Robbie Taylor of Butte was fired up.
Adamant about grassroots organizers educating financially struggling young women about access to free health care, Taylor had just heard Cecile Richards, national Planned Parenthood Action Fund president, speak at the Thornton Building.
“These are the kind of issues that young women don’t think about,” said Taylor. “It’s about women becoming first-class citizens.”
Richards, the daughter of the late Texas Gov. Ann Richards, was in town Saturday for a fundraiser for U.S. senate candidate John Walsh.
“This is about women’s health care that women deserve, like breast cancer screenings,” added Taylor, “and it’s about young single mothers who can’t afford health care.”
One in five women across the nation have used Planned Parenthood services, said Richards.
Planned Parenthood of Montana enrolls women in health insurance under the Affordable Health Care Act.
“Planned Parenthood is a lifeline for folks in this state,” said Richards, citing a 25-year-old Missoula woman who finally has coverage after battling health insurance companies to no avail for six years.
Now, she said, Planned Parenthood has helped sign up 27 million women in the country for free health insurance through ACA — even if they have a history of disease, like breast cancer.
“Being a woman is no longer a pre-existing condition in America,” said Richards to applause. When women know the issues and the candidates, their votes “provide the critical margins across the country” in elections, she added.
Yet she admonished the Democratic party for not doing enough to tell women about health care.
“But we have to at Planned Parenthood,” she said. “Once we put these issues on the table, men and the women who love them will make the difference.”
Former Gov. Brian Schweitzer and wife Nancy hosted the event, which drew about 60 Planned Parenthood supporters, including Walsh’s opponent, Dirk Adams.
“I don’t think women who are 25 years old think that men can take their rights away,” said Schweitzer, reiterating Richards’ call for giving voice to the voiceless.
In Schweitzer’s introduction of Richards, he recalled the memory of Jeannette Rankin, the first woman election to the U.S. Congress (1916 and 1940). She was the only member of Congress to vote against the United States’ entry into World War I (1917) and the nation’s declaration of war on Japan, plus she marched on Washington, D.C., to protest the Vietnam War.
“Do you think that Jeannette Rankin would let a bunch of old white men tell her what to do with her life?” Schweitzer told the crowd, referring to the male-dominated U.S. Congress who have passed numerous bills restricting women’s right to reproductive health care and other basic health screenings.
Ann Richards, who campaigned for Anaconda native Nancy Keenan when Keenan ran against Dennis Rehberg for an at-large U.S. House of Representatives seat in 2000, also campaigned in Montana for former U.S. Sen. Max Baucus at various times.
“She loved this state,” said Cecile Richards of her mother, who made her mark at the 1988 Democratic National Convention. “My mother had a fond spot in her heart for Butte and Montana.”