“If Members of Congress won’t listen to us, we’ll take it to the streets.”
Washington, DC- Despite the fact that GOP Members of Congress dodged their constituents by holding hardly any town halls this congressional recess, people across the country spent this past week holding their own women’s health field hearings, marches, and attended the few town halls to make sure their Members of Congress know that attacks against health care will not be tolerated.
In Washington, an all-male Senate panel decides the future of women’s health care in America, so Planned Parenthood patients and advocates joined local elected officials to hold their own public hearings across the country on the devastating impact of the bill to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
Elected officials hosted women’s health field hearings through the Congressional Memorial Day recess in Philadelphia, Tucson, Sedona and Phoenix, AZ (Spanish and English hearings) and Las Vegas, NV to hear from people who would be impacted by the ACA repeal bill and its “defunding” of Planned Parenthood.
The ACA repeal bill, rushed through the House without a public hearing, would strip health care from millions of women and block low-income patients from going to Planned Parenthood for preventive care. Since male politicians in DC won’t listen to women and their constituents, these open hearings and grassroots events have allowed people to speak out about the worst women’s health legislation in a generation.
On May 25, the first women’s health field hearing in Philadelphia was hosted by Mayor Jim Kenney, where he and a panel of 13 women heard testimony from patients, advocates and health experts.
CBS in Philadelphia reported: “A panel of 13 women leaders from the Philadelphia area gave a devastating review of the American Health Care Act. That’s the House bill touted as a replacement for Obamacare. The bill is under review by the Senate….Women are particularly impacted by the AHCA. It would allow the elimination of maternity care, and restore penalties for pre-existing conditions, which could include domestic violence and C-section deliveries. And, Montgomery County Commission chair, and physician, Dr. Val Arkoosh, says the Medicaid cuts it lays out could be devastating.”
On May 30, a panel of experts in Tucson, Arizona held a bilingual field hearing with Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and Vice Mayor Regina Romero on the devastating impact the ACA repeal would have on their community.
Public News Service reported, “Planned Parenthood is holding a series of health forums across Arizona this week to raise awareness about the attacks on the organization it says are tucked into the American Health Care Act as well as in the state and federal budgets. ”
Senator Jeff Flake’s constituents in Tucson also visited his office to look for him since the Senator held no town halls during recess. Supporters took pictures of themselves with a cut out picture of Senator Flake and amplified on social media with the hashtag #FindingFlake.
On May 31, Planned Parenthood held a field hearing titled "Mi Cuerpo, Mi Decisión - Platica con Raiz y PPAZ" entirely in Spanish.
On June 2, City of Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton hosted a field hearing in downtown Phoenix to hear from folks who will be impacted by ACA repeal and “defunding” Planned Parenthood. Over 100 people attended, including Planned Parenthood patients and people who rely on the ACA who gave testimony about the impact of the ACA repeal bill and “defunding” Planned Parenthood.
On June 1, Planned Parenthood patient advocates from Yavapai County gave powerful testimony and heart-rending personal stories to support Planned Parenthood, the ACA, and the need to better access to health care services in rural Arizona which the AHCA would only make worse.
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA
On May 3, Raiz and Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains partnered with Senator Cortez Masto’s office to hold a field hearing at the University of Las Vegas. Close to 100 members of the community attended and spoke to the senator about what is at stake for women's health and overall access to health care for the thousands of Nevadans that depend on the Affordable Care Act and Planned Parenthood.
During the hearing, seven testifiers addressed the Senator to uplift why access to health care and access to care at Planned Parenthood is important for Nevadans. Representatives from HRC, CHISPA and Progressive Leadership spoke about their concerns and uplifted the voices of people who are affected by lack of resources and ultimately, health care.
CRANFORD, NEW JERSEY
The constituents in Representative Leonard Lance’s NJ district have refused to let him off the hook for playing politics with health care over the years, and showed up in force during his May recess town hall.
According to ShareBlue, when Lance asked who in the room was opposed to the Hyde Amendment: “Nearly every single hand in the room shot into the air. Except for the hands that were clapping.”
ShareBlue wrote: “GOP lawmaker caves to constituents on support for Planned Parenthood: What a difference a few weeks — and a ton of anger from constituents — can make. In April, Republican Rep. Leonard Lance was on the receiving end of what HuffPost described as a “verbal beating” from his New Jersey constituents, after he tried very unsuccessfully to dodge his own spotty record on support for Planned Parenthood….But at a May 30 town hall at Union County College in Cranford, NJ, Lance seemed to have learned his lesson. Sort of. He dropped the bizarre suggestion he has pushed at several town halls earlier this year that Planned Parenthood “separate itself into two distinct entities.” This time, he offered a far clearer statement of support for the health care provider.”
