This past weekend, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards gave the commencement address to the graduating class of Barnard College in New York. Barnard is an all-female school affiliated with Columbia University. The college boasts a history of alumnae-turned-activists, and Richards points out that, “it seems like 90 percent of my colleagues at Planned Parenthood are [Barnard alumnae].”
When Richards was invited by Barnard to give the school’s commencement address this year, eyebrows were raised as some asked why the school would not take a greater effort to invite a speaker that all of the celebrating graduates could enjoy hearing and benefit from the message proffered. An opinion piece in the Columnia University newspaper noted that,
For [some Barnard students], it will be an experience of profound alienation… it is truly devastating that Barnard chose a speaker who bears the banner of abortion—one of the most polarizing, impassioned subjects of morality in the history of modern civilization. For an event that is supposed to be celebratory, uniting, and joyous, why must the school choose a speaker who is so deeply divisive?
Richards made several bizarre comments during her commencement address that did nothing to assuage the gap between students who identified as pro- and anti-abortion on campus. In fact, Richards poo-pooed the objections of pro-life objectors by saying of those who welcomed her: “I appreciate the fact that Barnard students are the kind of people who don’t have to agree with someone to listen to her thoughts.” But objections to Richards as the commencement speaker go deeper than “disagreement;” Richards stands in fundamental opposition to the activism that Barnard itself claims to foster in its graduates, if some of those graduates choose pro-life activism as their field of interest.
And speaking of pro-life activists, Richards seems keenly aware that they vastly outnumber their pro-abortion counterparts. Preferring, of course, to refer to activists on her side as defenders of “women’s rights,” Cecile chronicled the Barnard grads’ achievements of which she approved, including their production of the Vagina Monologues, an explicit, pro-abortion play that has exhibited a role in the American abortion debate. Richards quipped:
Life as an activist, troublemaker, agitator is a tremendous option and one I highly recommend.
Richards used much of the address to list the ways in which she and her parents and children have been involved in activism over the years. As usual, she gushed over her late mother, Ann Richards, the former governor of Texas. Her mother, she says, taught her a mantra that has guided her own pursuits (emphasis added):
Growing up, Mom always told me, “The answer to life is yes.”
In case you missed it: the irony is that Cecile Richards grew up to run the largest chain of abortion mills in the country. She’s in business precisely because her organization says, “The answer to life is no.” Double standard? The answer is yes.