1. Planned Parenthood was founded by a registered Republican who didn't support abortion.
2. Only 3% of Planned Parenthood's services are abortions. And those are not covered by government funding.
3. Planned Parenthood is the nation's largest provider of sex ed.
Those facts are actually all true. See here, here, and here.
But the national discourse around Planned Parenthood rarely centers on health care, preventative care, cancer screenings, or education. It's about abortion. It's about lawmakers taking away a woman's right to choose. And, while Refinery29 isn't a partisan organization, we are strong advocates of women's rights and autonomy in healthcare decisions — so naturally, we jumped at the opportunity for an exclusive interview with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards.
Considering all of that, it's not surprising that the Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) has a vested interest in the 2016 election. Which is why, according to its president, Cecile Richards, the Planned Parenthood Action Fund has made its first primary-race endorsement in its nearly 100-year history, throwing its support to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Richards says, "I have never seen a group of candidates running for president in the Republican party who have pledged to take away all the rights we have fought for for decades, at Planned Parenthood and across the country. They have pledged to deny access to Planned Parenthood; they have pledged to deny access to safe and legal abortion; they want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which is providing birth control with no copay to millions of women. The stakes have never been higher. That’s why we, and our activists across the country, pushed to get an endorsement early — because they’re ready to get going."
And, when asked whether potential backlash from fellow Democrat Bernie Sanders' supporters deterred PPFA from making the early endorsement, she said, "We have a lot of friends in Congress, we have a lot of friends in this race, but we have one true champion. To me, this isn’t about politics." Clinton echoed that idea, saying "If it’s controversial, or if people are trying to make it a political, partisan action, then I hope they will reconsider, because this is about health care, and I have a long history of fighting for women’s rights."
So, what's really at stake in the 2016 election? And what would a Clinton presidency look like when it came to protecting women's access to health care? Clinton and Richards invited Refinery29 to Manchester, NH this past weekend to sit down with them for their first joint interview and find out. Below, watch the highlights of our conversation — from the best advice for dealing with a mansplainer to the importance of millennial women's voices to remove stigma and judgment from the deeply personal conversation about abortion.
Ahead, read a transcript of our entire conversation, covering everything from congressional hearings to Powerball winnings, and a closer look at why these two women feel we need a champion for women's rights in the White House in 2017.
Refinery29: Thank you so much for joining us today, Secretary Clinton and Cecile Richards. I wanted to start off by asking the question on everyone's mind: Are you buying Powerball tickets?
Hillary Rodham Clinton: How much time do we have left?
R29: I think the drawing is on Wednesday. There’s time.
HRC: There’s time. Well then I’m definitely buying a couple. Who knows, I could finance my whole campaign. You could finance a lot of the action funds.
Cecile Richards: We could retire tomorrow; it’s pretty exciting.
What Congress Is Really Like
R29: On a more serious note, I wanted to talk a bit about last year. Both of you testified at pretty epic congressional hearings. Do you ever trade notes? Do you offer advice to each other?
HRC: I learned a lot watching Cecile, and I was able to go in back and forth to see her testifying and watch her being so calm and cool under pressure. And I called her afterwards, because it was such an extraordinary presentation. As she rightly said, when you’re standing up for what’s right, it makes it somewhat less burdensome to face, in her case and later in my case, what was a stream of hostility. I took a lot away from her testimony.
CR: Secretary Clinton was amazing. She called me that evening. I think I was actually going into a TV interview, and it meant so much to me that you did that, because it is hard even when you have right on your side. I was so proud to represent Planned Parenthood. Anytime I get a chance — even before a hostile group in Congress — to talk about who we are and what we do, is really amazing.
I took a lot of strength knowing that Secretary Clinton has been through this many, many, many times. She’s an inspiration to me and women all across the world. I didn’t necessarily feel like if she can do it, I can do it, but I felt like I can try to model myself after Secretary Clinton, because she makes us all so proud to be women and to be women leaders.
R29: And then in both of your cases, but especially in your case, Cecile, there was a lot of talking on top of you, not letting you finish — what we might call “mansplaining.” How do you keep your cool in those moments?
