AAUW Rallies for Women’s HealthApril 14, 2011
Last Thursday, I had the privilege of representing AAUW onstage at the Stand Up for Women’s Health rally in Washington, D.C. AAUW joined 20 organizations to hold the rally to protest the proposed elimination of Title X women’s health programs and Planned Parenthood funding in the budget negotiations.
The 112th Congress has had its fair share of attacks on women’s health, but last week was particularly frustrating. As the threat of a government shutdown loomed over D.C., vital Title X family-planning funding was reduced to a bargaining chip. Before the rally, I joined the AAUW Action Fund Capitol Hill Lobby Corps to ask senators to support this funding. But as I made my way through the halls of the Senate office buildings, more reports emerged about the budget — it was clear that conservatives were not going to budge on Title X unless they got some serious concessions elsewhere.
As I made my way over to the rally, I could not help but feel that the tables were stacked against us, but the rally reignited my hope that we could protect and improve women’s health. There was a general theme to the speeches by activists, senators, celebrities, and cancer survivors who stood at the podium: We’re mad as hell, and that’s a good thing!
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Many of the speakers commented on how opponents of women’s health programs were awakening a sleeping beast. There was a sense that we were going to turn our anger into action. For women my age, we hear about the pre-Roe v. Wade era, but we didn’t experience it firsthand. For my generation, this threat to Title X funding is the most brutal national attack on women’s health we have seen, and this will be our motivation to continue the fight.
I will never forget that under the guise of cutting spending and limiting abortion, politicians threatened to cut money for the millions of cancer screenings Planned Parenthood does every year. As the daughter of a breast cancer survivor, I’m furious, and I refuse to stand by and watch as people try to deny women access to preventative services. I was so proud to represent AAUW and all the amazing women in my life as we stood on stage and told the world that we were a force to be reckoned with.
I know that AAUW, our partners, and the thousands of people who attended the rally will continue to ensure that women get the health services they need. As Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards said when quoting Apollo 13 (inspired by Ed Harris’ participation in the rally), “With all due respect sirs, I believe this will be our finest hour.”
AAUW supports the right of every woman to safe, accessible, affordable, and comprehensive family-planning and reproductive-health services.
This post was written by AAUW Public Policy and Government Relations Fellow Sarah McDermott.