In Louisiana, Senator Cassidy was one of the very few Republican congressmen to hold a town hall this recess. His constituents took the opportunity to ask if he would block patients from turning to Planned Parenthood for care, where he said he would, and (at 19 min, 36 sec) that there are "more OBGYNS than they actually need to service those women" in Baton Rouge in New Orleans.
This is patently false. Despite what Senator Cassidy claims, the communities with Planned Parenthood health centers are already facing severe provider shortages. Indeed those communities are officially recognized by the federal government as "health professional shortage areas."
Politico reports: “Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy couldn't convince a crowd of Louisianans on Wednesday morning that the GOP effort to repeal and replace Obamacare will make the health care system any better.”
The Associated Press wrote: “Skeptics of Republican Sen. Bill Cassidy's alternative to the Affordable Care Act moaned and jeered at him during a town hall in Louisiana Wednesday...”
In Iowa, over a hundred Planned Parenthood patients and supporters marched through Burlington Iowa in protest of recent ‘defunding’ efforts that resulted in the closures of 4 health centers, leaving nearly 15,000 Iowans without care.
The Burlington health center slated to close serves over 4,000 patients and, in 2015, served 96% of female family planning patients access care at a publicly funded provider in Des Moines County. Des Moines County is a rural area that is also experiencing a provider shortage.
The Hawk Eye reports: ““Here in Iowa, something very wrong has happened to us,” [Planned Parenthood patient and march organizer] Rucinski said. “They are taking away rights that are ours, and we have to let them know that we do not agree. Even though we can’t change what has happened, we have to say something.”
On Tuesday, May 30, Missing Marco Rubio-true to his nickname- was nowhere to be found, but that didn’t stop hundreds of Floridians from protesting at each of this offices across the Sunshine State.
WPTV reported: Hundreds across Florida took action on Tuesday, protesting outside of U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio's seven offices around the state….Protesters gathered outside Sen. Rubio's office in Palm Beach Gardens, demanding he keep their best interests at heart.
They continued: “Residents, pastors, volunteers with Planned Parenthood and other concerned constituents hoped to speak with Sen. Rubio about three specific requests: Commit to opposing any bill that increases the number of uninsured, ends the Medicaid expansion or Medicaid in general, or eliminates protections for people with preexisting conditions.”
BONITA SPRINGS, FLORIDA
U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney faced a 500 person crowd in Florida, and over 25 Planned Parenthood supporters showed up to grill him.
WINK News wrote: “Issues such as the House’s new health care bill, Planned Parenthood and the Trump administration took center stage. ‘He’s answering, but he’s not really answering anything,’ said one woman who chose not to reveal her name.”
SAN JUAN CAPISTRANO, CALIFORNIA
Darrell Issa held a town hall with limited seating, and within five minutes of open registration, constituents were being placed on a waiting list.
Nonetheless, a crowd gathered inside and outside the town hall, eager to face the Congressman.
Politico reported: “‘He’s telling us one thing and doing something different...’. ‘He told us Planned Parenthood would not be defunded then voted to defund it when he got to Washington. He proclaims that he has some kind of saving grace for health care for everybody … but then he voted for Trumpcare!’”
And, according to MotherJones, earlier last week it appeared as though Rep Issa may have been fleeing protesters by hiding on his rooftop.
Rep. Brian Mast faced a crowd of over 350 constituents on the last night of the Memorial Day recess, including more than 40 Planned Parenthood supporters who attended.
He was pressed on Planned Parenthood funding and was asked at one point: “Why do you want to close down Planned Parenthood that gives so much service to so many residents of this county?” His response was met with jeers. Watch the exchange here.
WPTV reported: “And perhaps the most contentious exchange of the night, about defunding Planned Parenthood. ‘You know very well what I'm talking about congressman,’ a woman says. Mast: ‘So the right to choose to have an abortion?’ Woman: ‘If that's one of the questions, yeah. The right to make that choice too. Why is that choice up to you because of your religious beliefs?’
All week, Alaskans voiced their opposition to repealing the ACA and “defunding” Planned Parenthood through letters in newspapers across the state.
Planned Parenthood supporters and constituents of Rep. Barbara Comstock visited her Sterling, VA office throughout the day on May 30 using #PPSearchParty.