CR: It’s funny, as I was walking in, one of my friends texted me; she said, "Just bring the rage of centuries of women with you into the room." Also, at the break, my son Daniel texted me and said, "I’m so proud of you, Mom. I think you raising me as a child really prepared you for this hearing today." So there are things you pull from, but I also think sometimes when folks are belittling or not listening, the best thing you can do is just let them have the microphone.
So many young people stop me on the subway or on the street and say, "I watched all five hours. I had no idea that’s what it was like in Congress." That’s why I do feel like, in a way, those several hours, what I went through, what Secretary Clinton went through, is a little wakeup call for millions of young people in this country to realize how bad it’s gotten in Congress.
Below, listen to the audio from one of the most confrontational exchanges of the hearing, where Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio talks over Richards, cutting her off time and again.
HRC: And it’s why the stakes in this election are so high. Because imagine if you had a Republican president who would rubber stamp and support and sign bills that came from a Congress made up of people who seem not to either understand, or refuse to believe, the importance of women’s rights, access to health care that we all need, and particularly reproductive health care.
I try to remind myself, when you’re in a situation like that, and as Cecile just said, you may be sitting in front of this bank of Congress who will trip you up or are trying to score a point at your organization’s detriment, but you’re really trying to convey a bigger message to the people who are watching, and particularly young people. In Planned Parenthood’s case, it’s young people who may take for granted the things people have had to fight for, for a really long time.
In my case, it’s trying to cut through some of the cynicism and skepticism about politics to say, "No, it really can be different." Because if you decide you don’t want to vote or participate, or you sit it out, this is what you might get: Exhibit A. people who whittle away at the rights of Americans — and we just can’t let that happen.
CR: Well I agree, I don’t think young women are complacent — or young men, I actually think they absolutely cannot believe that in the 21st century there are people who are running for President of the United States who want to make abortion illegal again in America, a right that women have had for 40 years. They want to take away birth control coverage and they want to deny the right for them to go to Planned Parenthood. It’s so counter to the way millennials are living their lives that I think it’s really tough to imagine.
There’s not as much complacency as a matter of educating folks about what’s at stake, and I do think, like Secretary Clinton said, the stakes in this election have never been higher, and the opportunities have never been greater. We are on the cusp of so much opportunity for young people. I look at now 55 million women who, as a result of the Affordable Care Act, are eligible for no-cost birth control in America. This is going to radically change the lives of my daughters, of millions of young women and men, and it’s things like that that I think can give inspiration. It’s not about the bad things that could happen — it’s about the amazing progress we can make.
HRC: I would say amen because that’s exactly what I believe: that every generation has to really understand how important it is to preserve, to defend, to extend the rights that have been passed on year to year to year, and I do think this election provides a very clear choice for people, so that if we can reach out and inspire and inform, mobilize people of all ages — but particularly young people — it will have not just a positive effect on the presidential race, but a positive effect for the race of the Senate, because there’s a chance the democrats can take back the Senate.
I would breathe a lot easier, because things like reproductive health rights, access to safe legal abortion, family planning, all of that would not get repealed, because we would have a line of defense to prevent it. So I think that this election, almost regardless of what issue you care about, there is something that is at stake for you.
R29: One of the ways that the fight for reproductive rights has changed is that women are starting to attach their names to their abortion stories. We are seeing #ShoutYourAbortion gain traction on Twitter, we are seeing the 1 in 3 campaign (because one in three women will have an abortion in their lifetimes) come to life as an Abortion Speakout. It's a new approach to advocacy; do you think this is a positive change in terms of how women are using their voices?
CR: I absolutely do, and I think you saw it here today at this endorsement rally. I think that there is such a hunger to take away the shame and stigma that women have suffered for generations. It’s incredible to me that only in the recent years — and particularly I want to shout out the reproductive justice community that is at the forefront of having women be able to tell their stories. I think the combination of a new generation that doesn’t believe in labeling people, that doesn’t believe in judging people, and then the power of social media to allow stories to be told that have never been heard.
I’ve been an organizer on social justice issues my entire life. The advent of social media has meant finally that the stories of everyday folks, and particularly women in the area of reproductive health care, are able to get their stories out. That’s why we are seeing in popular culture right now, women’s magazines, Hollywood, finally talk about issues like abortion, birth control in a way that is less shaming. We’ve got a long way to go, but I feel very hopeful and I really have to credit this next generation for leading the way.
