On Tuesday October 18, Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, visited Bryn Mawr College to talk about women’s rights to healthcare and the upcoming presidential election. The event was hosted by the Bryn Mawr College Democrats (with president Nora Dell ’19 interviewing) and Facebook live streamed to the Hillary for Pennsylvania page.
The conversation opened with the hot topic of Donald Trump’s recently exposed sexual assault comments. Richards replied that at Planned Parenthood, sexual assault and harassment are taken very seriously. It was very distressing and it made her angry to see someone like Donald Trump using his position to be able to abuse women and take advantage of them. Citing Trump’s open stances against Muslims, immigrants, and the disabled, this was just one more thing on the list. However, what Donald Trump has done and said has given more power and light to these movements that stand against Trump’s beliefs.
Trump has really set a fire to these issues.
We now have to use that spotlight to advance our empowerment movements.
Nora then asked Richards about how policies can reach more women of color and disadvantaged women. Richards pointed out that it’s one thing to get rights in the law, and one thing to actually exercise them. One thing that makes a difference is increasing the number of women in political power. Politicians like Ginsberg, Sotomayor, Kagan, and other have brought women’s stories to the room to take action on. This means everyone has to vote. Electing Hillary Clinton and people like Kate McGinty will get us there. Good leadership is being able to listen to people and have empathy, something that women excel at.
The conversation then shifted to access to healthcare. At Planned Parenthood, all of things have to be done through the lens of how to create equity. We all have to be committed to that equity, whether it be race, immigration status, gender identity, etc. Planned Parenthood’s goal toward equity is providing affordable, high quality healthcare and education to anyone because healthcare is a right, it shouldn’t be a luxury. Currently, birth control coverage is a success for 55 million Americans, but there is still so much more work to be done in achieving health equity.
We don’t just hand someone birth control. We ask are they in a healthy relationship? Do they have the right mental health resources? We serve anyone.
Richards then talked briefly about what inspired her to be an activist. She traces her roots back to growing up in Texas with parents who were really into social justice. Her dad was a civil rights lawyer, and her mom was a frustrated housewife. Her family then moved to Austin because it was a more progressive area. Later, her mother was elected as the first pro-choice woman ever to be a governor in Texas. Richard’s involvement in social justice continued into college with union organizing, and from then on, she made a career out of it. She encouraged us to go out and volunteer for something we care about, either on campus, or at Planned Parenthood.
Richards could not stress enough the issue of gender equity. The future of the world hinges on gender equity. Peace and security, global warming, environmental progress, economy and job force. According to Richards, we need to move toward gender equity and join the rest of the world. The other thing she stressed was the importance of getting out to vote. The number one reason why people say they didn’t vote was because no one asked them to. She reminded us of the Pence amendment to defund Planned Parenthood in Congress. Trump and Pence’s political agenda is so radical that they are a real danger we must prevent.
Q & A:
How do you keep up to date with the news and current events, especially those surrounding your organization Planned Parenthood?
Richards actually doesn’t pay attention to the TV. She knows that there is so much negative press on Planned Parenthood out there she can’t possibly keep up with it. Instead, she follows select news sources and has a social media team to put out information about Planned Parenthood.
To stay sane in this election season, she follows Chipmunks for Choice on Instagram and spends time with her adopted dogs Harlow and Sage. Her organization actually just sent out an email to their employees of 10 things to do to stay sane in this election season.
How do you resolve the differences between pro-choice and pro-life?
Richards believes you can have your own personal opinion on choice and abortion, but you can also allow other women to make decisions about their own body. People can hold these two beliefs at the same time.