A local NBC news affiliate has reported that Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold (D) consulted with executives of Planned Parenthood prior to her call for a boycott of Alabama over its new law that bans most abortions.
Colorado Secretary of State's Office asks Planned Parenthood for edits on news release
— Jon Caldara (@JonCaldara) May 23, 2019
9NEWS obtained internal email records of correspondence between the Secretary of State’s Office and members of the media in the wake of the Alabama boycott news release from Griswold’s office. The email records included communication with Planned Parenthood executives.
“Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold’s office asked Planned Parenthood to look over a news release announcing restricted travel to Alabama after it passed a strict abortion ban,” reported 9NEWS.com.
The report continued:
About two hours before the news release was sent out, Griswold’s communications director, Serena Woods, emailed the draft news release to Whitney Phillips and Jack Teter. Phillips is the vice president of communications for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains and Teter is Planned Parenthood’s political director.
In an email dated May 16 at 12:24 p.m., Woods wrote Phillips and Teter:
Whitney & Jack,
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.
Phillips responded at 12:27 p.m. with the following:
Thanks Serena, I believe our CEO is going to call the Secretary and share some additional feedback. In the meantime, my feedback on the media release is attached. It feels to me the Election Center part is a little inside baseball for most folks and the travel authorization is a little more digestible for the mainstream/media.
According to the report, Phillips made two edits to the press release. First, she suggested removing the phrase “Right to Choose” from the headline, replacing it with “Rights to Reproductive Health Care.”
“We don’t recommend using right to choose/pro-life/pro-choice language anymore,”Phillips advised,“all polling indicates it is further polarizing and turns folks off.”
Secondly, Phillips asked if a sentence that read, “This year, the organization is hosting a training in Denver, which the Secretary of State looks forward to and plans to attend,” was necessary to include.
“I had to read it 3-4 times and I am not sure it is adding much to the information media need to know,” Phillips wrote.
Griswold then issued the final press release in which she called for the boycott of Alabama.
“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,” read the headline of the news release.
In her statement, Griswold said:
Until the laws of Alabama allow for safe and legal access to health care for women, we call on the Election Center to move the location of its trainings from Alabama. I will not authorize the spending of state resources on travel to Alabama for this training or any other purpose. This is one action that I can take in response to this egregious law against women.
We should not spend Colorado state resources in a state that restricts women’s basic rights to health care. I call on other state and local leaders in Colorado and across the country to join me in this boycott.
Griswold dropped the sentence in the informational section of the release, as recommended by Phillips.
In a statement to 9NEWS, Griswold said:
Alabama passed a law that is so strict that it doesn’t allow for an abortion in the case of incest or rape. The proponents of this law have made it clear that their intent is to reverse women’s constitutional rights to privacy and access to reproductive health care across the nation. As a woman in statewide elected office, it’s important to me to pay attention to issues affecting women. My office periodically travels to Alabama, and I decided to no longer use state resources to do so while this unconstitutional law is in place. I consulted with Planned Parenthood about this decision, as they are one of the largest providers of, and leading experts on, women’s health care. We should not use Colorado state resources in a state that restricts women’s basic constitutional rights in this way. These attacks on our constitutional rights exemplify why our nation needs fair and equitable access to elections to ensure a more representative and reflective government.
In a request for comment by 9NEWS, Phillips also responded, “In general, when any of our public officials reach out on input on women’s health issues, we provide opinion and general thoughts.”
When asked by 9NEWS “if it was appropriate for Planned Parenthood to provide editorial feedback on a news release from the Secretary of State’s Office,” Phillips wrote, “Yes of course. PP [Planned Parenthood] provides messaging guidance around abortion. That is our job as reproductive health experts.”
9NEWS reported as well the existence of the emails was made known to former Republican Deputy Secretary of State Suzanne Staiert.
“There was some social media postings from people in the office about having been asked to do things that were unethical or things that they weren’t comfortable with, I did the (open records request), actually, to find out, were there talking points that were passed out to employees asking them to defend this position,” Staiert told 9NEWS, adding:
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. 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.
Staiert continued that regardless of whether one agrees or not with Planned Parenthood’s platform, “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.”
“I don’t think it’s appropriate. I don’t think it’s ethical. I think it’s wrong,” she said.