Seated in the lobby of Planned Parenthood in Warminster, Bucks County, a patient who only gave the name “Shay” said as an uninsured 26-year-old, tests at the clinic had come back positive for precancerous cells on her cervix.
“I strongly believe this organization is the reason I’m going to have two healthy boys,” she said, resting her hands below her pronounced stomach.
One son is three; the other is scheduled to be born by Cesarean section on Tuesday. In one form or another, she said she’d received women’s health services at that Planned Parenthood since she was 15.
Shay and the other speakers had assembled in the lobby’s alcove to educate and agitate on behalf of an organization that has become a partisan lightning rod: Planned Parenthood.
Last week, President Donald Trump signed a law that reversed a rule forbidding states from withholding federal funding from providers of family planning services.
Seated to Shay’s right were Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf.
“We’re heading into the next round in Congress when these issues are being debated, and we’re going to have to lift them up,” said Richards, referring to the expectation that Republicans in Congress will bring forward another plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act when their session resumes.
Closer to home, Pennsylvania Republicans have introduced Senate Bill 3, which calls for shortening the window for a legal abortion from 24 to 20 weeks, and Senate Bill 300, which would effectively defund the family planning clinic Planned Parenthood.
That bill, which was introduced by state Sen. John Eichelberger, would reprioritize how Pennsylvania divvies up medical funding, to put Planned parenthood at the bottom.
Wolf promised to veto both if they reach his desk.
Weekday, mid-afternoon press events are not the most accessible form of public outreach. About 20 people attended the roundtable, which also had representatives from Planned Parenthood Keystone, the Ann Silverman Community Health Clinic, and the Bucks County Women’s Advocacy Coalition. Many in attendance had the lanyards and ID cards that denoted members of the press or government staff. Several camera people of Showtime’s political documentary series “The Circus” hovered at the sides of the room – that show is featuring Richards in an episode about resisting Trump’s policies.
During the open question period, audience member Supriya Kakkar asked, “How do you talk to another woman who is all for getting rid of Planned Parenthood because they ‘kill babies’?”
Draped in a hot pink Planned Parenthood scarf, she elaborated that rampant misinformation and “alternative facts” makes it difficult to have thoughtful political debates.
“I think one of the most important things we can do right now is just be in conversation with other folks,” said Richards. “The worst thing we can do is put people in boxes.”
A survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation released in March found that three-quarters of the public support maintaining the current federal funding to Planned Parenthood to pay for non-abortion services received by people on Medicaid. Federal law already prohibits federal funding from paying for abortion services.