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Defunding Attacks Inspire Increased Donations to Indiana Planned Parenthood

In Community, media scandal, news, planned parenthood on May 18, 2010 at 11:51 pm

Protesters and supporters alike hold signs at a Planned Parenthood rally. The organization has been under the microscope over the last two years after being accused of covering up the sexual abuse of children.

Read the original story at the Conducive Chronicle.

It’s been nearly two years since Planned Parenthood of Indiana entered a storm of heated controversy and economic hardship that hasn’t quite settled.

The organization was accused of harboring sexual predators in 2008 after undercover videos surfaced showing clinicians allegedly ignoring instances of statutory rape. Less than a year after the videos, the organization lost more than $1 million in federal funding.

“It was like this perfect storm,” says Betty Cockrum, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana. “Fortunately I tend to become more calm in the eye of the storm.”

Cockrum sits at a round table in her office overlooking Indianapolis. She has focused all her efforts on defending the organization, and it’s worked; this year has been the most successful in donations and fund raising to date.

In the hallway outside Cockrum’s office, a bell rings. “Did you hear that?” she asks. “That means we just got money.”

Learning the Hard Way

Planned Parenthood has long been targeted for being the nation’s largest abortion provider. Cockrum says her staff members must to hold themselves to the highest standards to remain in the public’s good faith. They learned this the hard way after undercover videos exposed two of them allegedly bending the rules when consulting minors on abortion.

On Dec. 3, 2008, Lila Rose, a UCLA student and president of the pro-life youth organization Live Action, released a video of her receiving consultation at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Bloomington, Ind. Rose, who was 20 at the time she shot the video, posed as a 13-year-old girl impregnated by her 31-year-old boyfriend. In Indiana, sexual intercourse under the age of 13 must be reported. The video shows the clinician allegedly advising Rose to lie about her boyfriend’s age to avoid being reported. She then tells Rose how to go to surrounding states for an abortion without parental consent.

“Under every circumstance, if you are shy of your 14th birthday, it is to be reported to the authorities,” Cockrum says. When asked what ran through her head when the videos were released, Cockrum puts her face in her hands and sighs.

Lila Rose, president of Live Action, talked about her undercover videos with Bill O'Reilly.

“We just we took a look at it and the decision making team realized that it was best for everybody if the person in the video was not going to continue employment with us,” she said. The employee, identified only as “Diana,” was suspended and later fired.

“And then, of course, we had a second video,” Cockrum says.

On Dec. 16, 2008, Rose released a video shot in Indianapolis, Ind., in which a different clinician also dismisses Rose’s age and the age of her boyfriend. Rose says the videos prove Planned Parenthood perpetuates child abuse by sending young girls back to their abusers.

“Planned Parenthood covers up the sexual abuse of young girls that come into their clinics needing help,” Rose says in an interview with Glenn Beck. “And they’ve been doing this across the country for years.”

After Rose released the videos, Cockrum says Planned Parenthood of Indiana partnered with child abuse prevention services and retrained its staff in state requirements to report suspected child abuse. “We had serious quality control in place already, and we hiked that to make sure that everybody understands that we’ve always taken it seriously,” she says.  View Cockrum’s response to the videos here.

Claudette Einhorn, the Planned Parenthood of Indiana Board Chair, says the videos were a learning opportunity. “It allowed us to tighten up our operations,” Einhorn says. “It becomes an opportunity, a teachable moment.”

Rose released several similar videos from clinics in other states. “Planned Parenthood will hardly even admit that this is going on,” she says in the Glenn Beck interview. “It’s absolutely stunning.”

Cockrum says she is still skeptical of the videos because they are substantially edited. Planned Parenthood of Indiana was never permitted to view the unedited videos, nor did Rose return the organization’s requests for meetings.

“It was a really tough time,” Cockrum says. “And it was cause for all of us to sort of sit back and say, ‘This is really difficult.’”

Betty Cockrum is the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana. Cockrum has spent the last two years defending her organization against outside attacks.

Health Care, Not Abortion

Since the videos were released, Planned Parenthood of Indiana has encountered an outcry of opposition requiring staff to defend themselves and the organization’s mission.

Cockrum says the Planned Parenthood Federation of America reported a 66 percent increase in the number of suspicious incidents reported between 2008 and 2009, including strange phone calls, letters, and anthrax threats. Cockrum says this is true for Indiana’s clinics, and interferes with her staff’s ability to provide efficient health care. Recently, protesters began marching on Cockrum’s lawn and at other staff members’ homes.

Einhorn says part of the problem is that people equate the organization with abortion, not health care. She says that only six percent of the organization’s efforts go toward abortion. “The rest is taking care of peoples’ reproductive health,” she says. However, Live Action argues that a larger percent of the organization’s income comes from abortions.

Einhorn says Planned Parenthood’s main mission is to provide health care for men and women who otherwise would not be able to get it. Of the patients who visited Planned Parenthood of Indiana in 2008, 61 percent were at or below the poverty level, according to the organization’s fact sheet.

In 2009, the State Department of Health privatized the distribution of federal family planning, which took $1.4 billion of federal money away from Planned Parenthood of Indiana. Cockrum says this money would not have funded abortions in the first place, and that defunding the organization does not solve the problem of preventing unplanned pregnancies. She makes the case for sex education and access to contraceptives. “The whole system has failed when you have 31 teenagers in Indiana getting pregnant every day,” she says.

The decreased funding forced the Indiana branch to close six of its clinics and lay off 26 staff members. The remaining staff added five hours to its workweek to cover the losses. The funding cuts also increased the costs of some services, which Cockrum says discourages low-income patients from seeking health care and birth control.

“Unintended pregnancy, that’s the reason women get abortions, pure and simple,” Cockrum says. “And to do anything that harms peoples’ ability to plan their pregnancies is going to lead to the likelihood of more abortion.”

Focusing on the Good Things

The attacks on Planned Parenthood have fueled an increase in donations from supporters. This year has been the best in fundraising thus far, Cockrum says. Kate Shepherd, director of communications and marketing for Planned Parenthood of Indiana says, “We are running about 20 percent above where we were at this point in other fiscal years.” Einhorn says this money translates into better service for customers.

Live Action continues to investigate Planned Parenthood. In a June 2009 article on LifeSiteNews.com, Rose says, “We will continue to expose Planned Parenthood for endangering the lives and well-being of young girls in service of its abortion-first mentality.” Live Action released its most recent video on April 12.

Cockrum’s biggest focus is the upcoming November mid-term election, which could have further substantial impacts on the organization’s funding. Until then, Cockrum says she and the staff are trying to improve outreach and celebrate when good things happen, like when the clinics throughout Indiana recently passed a rigorous accreditation process in which Planned Parenthood Federation of America investigated the state clinics.

“They look at every single thing that we do,” Cockrum says. “All clinics statewide got accredited. That was cause for celebration.”

And when the bell outside her office rings, Cockrum celebrates then, too.

“I think we’re okay,” she says. “Please know that we intend to be here. We will weather this storm, we will get through it.”

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