Planned Parenthood Exec Urged 'Personal Hero' Clinton to Step Into Kenya Abortion Debate

Patrick Goodenough | September 2, 2015 | 4:12am EDT
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Hillary Clinton, then secretary of state, was awarded Planned Parenthood’s annual Margaret Sanger award in Houston, Texas in March 2009. Standing alongside her is Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards. (AP Photo, File)

( – Emails from Hillary Clinton’s private server, released by the State Department this week, include one from a Planned Parenthood executive urging her to speak out against a move in Kenya to include in its new constitution language asserting that “life begins at conception.”

In a July 2009 email sent to Clinton’s private email address, Planned Parenthood’s vice president of public policy and advocacy Laurie Rubiner appealed to her to take up the issue during an upcoming visit to the East African country.

“Religious groups are on a concerted crusade to include new language in the Constitution which would codify that ‘life begins at conception,’” Rubiner wrote, adding that if Kenya adopted the language, it would be one of a small group of nations with a such a “fetal personhood” provision.

“I know it is asking a lot,” she wrote to Clinton, “but if there is any way that you could draw attention to this issue when you are in Kenya, you would be even more of my personal hero than you already are.”

Rubiner ended by thanking Clinton “so much for all you do.”

“We are all so grateful that you are there!”

The tranche of emails released by the State Department on Monday show that Rubiner’s request brought a response from Clinton aide Huma Abedin.

“Laurie – She isn’t doing any specific health or women’s events in Kenya but I’ve also shared your email with policy team at state and embassy staff in Nairobi helping to plan the trip to see if there is any way to address this,” Abedin wrote.

Rubiner’s email to Clinton came four months after the secretary of state was given Planned Parenthood’s annual award named for its founder, the controversial eugenicist Margaret Sanger. Accepting the award, Clinton praised Sanger for “her courage, her tenacity, her vision.”

Another of the released emails, also from Rubiner and addressed to Clinton’s aides including Abedin and Cheryl Mills, thanked the secretary of state and her team in effusive terms after the administration included in its fiscal year 2011 budget request an increase for international family planning.

“You guys are totally great. Please thank Secy Clinton for us – we know it wouldn’t have happened without her and all of you.” Rubiner wrote in the email, which Mills then forwarded to Clinton’s personal email address.

Rubiner also pasted in the email a statement from Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards that began with the line, “The women of the world have true friends in Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the Obama administration.”

‘The fetus lacks constitutional standing’

Planned Parenthood’s appeal to Clinton to speak out while visiting Kenya came a year before Kenyans in an August 2010 referendum approved a new constitution.

The new document included the language that was so troubling to Planned Parenthood – “The life of a person begins at conception” – but also, in a move seen as a small advance by abortion advocacy groups, clarified that a woman could have an abortion if  “in the opinion of a trained health professional, there is need for emergency treatment, or the life or health of the mother is in danger, or if permitted by any other written law.”

Shortly before the referendum, some prolife Republicans in Congress raised concerns that U.S. funding was going to some groups seeking to influence the outcome. They argued that this was in violation of a law called the Siljander Amendment, which prohibits the use of U.S. tax dollars to lobby for or against abortion abroad.

A year after the referendum, a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report looking into those concerns found that of several U.S.-funded organizations supporting the Kenyan constitutional reform process, one had lobbied to expand abortion access in the new document.

GAO said that in the early stages of drafting, the International Development Law Organization (IDLO) had suggested that the drafting body “might consider adding language to make clear that the fetus lacks constitutional standing, and that the rights of women under these articles therefore take priority.”

IDLO also suggested that the draft be modified to make clear that legal status begins at birth rather than at conception – or in IDLO’s wording, “to make clear that a person is a human being who has been born.”

GAO also found that IDLO, later on during the drafting process, had “commented on broadening the exceptions when abortion would be legal.”

GAO said while the final constitution was consistent with some of the IDLO advice relating to abortion, it had been unable to determine whether the drafters had made the changes as a direct result of the U.S.-funded group’s advice.

The report also said that while Obama administration officials voiced support for Kenya’s constitutional reform process, GAO “did not find any indication that U.S. officials gave an opinion publicly on the issue of abortion or attempted to influence the Right to Life article of the draft constitution.”

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