On Friday morning, President Obama addressed a crowd of about 1,000 women’s health advocates at Planned Parenthood’s annual gala. Obama is the first sitting president to address the national organization.
In his speech, Obama touted his landmark health reform law, which has expanded affordable reproductive services for women by requiring insurers to cover birth control without a co-pay and has helped the president’s health policies remain popular particularly with female voters. He also expressed his gratitude for the important family planning services that Planned Parenthood provides. Obama pointed out that the organization is under serious attack across the country, and noted that when Republicans talk about cutting Planned Parenthood’s funding, “they’re talking about telling women: ‘you’re on your own.’ ”
But Obama promised to fight against the war that the right wing is currently waging against reproductive rights in general and Planned Parenthood specifically. “There’s nothing conservative about the govt injecting itself into decisions made between a woman and her doctor,” the president said to loud cheers from the crowd. “As long as we have to fight to protect a woman’s health decisions…you’ll have a President who will be right there with you.”
Post-election polling has demonstrated that the vast majority of Americans don’t support defunding Planned Parenthood, a position that helped boost Obama’s popularity among voters during his second presidential campaign. Women’s health issues were a decisive factor in Obama’s re-election. In advance of the November election, 64 percent of all voters said they heard something about Mitt Romney’s intent to strip funding from the national organization, and 62 percent disagreed with that position.
In a statement in advance of Obama’s address, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards noted that the president has been celebrated as a staunch supporter of reproductive freedom throughout his time in office. “President Obama has done more than any president in history for women’s health and rights,” Richards said.
Obama was initially slated to give the keynote address on Thursday night. He ended up pushing it back so he could travel to Texas to attend the dedication for the new George W. Bush Library and a memorial service for the victims of the recent explosion at a West, TX fertilizer plant. When news broke that he was canceling his Thursday appearance, right-wing outlets jumped on the news as supposed evidence that Obama was wary to connect himself to Planned Parenthood during the ongoing murder trial of Kermit Gosnell, a Philadelphia abortion doctor accused of murdering live babies in his illegal clinic. When the White House made it clear that the president would simply appear at the organization’s gala on the following day, conservative outlets still suggested his appearance might be inappropriate in light of the high-profile murder trial, which abortion opponents have attempted to construe as evidence that abortion clinics need to be better regulated.