Cecile Richards, the president of Planned Parenthood, spoke on behalf of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during a speech at an official Clinton campaign event in Iowa City on Wednesday.
“Nothing is more important in the next 34 days,” Richards said, encouraging attendees to help with get-out-the-vote efforts as election day nears.
In her speech to a group of volunteers and Clinton supporters in the Kirkwood Room, 515 Kirkwood Ave., Richards discussed the improvements in access to reproductive health care since the beginning of Planned Parenthood 100 years ago — when contraception was illegal and information about contraception or family planning was considered obscene. Richards, like many attendees at the event, voiced concerns about the role that the next president could have in future access to reproductive health care, especially as the next president could nominate three or four justices to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“If for no other reason you work your fingers to the bone for the next 34 days, it’s because we cannot have Donald Trump pick the next Supreme Court justice,” Richards said.
Sarah Hunnicutt, a Washington County volunteer for the Iowa Democratic Party also voiced a similar concern before the event began.
“We’ve got to have Hillary in the White House. We just can’t have Trump choosing our Supreme Court justices. They could repeal the laws that we fought so hard for.” Hunnicutt said.
She said she’s been a supporter of Planned Parenthood since she was in her 20s because of the organization’s support for reproductive health care.
“Reproductive choice is something that every American should have and comprehensive reproductive care is something every American should have access too,” she said.
“If [the candidates] are anti-choice, that’s important and shows what the candidates feel about women. Because even if you don’t like abortion, you can still be pro-choice. If they are just staunchly anti-choice that tells you how they feel about women, that they don’t think women can make decisions about their bodies and their health.”
Richards, as well as other attendees at the event, frequently mentioned Clinton’s potential to become the first woman president of the United States.
North Liberty Mayor Amy Nielsen, who is running for state representative, said that Richards’ speech was exactly what she needed to re-energize herself and remind her why this election is important.
“I look at Hillary Clinton and I think of every woman who hasn’t received that promotion, who hasn’t received that raise,” she said. “I think of when women could only be school teachers or nurses because they were female. We’re showing our kids that there’s nothing we can’t do. And that’s just as important to show my son as it is to show my two daughters.”
A tight race
During her speech, Richards mentioned the tight polls in Iowa. The most recent poll of likely Iowa voters came out right before the first presidential debate on Sept. 26 and showed Trump and Clinton tied.
“Every vote counts,” she said.
“Turn off the TV, quit watching the polls, because all that matters right now is talking to people and getting people to the polls.”
Picketers outside the event held neon-pink signs with statements like “P.P. received $556 million in tax dollars last year” and “Hillary Clinton supports abortion through all nine months of pregnancy. #NotWithHer.”
For the record, Clinton has said that she would support restrictions on third-trimester abortions provided that there are exceptions to protect the mother’s life and health, according to a PolitiFact report.
Sarah McCreary, with the University of Iowa Students for Life, said the group of protesters wanted to raise awareness about the role of taxpayer money in Planned Parenthood’s operations.
“We simply aren’t comfortable that an organization that is supported by tax dollars is supporting a candidate,” McCreary said.
According to Planned Parenthood’s 2014-2015 annual report, the organization did receive $553.7 million from government health services grants and reimbursements, 43 percent of its revenue. Of the services provided by the organization during that time, three percent were abortion services.
Although Richards attended the event in her personal capacity and not as an official representative of Planned Parenthood, she referenced her “day job” as president of the organization and there were a number of pink Planned Parenthood T-shirts and buttons in the crowd.
McCreary said that the pro-life/pro-choice debate seemed to have fallen by the wayside in the recent campaign cycle.
“It’s a huge issue, especially for the younger generation, and we don’t think it has been discussed as much as it should be,” she said. “We don’t endorse a candidate. We encourage our students to vote their conscience and keep pro-life issues in mind.”