Abortion providers across Texas are facing new restrictions and pressure from the Legislature, but Planned Parenthood, which has been in Fort Worth for 76 years, isn’t going anywhere, the organization’s chief executive officer said.
“Despite the challenges created by Texas politics, we are here today, and the Texas women, men and teens who depend on us, we are here for them. We are not going away and we are not giving up,” CEO Kenneth Lambrecht said Friday during the annual Planned Parenthood luncheon at the Omni hotel in downtown Fort Worth.
“Here in Fort Worth, Texas, we are compliant with every single one of the laws they are throwing at us.”
The new Planned Parenthood Southwest Fort Worth Health Center, a $6.5 million facility privately funded by North Texans, was forced to close in November when the new restrictions took effect. But the clinic started providing abortions again in December after receiving admitting privileges at a local hospital.
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Legislators worked for months to pass a law that bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy and requires abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.
Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, a gubernatorial candidate, stalled the legislation with an 11-hour filibuster in June. Davis, a strong supporter of Planned Parenthood, was lauded as a “hometown hero” at Friday’s luncheon, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd of about 700 for her efforts in Austin.
The bill passed during a special session in July but stalled again when a federal judge issued an emergency injunction in October to stop the provisions from taking effect.
A federal appeals court overruled the injunction in November and allowed the restrictions to stand until it renders an opinion, forcing the closure of several abortion clinics in Texas.
The Texans for Life Coalition, which helped lobby for the bill, started a political action committee in November to help candidates who oppose abortion rights.
“We know Planned Parenthood is always busy and always raising money, but we just focus on what we are doing,” said Kyleen Wright, the organization’s president. Wright said the bill is about enacting “common-sense safety reform for women” and halting late-term abortions.
Both sides are waiting for the 5th Circuit of the U.S. Court of Appeals to make its ruling on the abortion law.
“We are very confident,” Wright said.
“There was a lot of thought and planning put into the different parts of that legislation, and we are seeing polls of strong support even among men and women who favor legal abortion, so I think we hit it right.”
Kelly Hart, director of government relations for Planned Parenthood, said that she is not “overly optimistic” about the ruling but that she hopes the court follows judicial precedent and overturns the law.
In either case, she said, Planned Parenthood will continue to fight.
“I can’t promise you what the judicial strategy will be, but we are going to do everything we can to provide care for the women who need it,” Hart said.
The luncheon, which started in Fort Worth in 2001, raised $230,000 for preventive-care services for women who can’t afford them, Lambrecht said.
Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas covers 77 Texas counties and provides care to 250,000 Texans a year, according to a news release. Ninety-five percent of services involve preventive care, such as birth control, breast cancer screenings and STD testing.
Davis, who used to take advantage of Planned Parenthood services, said she rarely misses the luncheon.
“What I love so much about this luncheon is that it is filled with women of all political perspectives but who all believe in the importance of women’s health,” Davis said after the luncheon.
Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the guest speaker at the event, is a filmmaker known for the 2011 documentary Miss Representation, which explores inaccurate portrayals of women and underrepresentation of women in positions of power. She is married to California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, and they have three children together.
“Women, despite making up 51 percent of the population and giving birth to 100 percent of the population, are still treated as second-class citizens or objects with very little agency. In other words, the U.S. remains a patriarchal society where males are the primary authority figures,” Newsom said, adding that men control pretty much everything, including women’s bodies.
Newsom challenged the crowd, both men and women, to stand up against male and female stereotypes.
“Ladies and gentlemen, it is rather hypocritical, isn’t it, that we tell our daughters and future generations that they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up, when in fact, the media and the greater culture limits women,” Newsom said.
This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.