RANCHO PALOS VERDES, CALIF. ― “I am here today to talk about what’s ahead.” That’s how Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards opened her speech at the MAKERS Conference on Tuesday morning.
In just under eight minutes, Richards laid out a blueprint for women who want to resist a political agenda that includes defunding Planned Parenthood and limiting women’s abilities (both domestically and around the world) to make thoughtful decisions about their own health care.
Below are a few ways women can get involved, according to Richards:
1. March and protest and march and protest and march and protest ― and then do it all over again.
Richards spoke about the Women’s March in D.C. and all of the hundreds of sister marches that took place across the country and world. As she put it: “It was a march that shook the nation and shook the globe.”
And it is that very form of resistance that Richards says has spurred change for women over the last 100 years in the United States:
Before Planned Parenthood started, we didn’t even have the right to vote. And it was because women protested and went to jail that over these decades we’ve made progress.
Today, one in five women in this country has been to Planned Parenthood for health care. In fact, probably some of you in this room. We now serve two and a half million patients a year. And abortion is legal in this country, and it’s one of the safest medical procedures for women in this country. And birth control, which of course used to be illegal, is now not only legal, but 90 percent of women in America use it.
2. Support other women who run for elected office. (And maybe consider running yourself.)
Social change also requires representation at all levels of every industry, including politics. “We don’t have full equality ― and certainly not in the political arena,” said Richards. “I keep thinking, if I had more members of Congress that could get pregnant, we could quit fighting about Planned Parenthood.”
She also cheekily added: “We need more women in office, so if you wanna run, see me later.”
3. Engage men in the fight.
It’s important to remember that gender equality opens up the world for men as well as for women. And finding male allies is integral to reaching that equality.
“One of the things that was striking to me about the march was that we saw grandfathers, and we saw fathers, and brothers and sons marching for women’s rights,” said Richards. “I think there’s a sea change in this country. Because men now expect their daughters to have every opportunity that their sons do. And that’s something we have to lift up, because it’s gonna take all of us together.”
4. Be intersectional.
“We serve everyone,” Richards told the audience at MAKERS, speaking about Planned Parenthood. “We believe you should be able to get reproductive health care access regardless of your race, your ethnicity, your income, your geography. We proudly serve the LGBT community… We serve men as well… And I think it’s important today to say our doors are also open for refugees and immigrants no matter where they come from. We believe that health care in this country should be a right, and not a privilege.”
Any movement ― if it’s going to be truly effective ― must be aware of the intersections of various identities and lived experiences.
5. Share your story.
Richards also made sure to emphasize the power of personal storytelling in changing attitudes and culture, and in reducing the stigma that surrounds our bodies and our health care:
I think it’s time for us to be bold. Share your own story. This is the time to do it. Maybe you were a Planned Parenthood patient… Maybe you remember what it was like to be a young woman, trying to access birth control you could afford so you could finish school… Maybe you had a pregnancy and you had to make a decision and thank goodness you could make that decision in consultation with your doctor and with your family, and not your member of Congress. Those stories are important to share, because you’ll never know the thousands of women that you give courage or comfort to.
6. Embrace strength in numbers, because that’s what makes a movement.
Richards wrapped up her powerful talk with an important reminder that women still make up the majority of this country.
“We can’t ever forget that,” she said. “One of us can be put aside. Two of us can be ignored. But together, we are a movement. And we are unstoppable.”
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