Curled Up in a Fetal Position

Sometimes, you just have to tell your adversaries to get lost.

Planned Parenthood head Cecile Richards would have been well within her rights not to apologize to anyone who pretended to be offended by the content of the massively-edited smear videos promoted by right-wing entities who wish to destroy the organization. As Cenk Ugyur and Ana Kasparian note, apologizing makes it seem as though Planned Parenthood did something wrong, when in reality the organization has done so much that is right for American women:

It’s in times like these that one wishes there was a “rationality caucus” within the Republican Party that would join with Democrats to push back against the far-right attack on Planned Parenthood. After all, it wasn’t that long ago that a number of high-profile Republicans thought Planned Parenthood was positive. As far-right commentator Michael O’Connor noted in 2011:

Ever since its earliest days, Planned Parenthood has counted among its supporters prominent members of the Republican Party. As early as 1942, Connecticut Senator Prescott Bush, grandfather of President George W. Bush, was a supporter of Margaret Sanger’s American Birth Control League, and in 1947, served as the treasurer for the first national campaign for Planned Parenthood. The political repercussions hit hard. Prescott Bush was knocked out of an expected victory for a Senate seat in Connecticut in 1950 after syndicated columnist Drew Pearson declared that it “has been made known” that Bush was a leader in the “Birth Control Society” (the original name of Planned Parenthood was the Birth Control Federation of America). Prescott Bush won a Senate seat two years later, and his son George and daughter-in-law Barbara continued to support Planned Parenthood even after George’s election to Congress from Texas. In fact, he was such an advocate for family planning that some House colleagues nicknamed him “Rubbers.”

In addition, Prescott’s son George H.W. also supported family planning efforts while serving as a Texas congressman. President George H.W. Bush was best known for his opposition to Ronald Reagan’s supply-side economics, rooted in the free-market ideas of Hayek and Friedman, deriding the conservative Reagan as a proponent of “voodoo economics.” He wrote a constituent in 1970: “I introduced legislation earlier this year which would provide federal funds for research in family planning devices and increased services to people who need them but cannot afford them. We must help our young people become aware of the fact that families can be planned and that there are benefits economically and socially to be derived from small families.”

Although stemming from the opposite wing of the GOP, the Goldwater family of Arizona also supported Planned Parenthood. In his final term in the U.S. Senate, Barry Goldwater adopted a pro-choice position, voting in 1983 against a constitutional amendment that would have reversed Roe v. Wade and returned legislative authority over abortion to the states. Back in 1937, his wife Peggy had become a founding member of Planned Parenthood of Arizona, and the couple remained active in the organization throughout Goldwater’s Senate career. Though he initially rejected Planned Parenthood’s position on abortion, his long association with the group would ultimately make a convert of him, also as he personally approved of his daughter Joanne’s illegal abortion in 1955, as recounted in the HBO documentary Mr. Conservative

Yet another prominent Republican family has a history of supporting Planned Parenthood…Mitt Romney has had a convoluted and revealing history on life issues, as well as in his relationship with Planned Parenthood. In 1994, when Romney first ran for public office, he was observed attending a Planned Parenthood fundraiser in Cohasset, Massachusetts, with his wife Ann, who was seen handing a check for $150 from a joint bank account to Nicki Nichols Gamble, former president of the Massachusetts Planned Parenthood Federation…

To this day, Planned Parenthood sponsors a special interest group [Republicans for Planned Parenthood] which gives the annual Barry Goldwater Award to a pro-choice Republican elected official of its choosing. Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.) was the 2009 recipient, and now-Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) was the 2008 recipient…

O’Connor goes on to note that Goldwater’s “support of Planned Parenthood was motivated by a libertarian belief in governmental non-involvement in human reproduction.” In other words, Goldwater actually believed in limited government and freedom. If Republicans in Congress genuinely believed in limited government and freedom, they’d leave Planned Parenthood alone. Of course, Republicans in Congress do not believe in such concepts; they are advocates of a radical-right coathanger conservatism that would effectively repeal the gains women have made over the last few decades.

In his 2006 memoir Bridging the Divide: My Life, the late Edward Brooke, a Massachusetts Republican who served in the US Senate from 1967 to 1979, wrote:

In the Senate I fought to protect a woman’s right to choose—in accordance with the Supreme Court’s historic Roe v. Wade decision—and yet today that right continues to be imperiled by antiabortion activists and politicians who pander to them.

He further noted:

[In the early-1970s], my support of a woman’s right to make her own medical decisions about continuing or terminating her pregnancy had me at odds with my party, which was adopting an ever more strident position on this inherently private decision…I found it hard to understand how many of my colleagues, who so often railed against government involvement in the lives of Americans, were willing to go into America’s bedrooms and dictate reproductive policy. No law can prevent abortion. Laws can only make abortion more difficult, more expensive, and more dangerous, especially for the poor. Who were we, an affluent all-male legislative body, to decide what women could do and could not do with their bodies?

Brooke passed away earlier this year, but he can’t possibly be resting in peace; the misogynist madness of his party—the madness he tried in vain to stop—must have him turning over in his grave.

UPDATE: More from Ed Kilgore, Media Matters, the New York Times and the New York Times editorial board.

SECOND UPDATE: More from the Young Turks and Media Matters.

THIRD UPDATE: Still more from the Young Turks and Media Matters.

FOURTH UPDATE: From Eric Boehlert, Thom Hartmann, the Boston Globe and Media Matters.

FIFTH UPDATE: More from ABC This Week.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.