Earlier today, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards faced off for more than five hours with lawmakers in Congress, defending her organization and its work providing health care to millions of women and men.
During the often-tense exchange, Richards reiterated to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that accusations that Planned Parenthood benefits heavily from the sale of fetal tissue—as claimed earlier this summer by the anti-abortion group Center for Medical Progress—are “offensive and categorically untrue.” She added, “It’s a shame to think that there are people in this country who are so committed to ending women’s access to both birth control and safe and legal abortion that they’ll really resort to any means to try to entrap people [and] twist the truth in order to reach their ends.”
The hearing comes as Congress teeters on the edge of a shutdown. Republican lawmakers have been refusing to vote in favor of any budget that provides funding to Planned Parenthood, saying no federal money should go to an organization that offers abortion services. In reality, no federal funding is used for the abortions Planned Parenthood provides—thanks to the Hyde Amendment—and abortions account for a mere 3 percent of Planned Parenthood’s services, according to the organization’s website.
Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) expressed frustration during the hearing, saying, “Make no mistake: Despite what we hear, Republicans are doubling down on their war against women.” She said later, “We need to recognize this fight for what it is—it’s about banning a woman’s right to choose.”
Planned Parenthood supporters voiced outrage over the hearings, calling them “callous” and “mean-spirited.” Said Debra L. Ness, president of the National Partnership for Women and Families, in a statement,
With the federal budget deadline looming, extremists are once again demonstrating that their priority is furthering an anti-woman agenda, not governing, not what the public wants and not what is best for the country. Anti-abortion extremists in Congress continue to willfully mislead the nation about the critical healthcare services Planned Parenthood provides, despite evidence showing that voters support this trusted healthcare provider. Millions of women rely on Planned Parenthood for high-quality preventive care, including birth control, potentially life-saving screenings for cancer, and screenings and treatment for sexually transmitted infections.
A majority of Americans support continued funding for Planned Parenthood: According to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, 61 percent of respondents oppose eliminating Planned Parenthood’s funding. Plus, 47 percent of those surveyed view the organization favorably, compared to 31 percent who do not.
Around the country, women’s health advocates and allies gathered Tuesday to voice their support for Planned Parenthood and call on lawmakers to fund the women’s healthcare provider at #PinkOut Day rallies.
In Los Angeles, an estimated 400 to 500 people gathered at City Hall to rally for the organization, including city council members Mike Bonin and Nury Martinez. The officials spoke about a resolution passed by the city in August formally opposing efforts to defund Planned Parenthood. Los Angeles is the first city to pass such a resolution.
Said Councilmember Bonin in a statement,
We support the safe and affordable healthcare services that Planned Parenthood provides [to] nearly 150,000 women and men in L.A., we support the education and outreach programs that Planned Parenthood provides teens, and we support the life-saving and cutting-edge research Planned Parenthood helps conduct. We support Planned Parenthood and urge the Senate to stop using this important healthcare provider in their callous political games.
Also responding to Republican efforts to strip women of their reproductive freedoms, Los Angeles-based activists Alexa Natanson, and Chelsea Kent launched the Send Congress Your Uterus campaign, which allows reproductive rights supporters to send a postcard, like the one below, to anti-choice lawmakers for $3.50. The pair say their goal is to overwhelm “members of Congress who dedicate too much energy to taking away women’s reproductive rights” with reminders that women are the only ones who should be making choices about their bodies.
Says Natanson, “We just loved the idea of Congress members receiving hundreds of postcards with a pointed and mocking sentiment. We both find there’s a general disconnect between elected officials and their constituents, and we care about bridging that gap.”
Elsewhere, #PinkOut Day supporters shared their Planned Parenthood stories, turned their social media profile pictures pink and wore pink to show their support for the embattled healthcare provider. If you’re looking for a way to take action, sign our petition urging Congress to resist efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and instead support legislation that expands women’s access to health care.
Opening photo—from the Los Angeles rally—courtesy of Amy Rosenfeld, director of communications and marketing at Planned Parenthood Los Angeles. Photo of Feminist Majority Foundation activists courtesy of Nancy Aragon. GTFO postcard image courtesy of Send Congress Your Uterus.
Stephanie Hallett is research editor at Ms. Follow her on Twitter @stephhallett.