Earlier today, thousands of pro-choice activists from around the country gathered to show their support for reproductive rights at the “Stand Up For Women’s Health” rally on the National Mall. Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards kicked off the event, which was both preceded and followed by lobbying activities on the Hill.
The lineup of speakers was pretty impressive – besides Richards, attendees heard from, among others, Nancy Keenan, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America; Senators Barbara Boxer, Charles Schumer, and Patty Murray; Representatives Frank Lautenberg, Rosa DeLauro, Louise Slaughter, and Diana DeGette; and the actors Amy Madigan (a member of NARAL’s board of directors), Ed Harris, Connie Britton, and David Eigenberg (who gave a particularly rousing and impassioned speech).
While the speeches touched on various aspects of women’s health, from the bad old days of back-alley abortions to how it’s just plain common sense to support a service that provides low-cost health services, one message was clear: that Planned Parenthood must not lose its funding. This was an even more timely message than the organizers may have intended, as this morning brought the news that two issues are holding up a budget resolution: the environment and abortion. (House Speaker John Boehner also insists that there are disputes over how to slash spending, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has said that “[T] he numbers are basically there”.)
For Planned Parenthood to lose its funding would mean that millions of women and men would lose access to affordable and vital health care. Several speakers at the rally touched on the critical work that these clinics do in screening for cervical cancer, among other preventative measures; and one of the most emotional speeches of the day was given by Carolyn Smithers, a mother of two daughters. When she was 19, a checkup at Planned Parenthood revealed that Smithers had cancer; that checkup, Smithers said, saved her life.
Planned Parenthood isn’t safe yet, but the energy, passion, and dedication shown by both the speakers and the crowd at today’s rally were an important reminder that it’s not going down without a fight.