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Newsmonger: Q&A with Cecile Richards

Photo: Michael Barajas, License: N/A

Michael Barajas

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President Cecile Richards. 

Should the courts rule that Texas must allow Planned Parenthood to remain a provider in the widely successful Women's Health Program, Governor Rick Perry would rather end the WHP altogether. Perry made that crystal clear at a Halloween press conference in Georgetown, saying, "Texas will now allow a program that includes abortion providers or their affiliates like Planned Parenthood to be a provider." Laying blame at Parenthood's feet, Perry continued, "And if they file a lawsuit challenging the Texas program, and they were to prevail, they will kill this program, and they'd be responsible for denying these important health services to low-income women in Texas."

At least for now, Planned Parenthood will continue participating in the program, which provides family planning care and cancer screenings for thousands of low-income women as per a temporary injunction a Travis County judge granted last week. The order keeps Texas from moving forward with its "affiliate ban rule," which kicks Planned Parenthood, and other "affiliates" of abortion providers, out of the WHP. A trial on the merits of the case is scheduled for December.

On Saturday, the Current sat down with Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and daughter of late Democratic Governor Ann Richards, to discuss the organization's fight in Texas. — Michael Barajas

When you come back home to Texas, does it feel like you're swimming in shark-infested waters?
You know, what's funny is someone asked me that on the plane. The support, actually, for Planned Parenthood in Texas is incredible. I actually feel like the support for Planned Parenthood in this state is profound and is really deep, and it's very bipartisan. It's interesting, a lot of the founders of Planned Parenthoods, particularly in southern states, were Republicans. I feel like there's an enormous amount of support here, because we've been providing care for hundreds of thousands of women here for a long time. But I do think what we're seeing in Texas is just that the politics of the folks in office is completely at odds with where folks in Texas are. And, interestingly enough, I think we're beginning to see a glimmer of that in the election this week, even in Texas. We saw nation-wide a real rejection of this politics of going after women's health and women's health care access. And I believe there's a general intergenerational shift going on, which I think is going to come to Texas eventually. I mean, it's wonderful to think that Joaquin Castro is going to the United States Congress. Certainly his experience at the state Legislature here is going to hold him in very good stead. To have Pete Gallego going, to re-elect Wendy Davis, one of the most hotly contested state senate races, it's just — I feel like there's a whole new generation of electeds in this state that do reflect a much more humane attitude toward women and women's health.

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