Life and politics from the Sunshine State's best city

More than 500 attend Planned Parenthood annual luncheon in Tampa

in Statewide/Top Headlines by

Planned Parenthood has never been more under fire from congressional Republicans than in recent years.

Nevertheless, since the election of Donald Trump, the public is demonstrating they remain firmly behind the family planning organization.

According to a Quinnipiac survey conducted earlier this year to coincide with the 43rd anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision, 62 percent of voters oppose cutting off federal funds to the organization, while only 31 percent support that action.

Females are leading the Trump resistance, starting with massively successful women’s marches on January 21. Lake Research Polling found 86 percent participating in anti-Trump events are female; 66 percent were over the age of 45 — with 72 percent of women saying they’d already took part in a protest against the Trump administration. Seventy-seven percent say that they were very likely to protest in the future.

All that served as a backdrop for the annual Planned Parenthood Choice luncheon at Tampa’s Jewish Community Center, where over 500 people (mostly females) packed the fundraising event Tuesday.

Keynote speaker was Dahlia Lithwick, a senior editor at Slate and the host of the podcast Amicus. For the past 18 years, Lithwick has covered the U.S. Supreme Court.

Senate Democrats say later this week they will filibuster the nomination of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, a fact that Lithia told the audience she wouldn’t have believed possible, even as recently as two weeks ago.

“It is in large part because folks like you are calling and calling and calling and making this an issue,” Lithwick said.

One of those Democrats voting against Gorsuch’s nomination is Florida Sen. Bill Nelson.

Barbara Zdravecky, the longtime CEO of Planed Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, said a Nelson aide contacted her last week before making the announcement.

“I think he sees this as an opportunity to separate himself and go more toward supporting the progressive arm of the Democratic Party because we are mobilizing, and we are engaged,” Zdravecky said. She added that Nelson took part at a Planned Parenthood event last month in Sarasota, with more than 700 people in attendance.

As has been often mentioned, Democrats lost hundreds of seats in state legislatures over the past eight years; Lithwick says that translates into hundreds of pro-life/anti-choice bills proposed around the country: 346 to be exact, including 46 just since January.

“It’s easy to get distracted and think the only thing that matters is what happens at the (Supreme) Court. I assure you, that is the thin edge of the wedge, and what is really important, is that in state after state, clinics are closing.” She said that there are currently 788 such health clinics in the country, from a total of 851.

Among the bills floating in the Florida Legislature that particularly concern Zdravecky includes a 20-week abortion ban and a proposal that holds abortion providers to a different legal standard for malpractice and emotional stress.

Tuesday’s event celebrating Planned Parenthood took place at a time in history where abortion rates are at the lowest in the U.S. since Roe v. Wade, as are teen pregnancy rates.

It wasn’t a female only event, as both Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren made brief speeches.

“I see a room full of powerful women and a few smart men who are here because we believe in something bigger than just ourselves,” Buckhorn said.

The mayor spoke about how proud he was about his wife, Dr. Catherine Lynch, the Associate Vice President of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the USF Morsani College of Medicine.

“In the current political climate has raised many questions not only about the immediate future of the court but of judicial independence and the separation of powers that serve as a critical defense in our society against the tyranny of the majority in order to protect the rights of the minority,” said Warren.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood officials are bracing for the next proposal from D.C. Republicans seeking to ban the group from receiving any federal funding.

Such a defunding provision was included in the recent American Health Care Act, the GOP plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, which divided House Republicans. It never came up for a vote last month.

“We are watching very closely when it will appear again, because it will appear again,” Zdravecky warned.

 

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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