“If you won’t listen to your constituents in Wisconsin, we’re bringing them to Washington”

Washington, DC-  Today, Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, wrote a letter to Speaker Ryan holding him accountable to the thousands of constituents in his home district who would be devastated if Planned Parenthood was defunded.  

In her letter, Cecile Richards discusses a roundtable she attended at the Kenosha, Wisconsin, Planned Parenthood health center alongside three Planned Parenthood patients and a provider from Paul Ryan’s own district. The patients and provider shared their stories of care at Planned Parenthood and explained that they would have nowhere else to turn to for essential family planning in their own district if the Planned Parenthood health center closed, contrary to Speaker Ryan’s suggestion that the 2.5 million patients across the country could simply go somewhere else.

Today, patients and supporters from Wisconsin have traveled to DC to make sure Speaker Ryan hears their stories as he considers blocking thousands of Wisconsinites from essential and preventive health care. Cecile writes to Speaker Ryan: “If you won’t listen to your constituents in Wisconsin, we’re bringing them to Washington. Today, hundreds of Planned Parenthood patients and providers are traveling to our nation’s capital to meet with their members of Congress and ask you to do the right thing. Your constituents will be there — and I hope you will, too.”

Read Cecile Richards full letter to Speaker Paul Ryan

Dear Speaker Ryan,

Last Saturday morning, I met three remarkable women in your district who have been to Planned Parenthood for care. Along with Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin President and CEO Tanya Atkinson and center manager Katie Kordsmeier, we sat at a health center less than three miles from your Kenosha office and did something you’ve refused to do: listen to your constituents.

There’s Gina Walkington from Bristol, who came to Planned Parenthood as a 20-year-old with “less-than-great insurance.” After her exam, she got news no one wants to hear: Her tests showed pre-cancerous cells. A Planned Parenthood clinician helped her come up with a plan, and she was able to get the care she needed right away. More than a decade later, she’s still grateful. As she said, “I know I’m not the only woman in this state who can say they owe their lives and their families to Planned Parenthood.”

There’s Sophie Schaut, a nursing student at UW-Parkside who came to Planned Parenthood for affordable birth control so she could finish school. She graduates in May, and instead of feeling hopeful about the future, she’s concerned she’ll lose access to basic health care. “I used to be a silent supporter of Planned Parenthood,” she said, “but I can’t stay silent anymore.”

And then there’s Lori Hawkins, who turned to Planned Parenthood years ago as an underinsured Catholic school teacher. She was experiencing severe pain in her lower abdomen, and she had a family history of ovarian cancer — so she called Planned Parenthood. They got her in that day, and found a large cyst and multiple benign tumors on her ovaries. She was alone, afraid, and scared she’d never be able to have children. The Planned Parenthood clinician she saw invited her to sit down, take her time, and make the calls she needed to make there at the health center. Today, Lori is happy, healthy, and a proud mother of two. Her daughter is a Planned Parenthood supporter, too — because she says she wouldn’t be here if not for the care her mother received.

You weren’t with us this weekend, Mr. Speaker. So you weren’t there when Tanya talked about the 6,232 people in your district who count on Planned Parenthood each year. You weren’t there when Katie described how community health centers refer patients to Planned Parenthood for birth control and reproductive health care they can’t provide themselves. You weren’t there to hear Gina say a cancer screening at Planned Parenthood saved her life. You weren’t there when Sophie the future nurse asked why any public official would do something that would make their state less healthy. And you weren’t there to look Lori in the eye when she said, “Planned Parenthood made it possible for me to be a mother.” But these women were there — because they know important it is that Planned Parenthood’s doors stay open in their community.

Mr. Speaker, one in five women in this country has been to Planned Parenthood. They don’t come to make a political statement — they come for birth control, cancer screenings, and preventive care that saves lives. Gina, Sophie, and Lori weren’t only speaking out for themselves. They were giving a voice to people in every corner of your home state who deserve the same freedom you have as a member of Congress: to see the health care provider they know and trust.

Mr. Speaker, you have brushed off the concerns of Planned Parenthood patients in your district again and again. You’ve repeatedly suggested that the 2.5 million people who count on Planned Parenthood health centers each year could simply go somewhere else — even though public health experts and community health centers across Wisconsin and across the country have said they can’t absorb these patients. Without Planned Parenthood, thousands of your constituents would be left with nowhere else to go.

If you won’t listen to your constituents in Wisconsin, we’re bringing them to Washington. Today, hundreds of Planned Parenthood patients and providers are traveling to our nation’s capital to meet with their members of Congress and ask you to do the right thing. Your constituents will be there — and I hope you will, too.

Read Cecile Richard’s full letter to Speaker Ryan here.

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