You may have heard that Wichita-based anti-abortion group Operation Rescue is in the middle of a national campaign to de-fund Planned Parenthood. Yes, it was all going just fine until actress Scarlett Johansson did a PSA, asking people to support their local Planned Parenthood so women could get checked for cervical cancer, and maybe get some condoms now and then.
Operation Rescue wasn't going to just get stomped by the star of Lost in Translation. So they gathered their most creative members for an all-night brainstorming session -- Chinese take-out was ordered, that's how serious it got -- and finally arrived at the most ingenious political satire they could muster.
They slapped a KKK robe on her.
That's the joke. Ha! Racism.
In the interest of journalistic integrity, I should probably come clean that I have a harmless crush on Scarlett Johansson. Sometimes I wonder what she's thinking about. If she's reading this. How we'd meet in some smokey jazz club, and talk about Swordfishtrombone. We'd go back to her loft, she'd pour some scotch, maybe put on a Tom Jones record ...
Sorry about that. I digress.
As political satire, this is thin gruel. If you listen to what Johansson is saying, she has good reasons for supporting Planned Parenthood beyond the abortion issue. She's also talking about having access to proper health care and contraception, which coincidentally prevents the need for an abortion. No one at Operation Rescue bothers to refute this argument. They just stick her in the robe. The video doesn't even stand by its own bad gag. As soon as it's over, this woman pops on: "Just kidding! We don't think Scarlett's really in the Klan! So now you can't criticize us for treating her like a paper doll in 1953 Selma, Alabama, because we never meant it!" The only thing missing from this shot, is that the woman should've done this scene with an untouched layer cake in front of her, whilst crumbs of Red Velvet fall from her lips.
I can't get mad at them for ignoring ScarJo's words and then do the same thing to Operation Rescue. So what of the claim that Planned Parenthood was founded by a racist with ideas about eugenics? Margaret Sanger did once, in 1926, give a speech to women in the KKK about birth control, which she later described as a bizarre experience not unlike talking to slow children. She also wrote a paper on how eugenics could solve racial, political and social problems. Then again, she did a lot of work getting proper health care and, yes, access to safe abortion to the African-American community, and that earned her the respect of civil rights leaders. Here's a snip from Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s remarks on accepting the Planned Parenthood Federation of America Margaret Sanger Award in 1966: "Our sure beginning in the struggle for equality by nonviolent direct
action may not have been so resolute without the tradition established
by Margaret Sanger and people like her."
If I ignored everything else but the fact she once tried to teach some nutty white women about birth control 80-odd years ago (honestly, isn't it a good thing she didn't want them reproducing?) and her conservative views on immigration, maybe I could claim that Planned Parenthood was running a secret racial cleansing campaign. But connecting it all seems intellectually shoddy.
For instance, here's a quote from someone Time magazine once named Man of the Year: "Nazi ideals demand that the practice of abortion ... shall be exterminated with a strong hand. Women inflamed by Marxist propaganda claim the right to bear children only when they desire. First furs, radio, new furniture, then perhaps one child. ...The use of contraceptives (by Aryan women) means a violation of nature, a degradation of womanhood, motherhood, and love." I could use that Hitler quote to stick anti-abortion activists in S.S. uniforms and march them around YouTube, but they probably wouldn't appreciate it, and they'd be right.
Johansson deserves a better rebuttal, and Operation Rescue supporters deserve better jokes.