Planned Parenthood celebrates a century

By : Billy Manes
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ORLANDO – “Hey! I want to talk to you about life,” said a woman holding a picture of a fetus, a picture likely from the canon of propaganda offered by whatever anti-abortion group she clung to. When a black man left his car, the response was even worse: “You know, they’re killing black babies! Are you OK with that?”

Just another day at a Planned Parenthood event, then.

On Saturday, April 29, more than 200 people gathered for the Planned Parenthood Generations Gala off Sand Lake Road to celebrate 100 years of the organization’s work to provide healthcare to those in need; generally women, but men are invited as well. The facts are as clear as they’ve always been: Yes, Planned Parenthood provides abortions and one in three women have had one; yes, it’s an important facet to rural and urban regions for women and men in need; yes, they are a stopping point for prophylactics for either sex; yes, they do pap smears and other preventive measures for those without insurance, or even with.

“Our mission right now is one of great passion, no matter who we love. … embracing the intersectionality of all movements,” senior director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida Anna V. Eskamani says.

Nonetheless, conservative politicians and political groups seek to shut them down and repeal Roe v. Wade or allow states to make their own unrestricted decisions on wait times and age requirements for the termination of a pregnancy.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood is evolving to help the transgender community. The theme of this Saturday evening affair was, “We won’t go back.”

Eskamani says that she still gets goosebumps when she remembers the time that she saw a transgender woman getting a breast exam at Planned Parenthood’s Sarasota clinic. “You’re going to be welcome at Planned Parenthood and experience judgment-free care,” she says.

But the hits keep coming, most recently with the Florida House approving a bill which would fund so-called Crisis Pregnancy Centers, religious fronts that often encourage women to carry their pregnancies to term by often questionable means.

The Centennial Poem for Planned Parenthood, Evolve, was delivered by poet Sonya Renee Taylor.

“Your mother was defiant in a bathrobe and slippers, in a boardroom or a bedroom, where she said no or yes with, or more, with, a body like the one she taught you own your good name,” Taylor said. “The best of what can be made of this starshine and clay, an inheritance of love and grace, which is why we are here.”

Other moving speeches were delivered by former Orange County Comptroller Martha Haynie, who co-chaired the event; Dr. Boyd Lindsley, who also co-chaired the event; state Rep. Carlos Smith (D-Orlando); and Slate senior editor Dahlia Lithwick, who spoke specifically to concerns about future nominations to the Supreme Court and how they may be a diversion from state politics, effectively describing nominated Judge Neil Gorsuch as a Trojan horse for a much larger problem: conservative state legislatures and courts.

Eskamani emphasizes that point to the degree that she can from her nonprofit position.

“The biggest issue that I can speak to, as a 501(c)(3) is the state Constitution Review Commission,” she says. “This is Florida’s guiding document. We have [Florida Family Policy Council head] John Stemberger on this committee.”

Even after a century of legislative and personal attacks, Eskamani says Planned Parenthood isn’t going anywhere and will continue to fight

“We will not achieve equality until all of us are free,” she says. “We’re ready for a fight, but for the last 100 years we’ve always been fighting. The support we have seen has always been unprecedented.”

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