Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure would have done well to look back at Planned Parenthood’s history of nasty break-ups to get a better handle on what was ahead.


Back in the pre-Internet dinosaur days 22 years ago, Planned Parenthood’s tactics may have been different, but its assault was just as grand when it learned AT&T was planning to disconnect its service.

The backdrop, from the Seattle Times, April 13, 1990:

AT&T announced April 2 that it would no longer provide money for the teen educational programs of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America because of the organization’s increasingly public stand on abortion.

Planned Parenthood had been a recipient of AT&T funding for 25 years. Last year the organization received $50,000 from AT&T, [Walt] Greenwood [AT&T’s public relations director] said.

Planned Parenthood immediately accused the company of “corporate cowardice” for caving in to the demands of a small group of anti-abortionists.

Recently, AT&T had been the focus of a letter-writing campaign and threatened boycott by the Christian Action Council of Falls Church, Va.

Reynold Levy, corporate vice president of the AT&T Foundation, the firm’s philanthropic arm, said despite the fact that AT&T gifts were aimed at helping families and teen-age parents, it had proven impossible to pursue such ends through Planned Parenthood without being identified in the public mind with Planned Parenthood’s political activity.

He said he had been told late yesterday that AT&T officials in New York had no intention of reversing the company’s stand.

Bear in mind the amount AT&T was rescinding: $50,000 per year. Nevertheless, Planned Parenthood proceeded to take out full page ads, for $40,000 each, in Investor’s Daily, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, and USA Today.

Here for the first time is a screen shot of that ad on the Internet, courtesy of Doug Scott, president of Life Decisions International, who spent hours going through files to find it…

Note the familiar talking points, that AT&T had “caved in to anti-choice extremists” and “bullying tactics” and had “decided to leave teens at risk,” identical in so many words to its charges two decades later, including that Komen was leaving women at risk.


Also note the two coupons, one to go to AT&T in protest, and the other to go to PP with a donation. Of course, PP also launched a fundraising effort when assaulting Komen.

Faye Wattleton was Planned Parenthood’s president at the time. Wattleton took to the airwaves to pressure AT&T, appearing on NBC Today, the CBS Morning News, CBS Evening News, ABC World News Tonight, and the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour, to name some.

PP enlisted the help of its friends in Congress, one of whom it also enlisted for help in its battle against Komen: Barbara Boxer, who at the time was a congresswoman and is now a senator.

With the Komen debacle so fresh in our minds, we may think we have a little understanding of the tremendous pressure PP placed on AT&T.

But that public battle went on for three years. Pro-Planned Parenthood AT&T shareholders proposed resolutions in support of the abortion giant at the annual shareholders meeting in 1990, 1991, 1992, and 1993. When in 1993 they again failed to get a vote, PP finally moved on.

In an enlightening commentary in the Milwaukee Journal, Wattleton explained PP’s rationale for attacking AT&T:

There was no other option to take – and let me explain to you why. We had been in conversation with AT&T for a number of months – as a matter of fact, more than a year, about the concerns they had about the opposition….

We said to them, “you can’t avoid this by defunding. This is an issue that will not go away – it will only give life and strength to people who think that they can push you around….

In other words, Planned Parenthood simply could not let pro-lifers win.

But that time we did.

Why? In his book, Bad Choices: A Look Inside Planned Parenthood, Doug Scott wrote:

Despite the expensive and volatile media campaign launched by Planned Parenthood, AT&T held firm. Its spokesmen were eloquent in explaining the company position.

Komen’s leadership obviously did not hold firm. And Komen CEO Nancy Brinker fumbled and waffled.

Reprinted with permission from