Yesterday, Senate Republicans unveiled the newest version of their health care bill following a drafting process where women were literally shut out of the room and discussion. Several hours later, Chelsea Clinton and Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards addressed a room full of approximately 2,000 women urging them to take action against the bill and reminding them that despite messages from the current administration, women’s voices do matter.
Speaking at the BlogHer17 Conference, Richards encouraged women — and everyone — to strongly push back against this proposed legislation that would disproportionately affect women and families.
“This incredibly important piece of legislation that was meticulously crafted by 13 white men,” Richards began—before Clinton jumped in adding “in secret”—“ends access to Planned Parenthood to millions of folks in this country.”
Richards noted that 1 in 5 women have been to a Planned Parenthood health center as a patient and that half of these are located in medically underserved communities.
And the care provided to women doesn’t stop at prevention and contraception.
“We provide safe and legal abortion,” she said. “I just wanted to say that. It’s important to us and we always will.”
And it’s not just women who benefit. She recalled being at a clinic in San Diego recently where the waiting room was full of men with ESPN playing on the TV instead of the usual soap operas. Turns out, she said, it was Vasectomy Day at Planned Parenthood, and just one example of the health services provided for men.
Clinton, who interviewed Richards, stressed the importance of Planned Parenthood as a health care organization, especially in the face of today’s Senate bill, which she referred to as “such a real threat to health care equity and access and quality and ultimately health in our country.” She explained that like previous Republican attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, this proposed legislation eliminates central health benefits like contraceptive and maternity care as well as preventative screenings; as she put it “the benefits that have ‘leveled up’ what it means to have insurance in this country.”
Both women stressed the importance of including women in the political process, from having more women elected to office to encouraging all women to show up to the polls, the way that women of color have turned out for recent elections.
If passed, the bill would end access to health care for millions of Americans, which Richards said is “one of the problems when you have people negotiating benefits they don’t actually need.” Richards and Clinton discussed how one of the major stumbling blocks to maintaining access to health care for women is that Republican male politicians continuously use the excuse that because they do not benefit directly from provisions like maternity care, it shouldn’t be required.
“If more people in Congress could get pregnant, we’d stop fighting about birth control,” Richards added.
Clinton chimed in, saying “Where do they [Republican male politicians] think they came from? Everyone has a mother and if you think you don’t, look at your belly button.” She then emphasized the importance of using humor to move the discussion forward, “not just to keep our sanity, but to bring new audiences into the conversation.”
One specific aspect of the bill that Richards finds problematic is that women on Medicaid who are pregnant and give birth — which, she said, account for half the births in this country — have to return to work after 60 days or risk losing their health care coverage.
The plan: to have women continue to raise their voices, because so far, it’s been working. According to Richards, an estimated 86 percent of the calls that have been coming into Congress opposing the various iterations of the Republicans’ health care bill have come from women. None of the bills have progressed.
Their first suggestion on how to take action right now: Call your senator, especially if you’re from battleground states like Ohio, Arizona, Nevada or Florida. Clinton even provided the number to call the Senate: 202-224-3121.
“We can do something about this,” Richards said. “We can fight it and we can beat it.”
An earlier version of this post originally appeared at SheKnows. Republished with permission.