NEW HAVEN, CT — U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal stopped by Planned Parenthood of Southern New England (PPSNE) Tuesday to give workers a pep talk, saying he would fight any attempt to undermine reproductive health and family planning by President-elect Donald Trump and a Republican-led Congress.
While abortion will always be a hot-button issue, Blumenthal said, there is far more than reproductive rights at stake.
“President-elect Donald Trump is populating his Cabinet with extremists who threaten to undermine women’s access to health care,” Blumenthal said.
It wasn’t until the Affordable Care Act was passed that gender was not allowed to be considered as a factor in underwriting insurance.
“I am absolutely determined we will defeat an unprecedented assault on women’s health care,” said Blumenthal.
Blumenthal told the workers that he is certain “there will be an effort to defund Planned Parenthood.”
“I hope I’m wrong,” said Blumenthal, but he said he didn’t think he was. He did quickly add, however, “We are in this fight together.”
The senator, who Planned Parenthood of Southern New England President and Chief Executive Officer Judy Tabar called “an incredible champion for women and their reproductive rights,” told the gathering of about 40 Planned Parenthood workers that “the majority of American people stand with us.
“Politically we are on the right side of history,” Blumenthal said.
Unfortunately, Blumenthal said, Trump’s choices to head departments that have impacted on women’s rights are ominous.
“Secretary of Health and Human Services nominee U.S. Rep. Tom Price, R-GA, is a champion of the anti-choice movement who has led the charge to defund Planned Parenthood and deprive women of basic health care screenings, family planning and contraception,’’ Blumenthal said.
Additionally, Blumenthal said, Trump’s choice of U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Alabama, for Attorney General is no better.
“In his 87 votes on abortion and reproductive health during his 20 years in the Senate, Attorney General nominee U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions voted to undermine and woman’s right to choose 86 times,” Blumenthal said.
“Congressional Republicans are on notice — if they prioritize politics over women’s health and safety I will fight them every single step of the way,” Blumenthal said.
Blumenthal isn’t alone in his concern. Women’s rights advocates are planning to march on the national mall Jan. 21, the day after Trump is sworn into office. The last such organized march was in 2004 during President George W. Bush’s administration just a few months after he signed a law criminalizing so-called “partial birth” abortions. An estimated 500,000 to 1 million women marched on Washington in April 2004. A similar crowd is expected next month.
“The Republican Party has aligned itself with the most extreme of the anti-choice movement, threatening the health of tens of thousands in Connecticut who depend on Planned Parenthood for basic health care screenings, cancer diagnoses, family planning and contraception,” Blumenthal continued.
“Politicians should never interfere in a woman’s deeply personal health care decisions,” he added.
Blumenthal told the workers that not all the efforts to undermine a woman’s right to an abortion or other rights are federal.
He said many are state-based political attacks to limit access to critical health care services including cancer screenings, birth control, STI testing and treatment, and well-woman exams.
Blumenthal applauded action by the Obama Administration last week to reinforce protections that prohibit states from excluding women’s health providers from the Title X family planning program for reasons unrelated to their ability to provide services effectively.
Blumenthal said less conservative, or Blue States such as Connecticut, actually have more to lose than Red States, in the battle for women’s rights over abortion and health care issues.
He said that’s because the more conservative states have already taken action to cut back on more liberal federal laws.
One of the biggest, earliest fights during the Trump administration that could have a lasting impact on women’s rights is who the president-elect nominates to fill the vacant U.S. Supreme Court seat.
That person could be a swing vote in any future abortion case rulings, Blumenthal said.
Tabar, who has worked for 36 years for Planned Parenthood, the last 20 as top officer for PPSNE, conceded the organization’s workers feel a “tremendous amount of uncertainty” as they await the actions of a new president and a more conservative Congress.
“Of course we are concerned,” Tabar said. “But we have faced many obstacles and attacks over the 100 years we’ve been around. And we know we are likely to be facing some renewed attacks.”
“But,” she quickly added, “We’re not going away.”