Why is Lemony Snicket giving $1 million to Planned Parenthood?

The author of 'A Series of Unfortunate Events' and his wife are making their donations more public as Planned Parenthood faces a defunding battle in Congress.

Stephen Chernin/ AP
Lemony Snicket, the pen name of children's author Daniel Handler, has donated $1 million to support Planned Parenthood.

Author Daniel Handler, whose "A Series of Unfortunate Events" books sold 60 million copies by breaking all the rules for children’s literature, announced a $1 million donation to Planned Parenthood this week.

Mr. Handler – the writer behind pen name “Lemony Snicket” – and his wife Lisa Brown first tweeted about their decision on Monday:

As Ms. Brown told Buzzfeed, “This year, Planned Parenthood has gone through a series of unfortunate events, and it felt right to make our support more public and more dramatic.”

The couple has supported the health care provider for years. In 2007, writing for the New York Times, Mr. Handler mused about his newfound wealth and the apparently tremendous amount he and Brown chose to give Planned Parenthood:

I’ve acquired it by writing children’s books about terrible things happening to orphans, and this seems like such a crazy and possibly monstrous way of acquiring money that I give a lot of it away... If your salary equaled the amount of money my wife and I gave Planned Parenthood one year, you’d be in the richest 1 percent in the world ...

Planned Parenthood, whose low-cost services make it a key player in debates over abortion and reproductive health, has been under particular fire from Republicans lately after videos appeared online alleging that the organization illegally sells fetal tissue for profit.

Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards defended the organization in Congress on Tuesday, calling the claims “categorically untrue.”

The battle reached new heights when House Republicans threatened to shut down the federal government unless it removed funding for the clinics, a tactic narrowly avoided in a last-minute bill agreed to Wednesday, which will postpone a long-term deal for two more months. 

Medical clinics and their staff have also reported an uptick in violent threats. According to the Guardian, there have been 58 arsons targeting abortion providers since 1995.

Despite the uproar in Congress and the media, four recent polls suggest that Americans’ views on Planned Parenthood have changed little in the past few months, with a “robust majority” supporting federal funding. Federal money may only go towards abortion services in rare circumstances, such as rape, NPR reports; 97 precent of Planned Parenthood’s patients seek other services, such as screening for cancer or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). 

Handler and Brown told Mother Jones magazine that the organization’s “recent deceitful pummelling was frankly more than we could take,” and it would appear that many of his online fans agree, although plenty tweeted back their disappointment.

“Way to prevent a series of unfortunate events!” one tweeted, while another alluded to the mysterious V.F.D., a fictional organization at the heart of Handler’s new series "All the Wrong Questions" by calling his gift a “Virtuous Financial Decision.”

Some took a more serious turn. “As a single mom who has utilized their services when others turned me away, THANK YOU,” one posted.

The 13 books of Handler’s first children’s series made headlines for their appealingly sinister plots, erudite vocabulary, and style that the Atlantic branded “postmodernism for kids.” Titles include "The Carnivorous Carnivore," "The Ersatz Elevator," and "The Vile Village."

Handler shrugs off criticism that the stories are way above kids’ comprehension. “I think children are less embarrassed to go look up the truth,” he told NPR

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