A Riverside County lawmaker Thursday castigated Planned Parenthood for sending Valentine's Day greetings that contained condoms with messages he said were obscene and designed to intimidate legislators, but the organization said the intention was to underscore the importance of safe sex, not push an agenda.
Sen. Mike Morrell, R-Menifee, said his office was one of many in the Legislature to receive packages with condoms sealed in plastic wraps bearing the words, "Don't (expletive) with us. Don't (expletive) without us."
"Aside from its vulgarity, it is a veiled threat and a strong-arm tactic -- something I don't appreciate, particularly when it appears to also be directed at our staff," Morrell said. "Communicating such an overtly crude and sexualized message is inappropriate in any workplace, including here at the capitol."
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Jennifer Wonnacott, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, said the packages were sent in recognition of National Condom Day, which coincides with Valentine's Day, and the occasion was used "as an opportunity to highlight the importance of safe sex -- something we think all members of the Legislature can support, especially to help reduce epidemic levels of sexually transmitted diseases in California."
"Planned Parenthood is proud to advocate and promote safe sex, and we will continue to highlight the importance of sexual and reproductive health care with all legislators, especially in light of federal attacks on access to care," she said.
Morrell noted that in every legislative session, "all employees and legislators attend and participate in classroom prevention training for harassment, discrimination and retaliation."
"Based on my experience from these courses, this incident would violate the standards of conduct … (intended to ensure) a safe and professional workplace free of intimidation."
The lawmaker urged Democrat leaders in both the Senate and Assembly to "condemn Planned Parenthood's distribution of these items and use the opportunity to remind all those in the capitol community of its expectations for appropriate workplace behavior and decorum."