The national president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America delivered an upbeat message to a mostly female Lehigh audience that packed a Neville auditorium in late April.
“I do think the future is on our side, and it’s already been a tremendous year for our organization,” Cecile Richards said on the first stop of a swing through eastern Pennsylvania. “Our donations grew, the numbers of activists grew by a million and half and even our approval ratings went up. There has been a seismic change here.”
Richards—recently named one of TIME magazine’s list of 100 most influential people—was referring to a number of developments that placed her organization in the national spotlight, including a clash with the Susan G. Komen Foundation. As a result, she said, “more people learned a lot more about Planned Parenthood and what we do.”
Although she said opponents claim the organization exists primarily to provide abortions, more than 90 percent of its efforts go toward preventive health program such as breast examinations, pap smears, and helping men and women with early detection of sexually transmitted diseases.
“All these bills being introduced around the country are really about ending access to birth control, which is used by 98 percent of American women at some point in their lives,” said Richards, who expressed hope that discussions about basic health care issues could move beyond the political realm.
Rita Jones, director of Lehigh’s Women’s Center, said Richards’ talk was timely during a presidential campaign year.
“Women’s issues and activity in government are important, and Richards’ talk emphasized the ways in which women, as individuals and as a community, can make their voices and needs heard and met.”
Culminating an anniversary year
Jones credited Yanela Cruz ’13, Katie Johnston ’12, Sara Jane Boyer ’14, Therese Corcoran ’14, Danielle Popow ’12 and Naomi David ’12 for organizing the event.
Richards’s visit was the finale of the 2011-2012 Women and Health Speaker and Event Series created by the Health, Medicine and Society Program; the Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program; the Health and Wellness Center; the department of sociology and anthropology; and the Women’s Center.
The talk capped a productive academic year for the Women’s Center, which celebrated its 20th anniversary and hosted several noteworthy events:
• “Walk a Mile in Her Shoes” in mid-April highlighted men’s roles in ending gender violence.
• A fundraiser benefited the Nurse-Family Partnership in the Lehigh Valley. Organized by student staffers Eddie Brack ’13 and Monique Golden ’13, the initiative raised more than $1,000 for books for low-income children.
• The Turning Point’s annual vigil celebrated survivors and honored the memories of victims of domestic violence.
• The first annual Real Beauty Fashion Show promoted healthy body image. This event, organized by student staffers Carolyn Sivco ’15 and Popow, was part of Women’s Empowerment Week. Events included collaboration with the Fitness Center and Counseling and Psychological Services.