Roughly 500 women and a few men gathered on the east lawn of the US Capital building on March 29 to declare that “I Stand With Planned Parenthood.” The Senate was due to vote on a resolution to permit the states to deny federal family planning funds to health care centers which provide abortions, albeit with other funds. In January, Obama’s Secretary of Health and Human Services had issued a regulation forbidding the states from doing this so that Planned Parenthood would continue to get family planning funds.
Senators Patty Murray (D WA) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D NY) told cheering crowds that they wouldn’t let that happen. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D CA) was expected to close the rally, but didn’t make it. Instead PP President Cecile Richards urged its supporters to continue the fight. In between, several younger women shared their stories of being helped by PP and a group of ministers spoke about all the things PP did for women.
The rally was called a “pink out” and pink was definitely the color of the day. Just in case not enough people wore pink, PP passed out long pink mufflers and small pink signs. Some women wore the pink pussy caps made popular by the Jan. 21 women’s march. This was not the first pink out rally. Several others had already been held at different state capitols and at the district offices of some Members of Congress.
Expecting trouble, half a dozen security guards kept watch over the rally. There were no attacks requiring such security, but there were disruptions. One young women tried to out shout the speakers with hostile questions on abortion, but the loudspeakers were loud enough to insure that only those standing next to her heard what she said.
Four young women displaying a long banner that said “We Don’t Need Planned Parenthood” walked in back of the speaker’s podium so that their message could be captured by the TV cameras on the press riser. A couple dozen women holding pink PP signs and blue “Keep Abortion Legal” rounds clustered in front to keep that from happening. Every few minutes the former would run off to the side so their banner could be seen, quickly followed by the latter. They kept up this chase for the rest of the rally.
Planned Parenthood has received as much $20.5 million from federal grants given to the states to support family planning services. Thirteen states have voted to deprive PP of a share of that money. This is a small fraction of what PP gets from the federal government for its services. The failed Republican replacement for the 2010 Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) contained a provision which would have denied PP $400 million in Medicaid money.
The numerous rallies were more acts of defiance than advocacy. The House had already passed H.J. 43 by 230 to 188 on Feb. 17. On March 30, Vice President Mike Pence broke a 50-50 vote to pass the Senate’s version. Republican Senators Lisa Murkowski (AK) and Susan Collins (ME) voted with the 46 Democrats and 2 Independents against the resolution, causing the tie. As President of the Senate, the VP can only vote to break a tie.
Both sides acknowledged that this is just one of many efforts that will be made to deprive PP of government money.
This piece was first posted at SeniorWomen Web, April 4, 2017, without photos.