Planned Parenthood held its national conference at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, D.C., on Friday. Considering the organization has been the target of more than a few politicians, President Barack Obama’s speech at the conference was refreshing.
Obama’s speech made the point that women should have the right to make their own healthcare decisions – something that Planned Parenthood has always believed and upheld. “For nearly a century now, one core principle has guided everything all of you do – that women should be allowed to make their own decisions about their own health,” he said. “It’s a simple principle.”
Unfortunately, the simplicity of the concept is lost on some. A survey conducted by the Polling Company and Woman Trend in 2011 has shown 43 percent of Americans oppose federal funding of Planned Parenthood and similar organizations. Last November’s Republican presidential candidate, Mitt Romney, famously remarked, “Planned Parenthood? We’re gonna get rid of that,” and was quoted in the news for months.
After hearing remarks such as Romney’s expressing a desire to “get rid” of Planned Parenthood – an organization which provides women with birth control, STD and cancer screenings, and safe and legal abortions among other services – Obama voiced at the conference what many people have been thinking. “That’s absurd. It’s wrong. It’s an assault on women’s rights,” he said.
Though most individuals oppose Planned Parenthood solely because they provide abortions, others have attacked different aspects of women’s healthcare, such as contraception. Perhaps the most infamous attack on birth control occurred last year on Rush Limbaugh’s radio show, when the conservative host made disparaging comments about law student Sandra Fluke. When Fluke was not allowed to speak in support of contraception at a hearing, Limbaugh made a cluster of remarks ranging from calling her a prostitute to stating, “if we’re going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex (…) we want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”
Just as the right to choose should not be taken away from women, affordable birth control should not be either. According to a 2010 survey commissioned by Planned Parenthood Action Fund, one in three women voters have reported difficulty affording birth control. Obama referenced politicians who want to deny these services to women in his speech on Friday as well, saying, “when they talk about cutting off [Planned Parenthood]’s funding, let’s be clear: They’re talking about telling many of those women, you’re on your own.”
Obama also brought some recent laws to the attention of his audience. “Forty-two states have introduced laws that would ban or severely limit access to a woman’s right to choose (…) that would make it harder for women to get the contraceptive care that they need (…) that would cut off access to cancer screenings and end educational programs that help prevent teen pregnancy,” he said.
Obama ended his speech by asserting that “as long as we’ve got to fight to make sure women have access to quality, affordable health care, and as long as we’ve got to fight to protect a woman’s right to make her own choices (…) I want you to know that you’ve also got a president who’s going to be right there with you fighting every step of the way,” he said. In a time when so many have attempted to cut funding to an essential organization, his comments were a welcome reassurance.
Julia Zakrzewski is a fourth-year student majoring in english with a minor in journalism. She can be reached at JZ727170@wcupa.edu.