Watch Richards' own 1 in 3 video, where she shares her own abortion experience, here.
HRC: That’s exactly right. I think that social media has given voice to and empowered so many people to tell their stories. I hope that that continues and grows exponentially over the next year, because it’s through stories like the ones we heard today at the rally: the young woman from Brooklyn who, at 33, found out she had breast cancer because she went to Planned Parenthood; the young woman from New Hampshire that didn’t have insurance through her employment and could only get quality, compassionate care at Planned Parenthood.
There are so many stories like that, and I am a firm believer that beyond all of the statistics, beyond all of the bickering, and back-and-forth that sometimes seems to drive our politics, it’s the stories of individuals that are willing to share what happened to them, to their family, and why they need leaders who will stand up and make sure that they and others like them have their rights protected, have opportunities to those rights. As I said in my remarks, a right without the opportunity to exercise it is not a right. When it comes to access to affordable, quality health care, access to a clinic, we need stories and we need as many as we can get. Social media makes that happen.
What's Really At Stake For Us?
R29: Let's talk for a moment about the reason why we are here today: the Planned Parenthood endorsement of your presidential candidacy, Secretary Clinton. But why now? Why is this partnership so important today?
CR: Well, it’s been a partnership for a long, long time. I feel like Secretary Clinton, for her entire life, long before she was in elected office, has put women and families at the center of her work. So to me, this isn’t a new thing, this partnership, but I do think it’s now at such an important moment, so I would say on behalf of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, which endorsed Secretary Clinton today, two things.
First, I have never seen a group of candidates running for president in the Republican party who have pledged to take away all the rights we have fought for for decades, at Planned Parenthood and across the country. They have pledged to deny access to Planned Parenthood; they have pledged to deny access to safe and legal abortion; they want to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which is providing millions of women now no-cost birth control. The stakes have never been higher. I think that’s why we, and our activists across the country, pushed to get an endorsement early — because they’re ready to get going. They’re ready to define the difference, and we interviewed all the candidates on the Democratic side and we have some great, strong supporters, but no one’s record holds a candle to Secretary Clinton.
Again, I could cite chapter and verse but I think when it comes to who you need in the White House, it is someone who is not only a good vote, and a good supporter, you need a fighter and you need someone who is going to go toe-to-toe with those who unfortunately are in office and who have shown that they are willing to take away women’s rights. That’s why we need Secretary Clinton in the White House.
HRC: Well, as you might imagine, I am deeply honored and grateful for this early endorsement from the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, but I understand why Cecile said they feel compelled to make it: because we have work to do. We have to make sure people understand the stakes; what is the real position of the Republican party and those running for the nomination and the White House? This should not be viewed as politics as usual. They are serious. They are in many respects appealing to the most anti-woman aspects of their party and unfortunately getting a response.
I want to make sure people who care about not only reproductive rights, and how they could be endangered with even access to birth control that’s affordable as it is now, but equal pay, raising the minimum wage (two-thirds of people getting the minimum wage are women), making sure that we have paid family leave is something we need, to help more families balance family and work. We have an agenda, and it’s a positive agenda that I’m very proud to be promoting. But let’s be honest: It’s also setting up that line of defense against these candidates who are so negative about all the work we’ve done over so many generations — to secure women’s rights, to empower women to live up to their full potential — so I could not be more grateful and proud to have this endorsement.
CR: One thing, if I could just add, at Planned Parenthood we have millions of patients every year. One in five women have been to Planned Parenthood for health care, and they come from every walk of life. They are Republicans as well as Democrats and independents and everything in between. I think one of the reasons we want to get involved in this election so early is because there are millions of Republicans out there that are saying, "What happened to my party?" Republicans started Planned Parenthood in the United States and they believed in less government in the people’s lives, and what I think is important, as Secretary Clinton says, is that we ensure what’s at stake and we appeal to Republicans and independents whose party leadership has left them. They deserve better.
R29: What does that look like? Can you paint me a picture of a world without Planned Parenthood?
