Date: February 11. Venue: BAMcafe (Brooklyn Academy of Music)
Democracy Now! Amy Goodman hosts a Q&A with the most talked about woman in Congress; activist, mother and President of Planned Parenthood, Cecile Richards.
Cecile began her discussion with the 1942 birth of Planned Parenthood, led by such Women’s Rights pioneers as Margaret Sanger and Emma Goldman, both arrested for breaking the Comstock Act of 1873, a law that prohibited the dissemination of contraceptives. Today, Planned Parenthood operates more than 700 facilities in America, with more on the way. Planned Parenthood is responsible for providing a range of healthcare needs, such as preventative healthcare, lifesaving breast cancer screenings, well-woman exams, and a wide selection of FDA-approved birth control methods.
Cecile reminds us that because of the new Affordable Care Act, 48 million Americans will finally have access to affordable healthcare, which insures quality coverage. With this new act women will not pay more for coverage and all preventative care will also be covered… but not everyone is in favor of this progression, and not all states are expanding Medicaid. More than 100 bills and counting are pushing Legislators to regulate women’s reproductive rights, with the state of Texas at the top of the most overbearing restrictions and uninsured families.
Planned Parenthood has been resilient in educating youth and providing healthcare, including ambulatory sites, for not only the economically disadvantaged, but also for those who live in states where healthcare facilities are scarce. Cecile tells the audience she is grateful for the men who speak up for women’s rights and the youth who show up to PPFA marches and hearings, recalling an 8-year-old boy named Bo who attended a PPFA hearing in Austin Texas who tweeted he’d rather help change the world, then go to Six Flags, while Obama also tweeted, “Something special is happening in Austin tonight.”
Inspired by great leaders, Cecile’s mother, Ann Richards, was former State Treasurer of Texas and the 45th Governor of Texas. Today there are 27 women in the Senate, but only 7-8 PPFA providers in Texas, with 1 coming soon to Dallas.
Cecile opened up to Amy Goodman about her abortion, which she says was not traumatic. The incident, she says, occurred after conceiving while on birth control and was already mother to three children. Today abortion access in Texas is much worse than in Cecile’s youth. She says she is deeply moved when women confide in her about their own abortion stories, a topic which still holds a stigma in today’s modern society, and finds it encouraging that more women are creating awareness by sharing their stories across social media. In fact, Cosmo magazine has taken the responsibility to educate more women on the topic of abortion than any other magazine on newsstands, informs Cecile, and recently wrote an insightful article exposing New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Michael Aymond for using his leadership position to blacklist construction workers contracted to build a PPFA clinic. Cecile promises us, despite opposition, the New Orleans clinic will be built by 2015.
As red states begin to close in, Cecile faces opposition from the GOP, who continue their fight to defund PPFA, using anti-constitutional, anti-science, anti-women and anti-poor-people tactics, with a firm goal to overturn Roe v. Wade, a constitutional right established to protect victims of rape, incest, molestation, domestic violence, life-threatening pregnancies, the economically disadvantaged, and essentially a woman’s right to choose what is best for her and her family.
“For many women, Planned Parenthood is their sole healthcare provider, and without it would mean millions of women, mothers and teens would be left without medical coverage.” Cecile warned the audience, “When military wives are not able to see their primary healthcare providers, they come to us for medical care.” Addressing the topic on abortion, Cecile confirms, “Fewer than 10% of procedures performed at our facility account for abortion. The bulk of our mission is providing people with preventative care, life-saving cancer screenings and birth control, and to many we are the only medical providers in their vicinities.”
Amy Goodman asks how medical students have responded to the recent political clash PPFA is facing, and Cecile declares medical careers at PPFA are in fact booming, with more medical graduates choosing Medical Directing careers at PPFA facilities and noting PPFA facilities being among the safest and most equipped with technologically advanced medical equipment. She informed the crowd that Mayor Bloomberg has not only raised millions for PPFA, but has also donated generously. Bloomberg Philanthropies continues to make strides in Public Health, not only in the US, but also in Latin America and Africa.
The conversation intensified when Amy asked Cecile about the Susan G. Komen breakup, a separation Cecile insists was a result of the charity succumbing to political pressure, “People are playing politics with women’s lives… no government should interfere with anyone’s access to Cancer screenings,” and is confident there are Conservatives, such as the Koch Brothers, who are not only pro-choice, but support gay rights. She says she is hopeful, as more young Conservative support gay marriage, and believes a day will come when Conservatives will finally follow the Koch Brother’s lead in matters of civil rights and women’s liberation. The Democratic Party understands that immigration, LGBT and women’s rights all intersect for the greater good.
PPFA, “the Fandango of Birth Control” as Cecile calls it, is not only a place for women, but also a place for young men, and medication abortion is also more common. With the income gap widening across the globe, Cecile fears access to medical care will be jeopardized at the expense of those who cannot afford. The global impact of limitations will only continue to stifle progression, a War on Women that the UK finds truly appalling.
Cecile warns the crowd of the Criminalization of Pregnancy, such as in the case with Bei Bei Shuai of Indiana, charged with feticide after surviving her suicide while pregnant. Rather than the state of Indiana using state tax dollars to provide Bei Bei with mental health services for her clinical depression, they chose instead to use the money to convict and incarcerate her.
PPFA has millions of supporters, including Lena Dunham, helping to build a strong movement and pave the way to a legacy for our future. Cecile hopes one day the vital services at PPFA would become government-funded, that way donors would not be the only ones meeting our civil rights needs for medical care.
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