With the presidential race well underway and a U.S. Supreme Court short one judge, women’s reproductive rights are at the forefront of discussions across the country.
A major abortion case, which started here in Texas, could affect millions of U.S. women. Texas House Bill 2 (HB2), would put strict regulations on the clinics that provide safe abortions and other preventative reproductive services, like Planned Parenthood.
Dolores Huerta, who will be speaking at this year’s Planned Parenthood South Texas Annual Luncheon on Friday, is working tirelessly with activists across the country to protect a woman’s right to have an abortion.
“In Texas it’s been a devastating issue, because women have to travel hundreds of miles to get family planning medication,” Huerta told the Rivard Report last week. At 86, Huerta remains steadfast in her dedication to advocate for women, children, and the poor, and for a woman’s reproductive autonomy.
“There’s still a lot of work to be done,” she said. “It will take a long time to undo the damage that has already been done.”
The last time Huerta was in San Antonio was during the gubernatorial elections in 2014. She’s glad to make her return to the city to support an organization she’s been rooting for since the start.
“Planned Parenthood clinics are community clinics, and a lot of people try to paint them as something they’re not,” Huerta said. While Planned Parenthood is known for providing abortions, it also offers a number of other medical resources for both men and women who seek affordable, accessible healthcare around the country.
Abortions, in fact, only make up 3% of Planned Parenthood’s healthcare services. Every year its clinics provide more than 360,000 breast exams and more than 270,000 pap tests, which are both key in detecting cancer. Sexual education, testing for sexually transmitted infections, and physicals are just a few of the other offerings a patient can find at Planned Parenthood health centers.
The organization has also been a game changer when it comes to providing healthcare opportunities for minorities. Latinos, who are a majority group in Texas, continue to suffer from a disparity in access to affordable health care resources compared to whites.
But none of this is news to Huerta, who has seen it firsthand around the country and in Bakersville, Calif. where she currently resides. It’s only one cause of several that she’s continued to champion for for much of her life. Throughout the 1960s, she worked closely with renown Chicano activist César Chávez to co-founded United Farm Workers, the nation’s first and largest farm workers union that is now active in 10 states.
Huerta has been awarded with the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, along with numerous other honors from the U.S. and Mexico. After more than six decades of activism one of her proudest accomplishments, she said, is when she helped get more women involved in leadership positions.
“When we did the (Feminization of Power: 50/50 by the year 2000 Campaign), we were able to get a lot of women to run for different offices, like city council, the school board, and we were able to change the complexion of the California State Legislature,” she said.
Women in office and leadership positions are imperative to the country’s progress, Huerta said. As for the U.S. presidential race, Huerta believes Clinton is best for the job, especially when it comes to bringing the pro-choice movement to the White House.
“I think there’s been a change from the past to now in terms of people realizing in the Democratic party that if you want to get elected, you have to support women’s rights,” she said. “Now, that’s a given.”
It’s no surprise that Planned Parenthood has consistently been condemned by pro-life groups who want to put an end to the organization, or at least limit the resources it offers, but over the years it has maintained a wealth of support. According to the Planned Parenthood website, the organization has more than 8.5 million supporters, donors, and activists. With such a large following, it is no wonder that this year’s luncheon in San Antonio is a sellout event.
Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards will also be speaking at the luncheon. She joined the Planned Parenthood team as president in 2006, and also founded the Texas Freedom Network which aims to safeguard civil liberties and religious freedom, and directly counters religious conservatism.
Huerta will share her own wisdom and insights during the Planned Parenthood luncheon on Friday, but it’s the action taken after the event that matters most in the fight for women’s equality and autonomy over their bodies, she said.
“As women and people of color, we are the majority, so we really need to get out there and vote,” she said. “We all have to work together on women’s issues.”
For more information on Huerta, Richards, or the luncheon, click here.
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*Top image: Graphic courtesy of Planned Parenthood.