CR: One, there will never be a world without Planned Parenthood, because we will never go away and we have been around for 99 years. We’re about to celebrate our 100th anniversary. We will continue to serve people and to fight for their rights to reproductive health care that frankly determine their futures.
I do think what’s important for your viewers to understand is what the U.S House of Representatives just did was pass a bill that basically said young women on Medicaid can’t go to Planned Parenthood for basic preventive care. We’re talking about breast cancer screenings, tests for sexually transmitted infections, getting your well woman visits. We hear from patients from all over the country saying, "That’s where I go for my well woman visit." So I think what’s important to understand is it’s not only about reproductive health-care acts, which is fundamentally important, but for many women we are the only doctor she will see this year.
How is it that the U.S House of Representatives, the U.S. Congress and their families can go to whatever doctor they choose, so why isn’t it that low-income women and families in this country should have the same right as the U.S. House of Representatives does? And millions of people choose voluntarily to come to Planned Parenthood; we can’t let that go away.
HRC: And I really think that, in addition to the staunch support that we are going to summon up for Planned Parenthood, what you see happening in states is to try to limit access, to try to deny the availability of Planned Parenthood services. Just look at the case from Texas going up to the Supreme Court: shutting down clinics, making up false requirements to do so. I know in Louisiana, the Republican governor and legislature there defunded Planned Parenthood, and people rightly said, where are we supposed to go?
They put a list of medical providers, including dentists and podiatrists, all of them are people who provide great services, but we are talking about reproductive health services in addition to all the things that Cecile said, like cancer screenings and the like. So this is either a direct assault, which is what the Congress did last week, defund, although Planned Parenthood will continue, it would have continued without the federal funding that is so essential to its operations in many places in the country, or just keep whittling away and make it harder and harder and we have to stand against both of those. That’s why President Obama’s veto was so important, and that’s why we need to have a Democratic president on January 20, 2017. And I want to be that president that will say, "Forget about it. Don’t waste your time; you know you’re not getting past me."
R29: So, in many ways, this is an obvious partnership. But was there a moment for either of you where you worried this partnership, or any controversy around it, might damage your end goals — to get elected president and to continue to fund Planned Parenthood? Especially since we see some Bernie Sanders supporters saying they want to divert their funds from Planned Parenthood into his campaign now?
HRC: Well, I hope nobody who believes in the Planned Parenthood mission gives that any real consideration. It was never in any way a question for me, because I’ve traveled broadly in the world as a First Lady, as a Senator, as a Secretary of State. I’ve seen what happens when women don’t have access to reproductive health services. I have seen the lives that are cut short, the terrible injuries that they often sustain because of inadequate maternity and labor help. I’ve seen cancers that they don’t know what to do with that are so disfiguring and lethal.
I know what’s at stake and I know we are lucky in our country, because we have dedicated providers like the people who go to work every single day at Planned Parenthood and what a difference it has made for nearly 100 years in millions of people's lives. I just have to tell you, if it’s controversial, or if people are trying to make it a political, partisan action, then I hope they will reconsider. Because this is about health care, and I have a long history of fighting for women’s rights and I know women can count on me to keep fighting, and I think that’s why I got the Planned Parenthood Action Fund endorsement.
CR: And we couldn’t be prouder. We have a lot of friends in Congress, we have a lot of friends in this race, but we have one champion, one true champion who has been a champion her whole life for the issues that we care about. Again, to me this isn’t about politics. It’s about women’s lives in America and whether we are going to build on the enormous progress we have made, though we have a long way to go.
A right is only as good as your ability to exercise it. There are too many low-income women in this country, there are too many LGBT folks in this country who cannot access health care. They don’t have the same ability. To me, what this election is about is whether we are actually going to build on the progress that Obama has made within the last eight years — he has been a great partner — or whether we are going to go back to the 1950s.
What we have heard here today, what we have heard ever since our endorsement, is that people are ready to go. People are ready to define the difference in this election and ready to ensure that we have a champion in the White House — and I couldn’t be prouder that it will be Secretary Clinton.
R29: Thank you both. And congratulations on the endorsement.
HRC: Thank you. We are pretty excited.
CR: To 2017!
This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.