Both Hillary Clinton and Planned Parenthood were quick to respond via Twitter.
Really Senator Sanders? How can you say that groups like @PPact and @HRC are part of the "establishment" you're taking on? -H— Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) January 20, 2016
Sander's comment came shortly after Planned Parenthood officially endorsed Hillary Clinton. This is the first time Planned Parenthood has ever endorsed a candidate in the presidential primary. Technically, the endorsement is from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (PPAF).We respect @SenSanders. Disappointed to be called "establishment" as we fight like hell to protect women's health. https://t.co/kiimTsVw2x— Planned Parenthood (@PPact) January 20, 2016
PPAF is a non-profit, which is and is not separated from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA). While PPFA is the system of healthcare clinics around the country, PPAF works on public education, advocacy, and electoral activity to support the mission of Planned Parenthood. However, many people just believe both of these organizations are one group, and that draws a lot of criticism from both opponents of choice and those deeply committed to choice. To further complicate the relationship, Cecile Richards is president of both organizations.
Many reproductive justice organizations led by women of color have expressed frustration and disappointment with the political agenda of Planned Parenthood and it's lack of support for smaller, more grass-root organizations. Additionally, many small, independent women's health clinics often feel it is difficult to compete with Planned Parenthood, which has become a household name synonymous with birth control and abortion access. And now, we have a presidential candidate condemning Planned Parenthood for being part of "the establishment."
Should the organizations be separated? Is Planned Parenthood a part of America's political problems?
While I see the frustration organizations may have with Planned Parenthood, Planned Parenthood also bears the brunt for contraceptive and abortion access. It is a well-established organization (although not without demons in its closet) and the integration of PPAF seems vital to the survival of not only PPFA, but all women's health clinics. There may not be many other large health organizations with a specific political action team, but there are also no other healthcare providers that face as much opposition as Planned Parenthood.
Just today, Planned Parenthood made headlines when a Texas grand jury cleared all allegations of misconduct against Planned Parenthood and instead indicted David Daleiden (from right here in Davis, CA) of the Center for Medical Progress on felony charges of tampering with governmental records. However, the Planned Parenthood video scandal was only one of countless attacks on Planned Parenthood and the women it serves. Just this past year, there was the Colorado clinic shooting and four arson attempts on Planned Parenthood clinics.
Whether or not you agree that Planned Parenthood should have a political action team, what is more important is that Planned Parenthood's clinics continue to provide their services to countless citizens that depend on them. Bernie Sanders's negative affiliation of Planned Parenthood with the "establishment" that he wants to take down was most likely just an ill-spoken comment. However, as many Americans are more familiar with Planned Parenthood as a local health clinic than a political machine, his words have the effect of bolstering even more hostility against a national organization that has worked for years to protect women and women's health. Going forward, it would be preferable to see more transparency from both Planned Parenthood and political candidates as to what area of the organization they are referencing.