Saturday, April 9, 2011

A Journey to DC and the Stand up for Women's Health Rally

Last Wednesday, on a rainy Michigan evening, I joined about 100 other Planned Parenthood supporters from all around Michigan as we piled into 2 buses and made a 30+ hour pilgrimage out to DC. Our goal? Joining 5,000 other protesters for a day of lobbying and rallying against the ridiculous proposition of cutting federal funding for Planned Parenthood and eliminating Title X as part of the Stand Up for Women's Health Rally. The buses collected men and women, college-aged and beyond, from stops in Grand Rapids, Lansing and Ann Arbor before chugging out of Michigan and hitting the open road for DC.

We arrived in DC the next morning after a mostly sleepless night on the bus to sunshine, green grass, and a few hours worth of traffic. Running a bit late (due to said traffic), we unloaded ourselves from the bus and hurried over to the Russell Senate building to do some lobbying before heading over to the actual rally. Planned Parenthood had graciously supplied each of us with a hot pink tee shirt sporting the statement: "I Stand With Planned Parenthood." As we approached the building in a sea of pink, we passed by a grand total of 3 anti-choice protesters flashing gruesome signs and yelling crazy accusations in our direction. We sailed by them, too giddy with the importance of our mission and the impressive spectacle we created to be bothered by their extremism.

Once inside the building, we filed into a room connected to Debbie Stabenow's office and waited patiently for the speakers to address us. We heard from representatives from Carl Levin and John Conyers' office who proclaimed their unwavering support for women's reproductive health and family planning services; Planned Parenthood leaders who promised that they were in this battle for the long haul; and finally Debbie Stabenow who escaped another meeting early to take the podium in front of us, give a rousing speech and do a little Q and A, before rushing off to another meeting.

We then exited the building and headed over to the National Mall to join thousands of other Planned Parenthood supporters for the Stand Up for Women's Health Rally. As we neared the rally, we collected big pink signs that Planned Parenthood volunteers were passing out containing statements like "Don't take away my birth control" or "Don't take away my cancer screenings." Speakers included Cecile Richards - president of Planned Parenthood, Nancy Keenan - president of NARAL, Anthony D. Romero - Executive Director of the ACLU, supportive congresspeople, and a few celebrities like Ed Harris and David Eigenberg (Steve from Sex and the City). Topics ranged from personal experiences with Planned Parenthood, to reiterating the dire importance of the manifold services that Planned Parenthood offers. It was an inspiring experience to listen to these people speaking so confidently and enthusiastically about refusing to allow our rights to be taken away, set against the backdrop of the Capitol building. It seemed impossible, with such a giant show of support, that Congress could even imagine cutting funding for Planned Parenthood.

Luckily, they didn't get away with it! I'd like to think that after seeing our efforts on the National Mall, some minds were changed, helping to get the the budget passed with no cuts to Planned Parenthood.

This fight is far from over though. There are still bill being introduced to defund Planned Parenthood in Congress as well as restrictive measures happening in many states across the country. Keep up the good work everyone! And make sure to stay updated on what you can do to support Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights by checking out their website.

To read more about the rally, check out the following sites:

I Stand with Planned Parenthood blog

NARAL Press Release

NARAL's Blog for Choice

For videos of some of the speakers, check out the NOW channel on Youtube

If anyone else was in attendance, I'd love to hear from you in the comments!

(Pictures to come soon)