News that Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s President Cecile Richards met with Ivanka Trump in the weeks following Donald Trump’s inauguration broke last year; Politico reported in 2017 that Richards had met with Ivanka Trump to “seek common ground on the contentious issue of abortion.”
At the time, Planned Parenthood characterized the meeting as a sit-down so that Richards could explain to Trump the value of Planned Parenthood and the continued necessity for funding the organization. “The purpose of the meeting, from Planned Parenthood’s perspective, was to make sure that Ivanka Trump fully understood the important role Planned Parenthood plays in providing health care to millions of people and why it would be a disastrous idea to block people from accessing care at Planned Parenthood,” the organization told Jezebel last year.
But in her new book, Standing Out, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead, Richards elaborates on the meeting. According to People, Richards characterized the unusual meeting as a “bribe.”
Richards writes that she decided to reach out to Trump after she was urged by an acquaintance. “Even if there was only a sliver of a chance of changing anyone’s mind, I owed it to Planned Parenthood patients to at least take the meeting,” she writes.
Surprisingly, Trump agreed to the meeting, but Richards later learned that Jared Kushner would also be attending. In response, Richards asked her husband to join as a “witness.” Richards characterizes the beginning of the meeting as the organization described it in 2017. Richards explained the important work of Planned Parenthood and explained how Medicaid reimbursements worked.
But after Richards presented her talking points, she writes, Kushner said that Planned Parenthood had “made a big mistake” by becoming too political. “The main issue, he explained, was abortion,” she writes in Standing Out. “If Planned Parenthood wanted to keep our federal funding, we would have to stop providing abortions. He described his ideal outcome: a national headline reading ‘Planned Parenthood Discontinues Abortion Services.’”
According to Richards, Kushner said that if Planned Parenthood stopped offering abortions, he and his wife could work to ensure the organization’s continued funding. Richards writes that it was clear to her that Kushner and Trump viewed themselves as “savvy dealmakers” who wanted to “deliver a political win.” The scene Richards describes would almost sound comical if it wasn’t so maliciously oblivious. Richards, of course, refused the deal even as Kushner pushed her to move quickly because “things were moving ‘really fast.’”
Richards later told Dawn Laguens, Planned Parenthood’s Vice President, that the offer “felt like a bribe.”
Though Trump and Kushner have never addressed or acknowledged the meeting publicly, shortly after news of it broke, the New York Times reported that the White House informally “proposed preserving federal payments to the group if it discontinues providing abortions.” The offer was confirmed by Donald Trump, who told the Times that he was “pro-life and I am deeply committed to investing in women’s health and plan to significantly increase federal funding in support of nonabortion services such as cancer screenings.”
The meeting and White House ultimatum were, of course, pointless. Shortly after, in April 2017, Donald Trump signed legislation that rolled back Obama-era protections that required states to pass along family-planning grants to healthcare organizations regardless of whether or not they provided abortions. Planned Parenthood’s access to funding was further eroded in February of this year when the Department of Health and Human Services rewrote Title X’s grant guidelines, favoring religious groups (like crisis clinics) and abstinence-only education.
In short, Richards was right to reject the “savvy” deal on offer from Kushner and Ivanka Trump since it far from savvy and never much of a deal.