Planned Parenthood’s policy changes. And just what do PP lobbyists hope to gain in their meetings with politicians other than “political win[s]”?
However, it’s equally unclear why the Kushners thought that they’d talk Planned Parenthood out of the abortion industry. Yes, their favored candidate Hillary Clinton lost and that left them politically exposed, but Planned Parenthood still has lots of allies in Washington. Besides, Hillary lost while going the full PP, with talk about ending the Hyde Amendment and rolling back any and all restrictions for abortion on demand. They’re almost certainly thinking that they’ve moved the Overton window on those policies and that victory for their industry is just around the corner.
Still, it’s tough to fault them for giving it a try, as quixotic as it might have been, nor were they alone. Donald Trump floated the same deal just a few weeks later in public, and it would have been a good trade … if Planned Parenthood was honest about their finances. They have repeatedly claimed that abortion only amounts to 3% of their business, which would make it easy to give up the abortion biz for more bucks from Uncle Sugar. It’s clear, though, that abortion represents far more of PP’s revenue than the 3% figure that they bandy about. Most of their non-governmental revenue comes from “medical services” which PP never seems to break down in their public accounting. Hmmm.
At any rate, naive or not, at least the White House can say that the offer was made. But for Richards or anyone else involved in the abortion lobby to call it a “bribe” is both remarkable and ridiculous.