Ivanka Trump met quietly with Cecile Richards, the head of Planned Parenthood, after her father’s inauguration, Politico reported Thursday.
The meeting is cast as a rare meeting between an adviser to a Republican president and a Democratic activist who supported Hillary Clinton, an effort to find some common ground on the highly charged issue of abortion.
But if the meeting, reportedly requested by Ivanka Trump, was meant as bridge-building, it missed a few bricks.
What started “as a cordial relationship has soured - and any effort on the part of the politically savvy first daughter to back-channel to the nonprofit has transformed into a bitter battle since Ivanka Trump assumed an official administration post,” notes Politico.
Last month Richards skewered Trump for her “deafening” silence on the failed GOP health care bill. Under a provision in the proposed bill insurers would have potentially no longer covered certain services including maternity care.
“It’s time for Ivanka to stand for women,” Richards told BuzzFeed in March. “It's wildly unpopular. This is going to be a catastrophe for women in this country.”
Planned Parenthood advocates, Politico reports, feel that as someone who has staked her reputation on fighting for women’s economic empowerment, Trump should be held accountable when she doesn’t speak up.
“You don’t get to have it both ways,” Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, told Politico.
“You don’t get to say, I’m all for economic empowerment, and ignore that 30 percent of wage gains are directly attributable to access to birth control. You don’t get to say women should have great child care when maternity benefits are on the chopping block.”
Some people seemed unimpressed, to the point of anger, at news of the meeting between Trump and Richards.
In an interview with “CBS This Morning” that aired Wednesday, Trump addressed critics who hold her complicit with the new administration because she doesn’t publicly push back against her father.
She takes arrows from all corners; some Republicans cast her as a Democrat in (expensive) sheep’s clothing.
People close to Trump say the criticism is unreasonable because even if she were to insert herself publicly into the messy fight over Planned Parenthood funding, she couldn’t change minds in a Republican House and Senate.
Last month Vice President Mike Pence cast a tie-breaking vote in the Senate that sent a bill to President Trump giving states permission to withhold federal family planning funds from Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers.
“I would say not to conflate lack of public denouncement with silence,” she said in her CBS interview. “I think there are multiple ways to have your voice heard.
“In some cases, it’s through protest and it’s through going on the nightly news and talking about or denouncing every issue on which you disagree with. Other times, it is quietly and directly and candidly. So where I disagree with my father, he knows it.”
As Trump positions herself as a champion of women’s issues, she has met quietly with other progressive women’s movement leaders, too, including Marcia Greenberger, co-president the National Women's Law Center, and Judy Lichtman, senior adviser to the National Partnership for Women and Family, sources told Politico.
“The purpose of her meeting with Richards, “from Cecile’s point of view, was to make sure that Ivanka fully understood what Planned Parenthood does, how it is funded, and why it would be a terrible idea for Planned Parenthood to be removed from being able to see Medicaid patients,” Laguens told Politico.
“The main thing that Cecile Richards was doing was explaining that the money doesn’t actually go to abortions - we get reimbursed the same way a hospital does. We were clearing up misinformation about how this works.”
Defending her strategy to CBS, Trump said speaking out on issues she doesn’t think she can win is not effective.
“I’ll take hits from some critics who say that I should take to the street,” she said. “And then other people will, in the long term, respect where I get to. But I think most of the impact I have, over time, most people will not actually know about.”
Women, however, are listening for her. At the Women in the World conference in New York City on Thursday, actress Scarlett Johansson blasted Trump’s behind-the-scenes strategy as “cowardly.”
Johansson recently played her in a “Saturday Night Live” skit about a fake perfume called “Complicit.”
In a discussion Thursday described as “breaking up the boys club,” Johansson called Trump’s CBS interview “baffling.”
“It’s such an old-fashioned concept,” Johansson said. “Powerful women often get concerned with this idea that they’re going to be seen in this unforgiving light. Screw that. It’s so old-fashioned ... it’s so uninspired and actually really cowardly. And I was so disappointed by that interview she gave yesterday.”
She said Trump is wasting a potentially influential position of power.
“She has an opportunity to really make a big impact just by being vocal,” she said. “I’ve met her several times in the past, and she’s a very well spoken, smart, intelligent woman ... the whole situation baffles me.”