When Planned Parenthood speaks, the Democratic Colorado secretary of state’s office listens.
Last week, Jena Griswold wanted to issue a condemnation of the Alabama law that outlawed most abortions in that state. But before the news release went out that announced she was restricting travel to Alabama, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains cleared the release.
The caper has irked Colorado conservatives.
“No matter what your political leaning, it should be clear that Ms. Griswold is using her position, and your tax dollars, to push an agenda, and you should remember that next time she ‘runs’ our elections. What outside special interest group will she ask for help with that?” Jon Caldara, president of the Independence Institute, said according to The Center Square.
— John Ebel (@johnebel) May 23, 2019
Lindsey Singer, communications director for the conservative advocacy group Colorado Rising Action, said Griswold made two mistakes.
“I think there’s generally a concern with Griswold’s decision to weigh in on an issue that is so far outside her realm of professional responsibility in the first place, but then to allow a special interest group to write her talking points really doesn’t sit well,” she said.
“Coloradans are rightly used to a level of nonpartisanship from the office that runs our elections, and this extreme partisan turn is very troubling.”
As KUSA reported, Griswold’s communications director Serena Woods copied in Whitney Phillips, vice president for communications for Planned Parenthood, and Jack Teter, the local group’s political director.
“Draft of what we are thinking attached. LMK thoughts/edits. If you could turn around as quickly as possible that would be great because SOS wants to move fast,” Woods emailed the Planned Parenthood leaders, who responded with edits approved by the office and included in the final release.
For example, the initial version had a sub-headline that read, “In Response to New Law in Alabama Limiting Women’s Civil Rights and Right to Choose, Secretary Griswold Calls for Boycott of Alabama and Takes Action at Department of State.”
Planned Parenthood wanted that changed to, “In Response to New Law in Alabama Limiting Women’s Civil Rights and Rights to Reproductive Health Care, Secretary Griswold Calls for Boycott of Alabama and Takes Action at Department of State.”
Phillips explained the reason in a marginal note on the release.
“We don’t recommend using right to choose/pro-life/pro-choice language anymore, all polling indicates it is further polarizing and turns folks off,” she wrote.
A sentence that Planned Parenthood wanted stricken from the release was deleted.
After Planned Parenthood’s ghostwriting was made public, Griswold defended it in a statement.
Phillips said there was nothing wrong with the organization having its words come out under Griswold’s name.
“PP [Planned Parenthood] provides messaging guidance around abortion. That is our job as reproductive health experts,” she said.
But former Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert, who served under former Republican Secretary of State Wayne Williams, disagreed. Stalert heard rumors about the incident, began digging, filed an open records request, and found the communications between Griswold’s office and Planned Parenthood.
“Fundamentally, people expect that office in particular to be non-partisan, and she ran on a platform that she was going to be non-partisan,” Staiert said. “And the reason it’s so important is because they regulate elections. They regulate campaign finance. They regulate lobbyists, and now they’re working directly and taking orders, basically, from a lobbyist group.”
“Whether you agree with Planned Parenthood’s platform or not, I think we can all agree that we should not have our policies in the state dictated to us by special interest groups and lobbying organizations,” Staiert said.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate. I don’t think it’s ethical. I think it’s wrong.”
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