WASHINGTON — Today, Planned Parenthood Action Fund (Action Fund) announced a wave of endorsements for candidates across the country, including in nine critical congressional races. Among the endorsements, the Action Fund is proudly supporting two Planned Parenthood alumnae — former Planned Parenthood Southeast Vice President of Public Policy Nikema Williams in GA-05 and former Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts Vice President for External Affairs Jesse Mermell in MA-04 — and four trailblazing progressive leaders of color: Ritchie Torres in NY-15, Jamaal Bowman in NY-16, Mondaire Jones in NY-17, and Candace Valenzuela in TX-24. This announcement is part of the Action Fund’s continued endorsement of federal candidates committed to reproductive health and rights around the country — the most diverse slate of candidates in the history of the Action Fund.
Nikema Williams and Jesse Mermell will join a growing group of former Planned Parenthood staff in the U.S. Congress, including Sen. Tina Smith of Minnesota and Rep. Torres Small of NM-2. Williams has committed her life to advocating for the people of Georgia. From her years at the helm of Planned Parenthood Southeast’s policy work and her time as a state senator, to her current work as chair of the Georgia Democratic Party and deputy director of civic engagement at National Domestic Workers Alliance (NDWA), Williams has what it takes to get things done on behalf of this nation’s most vulnerable. Mermell has devoted her career to ensuring sexual and reproductive health care is affordable and accessible for everyone. She fought for the Affordable Care Act’s critical birth control benefit as a leader at Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts and continued to advocate for bills aimed at protecting and expanding access to contraception and safe, legal abortion as president of the Alliance for Business Leadership. These two proven advocates will bring with them to Congress the voices and experiences of 16 million Planned Parenthood supporters.
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president, Planned Parenthood Action Fund:
“Everything is on the line in 2020: our rights, our freedoms, and our democracy. Planned Parenthood Action Fund is dedicated to supporting candidates up and down the ballot who will fight for Planned Parenthood patients — and all people — in Congress. As we continue to mourn the passing of the irreplaceable Rep. John Lewis, we know Nikema Williams — a lifelong activist, health care advocate, and passionate defender of women’s rights — will carry on his legacy in Georgia and become a champion for her constituents in her own right. In Massachusetts, Jesse Mermell will fight for equitable health care for all people, including access to abortion. We are deeply proud to endorse these two Planned Parenthood alumnae, fearless advocates, and health care champions. We are excited to work alongside them as they take the fight to Capitol Hill.”
The Action Fund also endorsed pro-reproductive health and rights candidates in other races across the country, including: Mike Espy (MS-SEN), Amy Kennedy (NJ-02), and Nancy Goroff (NY-01).
For years, the Trump administration and its allies in Congress have been hellbent on gutting the Affordable Care Act (ACA), confirming federal judges with records hostile to abortion rights, and making it harder for Americans to access the basic health care they need. The Trump administration has diligently worked to decimate our public health infrastructure, which continues to result in an ineffective pandemic response. Their allies in Congress tried to use previous COVID-19 response legislation to expand harmful and discriminatory abortion restrictions, and the Senate majority continues to delay additional critical COVID-19 relief. We urgently need champions in Congress who will protect the health and rights of everyone, and who will show strong leadership in the face of a crisis.
Get the facts on the Trump administration’s efforts to chip away at health care access:
FACT: After the White House’s top official in charge of response to a global pandemic left the administration, the White House did not fill the role and instead disbanded the National Security Council’s entire global health security team.
FACT: The Trump administration assigned leadership of its COVID-19 response to Vice President Mike Pence, who exacerbated a devastating HIV outbreak as governor of Indiana because he had personal “moral” objections to CDC-approved measures like providing clean syringes.
FACT: The Trump administration sabotaged the Affordable Care Act by drastically curbing enrollment assistance, allowing junk health insurance plans on the marketplaces, and reducing the number of people who have health insurance today. The Trump administration is supporting a lawsuit that could gut the protections and coverage established by the ACA. In addition, state politicians across the county have refused to expand Medicaid under the ACA, leaving millions of people without needed health insurance.
FACT: The Trump administration pushed for Medicaid work requirements, an additional barrier to health insurance that is proven to kick tens of thousands of people off their health care. Women, particularly women of color, are significantly more likely to lose coverage as a result of these work requirements.
FACT: The Trump administration attempts to block patients from getting care at Planned Parenthood health centers in any way they can, including their Title X gag rule that forced Planned Parenthood out of the nation’s only dedicated affordable birth control program. The administration also encourages states to block people with Medicaid from accessing Planned Parenthood health centers. Many communities already have extreme health care provider shortages, and Planned Parenthood is often the only trusted provider. We’re in the midst of urgent public health crises — not just COVID-19 but also the opioid epidemic and extremely high rates of STIs — we need a strong public health safety net, not fewer trusted providers in our communities.
FACT: The Trump administration's cruel public charge rule was designed to keep immigrant families from accessing health care and basic needs. Experts believe that the rule could weaken America’s response to COVID-19 by preventing immigrant families from seeking health care.
FACT: The Trump administration proposed gutting CDC funding by 16 percent in the FY21 Budget, even amidst the early warning signs of a global pandemic. In fact, despite the rising threat to public health, top Trump officials continued to irresponsibly defend the agency cuts. There is no fiscal reason that could justify stripping down the nation’s life-saving health care infrastructure when we need it the most.
FACT: The Trump administration proposed a budget for FY21 that would slash funding for Health and Human Services (HHS) health care programs, including over $900 billion in cuts to Medicaid over 10 years. Without access to safety-net health care coverage, many people with low incomes or people who live in rural areas will have no options to cover the cost of care, leading to delayed testing and treatment for the deadly virus. The Trump administration stacked HHS with anti-abortion ideologues like Secretary Alex Azar, who spent his time on TV touting his anti-abortion agenda even as confirmed cases of COVID-19 were on the rise.
Planned Parenthood Action Fund is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Action Fund engages in educational, advocacy and electoral activity, including grassroots organizing, legislative advocacy, and voter education.