CodePink Red After Albright's Planned Parenthood Soiree

Peace activists unwelcome at speech by former secretary of state

Madeleine Albright
Madeleine Albright

Madeleine Albright has come and gone, trailing diplomatic bons mots and twinkling brooches, now famous for her "jewel box diplomacy" and her book on the subject (Read My Pins: Stories From a Diplomat's Jewel Box). She also left in her wake some disgruntled peace activists, who say the former secretary of state got a free ethics pass from Planned Parenthood while they got the bum's rush. As we reported Oct. 16 ("Point Austin"), Albright was the keynote speaker on Oct. 29 at an annual public affairs fundraiser for Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region, and several anti-war organizations – Texans for Peace, Veterans for Peace, and CodePink – had objected to the choice of the headliner, best known as the spokeswoman for the economic sanctions and war on Iraq during the Clinton administration. Planned Parenthood organizers claimed ignorance of Albright's more unseemly history but initially said they were willing to consider some form of "educational" programming to inform attendees of the peace advocates' perspective.

That didn't happen. Although discussions continued right up to the eve of the event, in the end, according to Fran Hanlon of CodePink Austin, not only were the activists not welcome at the Renaissance Hotel event, but when they attended anyway and attempted to distribute fliers summarizing "Some Facts About How War Affects Women," they were ejected by security staff and threatened with arrest. The leaflet does not mention Albright, and following its grim statistics simply urges attendees, "If you support Planned Parenthood's mission to improve the lives of women, you should also support an end to policies which promote war and which contribute greatly to the suffering of women and children worldwide." As Hanlon now sees it, the prior discussions had been little more than a ruse. "We thought that we had reached a compromise with them," Hanlon said, "only to learn that night that they never intended to cooperate with us."

Planned Parenthood of the Texas Capital Region Vice President for Communications Sarah Wheat called Hanlon's comment "a little disrespectful" and said that it was simply impossible to accommodate the activists in a sold-out event burdened by unusual security concerns both on Albright's behalf as well as the organization's. "It's a difficult balancing act," said Wheat, "and this is our major benefit event of the year, and we had to make certain it occurred in a respectful environment both for our guests and our guest speaker." (According to the Planned Parenthood website, the event raised more than $500,000.)

Hanlon isn't buying Wheat's explanation, and she wrote to CodePink supporters, "What is most disturbing to me is the decision by the Planned Parenthood board not only to invite Albright to begin with ... [but when] asked to agree to a very small act of mitigation, that they chose to 'string us along' (likely out of concern that we would protest the event), and then, in the end, act in bad faith."

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