Near the end of Wednesday’s main GOP debate, moderator Jake Tapper asked the 11 participants a “lighthearted” question: Which woman would they put on the $10 bill?
Responses ranged from the eye-roll-worthy (Mike Huckabee picked his wife) to baffling (Jeb Bush chose former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher). But the most popular answer was Rosa Parks, named by Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and Donald Trump.
Rosa Parks, whose refusal to move to the back of a bus, touched off the Montgomery, Ala., bus boycott and the beginning of the civil rights movement, is fingerprinted by police Lt. D.H. Lackey, Feb. 22, 1956. She was among some 100 people charged with violating segregation laws. (Photo: Gene Herrick/AP Photo)
Rubio praised Parks as “an everyday American that changed the course of history.” Cruz called her “a principled pioneer that helped change this country, helped remedy racial injustice, and that would be an honor that would be entirely appropriate.” Trump actually called Parks his second choice after his daughter, Ivanka, but conceded, “Other than that, we’ll go with Rosa Parks. I like that.”
Undoubtedly, these conservative candidates chose Parks for her status as an icon of the civil rights movement — and not for her service on the Planned Parenthood Federation of America’s Board of Advocates.
After her famous arrest in Montgomery, which sparked a citywide bus boycott, Parks and her husband lost their jobs and moved to Detroit. There she found work in Rep. John Conyers’ congressional office and eventually founded the Rosa and Raymond Parks Institute for Self Development. Parks was also offered — and accepted — an invitation to serve on the national board of advocates of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Elizabeth Clark, Director of Health Media for PPFA, defines the board of advocates as “a group of renowned individuals who publicly support our mission.”
Republican candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz at the presidential debates, Sept. 16, 2015. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Planned Parenthood, of course, has been a frequent target of Republican presidential candidates this year, following the antiabortion Center for Medical Progress’s release of videos allegedly showing officials from the organization discussing the sale of fetal tissue. Most of the governors running for president bragged during Wednesday’s debate about defunding Planned Parenthood in their states, and Sen. Ted Cruz called the organization “a criminal enterprise.”
Only Donald Trump expressed anything resembling support for Planned Parenthood, saying he would “look at the good aspects” of the organization before advocating for total defunding. “They do good things,” Trump said. “There’s two Planned Parenthoods, in a way.”
Earlier in the evening, during the undercard debate, Rick Santorum invoked another civil rights hero when he cited Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” as the moral precedent for the actions of Kim Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was jailed for her refusal to issue same-sex marriage licenses. “He said in that letter that there are just laws and there are unjust laws,” Santorum said. “And we have no obligation to condone and accept unjust laws.”
In 1966, King won the inaugural Margaret Sanger Award for human rights and drew a very different parallel — one between himself and Sanger, the founder of what would become Planned Parenthood. “There is a striking kinship between our movement and Margaret Sanger’s early efforts,” King said. “She launched a movement which is obeying a higher law to preserve human life under humane conditions. Margaret Sanger had to commit what was then called a crime in order to enrich humanity.”
Cover tile photo: Daily Advertiser/AP