PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon gubernatorial candidate Betsy Johnson and Planned Parenthood continue to disagree over whether or not Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood board member, was invited to receive an endorsement from the reproductive health care nonprofit.
At a Sept. 27 gubernatorial debate held in Bend by Oregon State University-Cascades between frontrunners unaffiliated candidate Johnson, Democratic nominee Tina Kotek and Republican nominee Christine Drazan, Johnson followed up a summary of her pro-choice stance with claims that Planned Parenthood never invited her to receive its endorsement.
“I wasn’t allowed to present credentials for Planned Parenthood,” Johnson said during the debate. “Planned Parenthood now is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Democrat Party. We weren’t asked to fill out a form or to present credentials, and I reject the notion that there’s any insinuation that I’m not completely pro-choice. I am and will remain so.”
Planned Parenthood PAC of Oregon Executive Director An Do responded to Johnson’s statements shortly after they were uttered via a press release titled: “Betsy Johnson Lies About Planned Parenthood PAC in Gubernatorial Debate.”
“As a seasoned politician like Betsy Johnson already knows, there is only one endorsement process,” Do said in the statement. “She chose not to participate in it — nor did she pursue it. Instead, she accepted the endorsement of anti-abortion extremist Bridget Barton, who admitted to the media [that], ‘Drazan and Johnson are virtually identical on this issue.’”
While Johnson allegedly sought Planned Parenthood’s endorsement, she failed to take any proactive steps toward obtaining that endorsement, according to Planned Parenthood. Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood included a quote from a Republican primary hopeful Bridget Barton which seemingly implied Johnson and Drazan’s stances on abortion are “identical.”
The quote was taken from a video of Barton endorsing Johnson on social media in June. Contrary to Planned Parenthood’s use of the quote, Barton actually implied that both Johnson and Drazan would not seek to reverse Oregon’s current abortion laws. This statement is also misguided in its original context, as Johnson (pro-abortion rights) and Drazan (anti-abortion rights) have publicly share opposing stances on abortion.
The argument between Johnson and Planned Parenthood was first documented by the Oregonian in August when Johnson’s campaign told the state’s largest newspaper that it had “no record” of the organization contacting her or her staff about its endorsement procedures.
Planned Parenthood responded to Johnson’s claims by releasing a copy of the email it sent to her campaign on Dec. 17, 2021, which invited Johnson to participate in its endorsement process. KOIN 6 News obtained a copy of the email that was sent as well.
“Dear Senator Johnson,” the 2021 email reads. ”As a candidate who has indicated a commitment to reproductive freedom and rights, Planned Parenthood PAC of Oregon would like to invite you to participate in our endorsement process for the 2022 Governor’s Primary. While Planned Parenthood PAC of Oregon does not typically endorse in primary elections, we recognize the particular significance of this year for reproductive health and rights in our country, and of this upcoming election cycle for racial, gender, and economic justice here in Oregon. We seek to learn more about each candidate before determining to endorse a candidate, endorse no candidate, or hold off on a decision until a later date. We hope to have the opportunity to learn more about you and your candidacy through this process.”
In an email to KOIN 6 News, Jennifer Sitton, the communications director for Johnson’s campaign, countered Planned Parenthood’s email in August, saying that Johnson did not apply for endorsement during the primaries because she is an independent candidate, and therefore did not participate in the primary elections.
“They failed to contact our campaign about an endorsement process for the general election once she was a candidate,” Sitton said.
Planned Parenthood has already committed itself to endorsing Kotek as its candidate in the upcoming November election.
“Our endorsement process is rigorous and comprehensive to ensure that we endorse the strongest candidates who will protect and expand access to sexual and reproductive health care, including affordable abortion and accurate sex education,” Planned Parenthood stated in August. “We invited candidates who had indicated support for reproductive rights and abortion access to participate in our endorsement process. Betsy Johnson did not reply to that invitation. After a thorough process, Tina Kotek emerged as the clear reproductive health champion with a proven record of leadership — exactly what Oregonians need at this crisis moment for abortion access.”