Des Moines Rotary members blackball Planned Parenthood employee

Des Moines Rotary voted down an applicant for the first time in the chapter’s history, Rekha Basu reported in her Des Moines Register column on Friday. Susy Robinette is well-known in the community as a former news anchor for Des Moines’ NBC affiliate and a former reporter, anchor and news director at the Fox affiliate here. Apparently 11 members of the club rejected her application because she is now the chief development officer at Planned Parenthood of the Heartland (previously Planned Parenthood of Greater Iowa).

Therese Wielage is club president and a personal friend of Robinette’s. “I think Susy would be a good member for any club, but I respect that she’s representing an organization that some people in the club have issues with,” Wielage said. […]

It only takes 11 “no” votes out of 334 members to torpedo a nominee, and that’s just what Robinette got. That disturbs member Joy Corning, the former Republican lieutenant governor. While calling the Rotary a wonderful organization that does good work in the community and world, she said, “It is very unfortunate that a very small minority has inserted their own personal convictions into the process and has done a hurtful thing to a notable woman who works for one of the outstanding non-profits in our community.”

Member Janet Phipps Burkhead, a lawyer and general in the Iowa National Guard, who sponsored Robinette, says she’s embarrassed for the club. “I don’t think that what took place is in the spirit of Rotary,” she said.

[…]The immediate past president of another Des Moines Rotary club, the Rotary Club of Des Moines, A.M., said though its members are conservative, they’re “very open.” In fact, said Dennis Linderbaum, president of the Iowa Health Foundation, he’d happily sponsor Robinette for membership there. He calls Planned Parenthood “a very important organization in regard to women’s health and to the strength of families.”

KCCI-TV reported on the story here. Officials would not release the names of the members who voted against Robinette, but Wielege said they are reviewing by-laws that allow 11 out of 334 members to block an application.

If you know anyone in Des Moines Rotary, you might want to mention that you were disappointed to learn that a small minority of people who dislike Planned Parenthood’s mission took it out on Robinette.

If you know anyone in the Rotary Club of Des Moines, A.M., you might want to mention that it would reflect well on them to welcome Robinette as a member.

Alternatively, please consider donating to Planned Parenthood in Robinette’s honor.

About the Author(s)


  • This came up the other evening...

    A prominent member of the local community announced that they had resigned from the local Rotary over this.