Barbara Pierce Bush, daughter of former President George W. Bush, said Wednesday that she strongly supports Planned Parenthood despite continued Republican efforts to defund the group.
“I am very proud to stand with Planned Parenthood,” Bush told a crowd of around 1,000 people gathered at the annual Planned Parenthood luncheon in Fort Worth’s downtown Omni Hotel. “I am proud to stand with Planned Parenthood not only because women, regardless of where they are from, deserve to live dignified, healthy lives, [but] ... because it’s a really good investment.
“We know that when women are healthy, their families and their children are healthier too.”
But Bush, whose father is strongly pro-life, did tell the crowd that she’s “a little bit frustrated that we are still making the case of why women’s health matters in 2017.”
Bush’s comments come as there is much at stake for Planned Parenthood, a group Texas officials continue working to defund. President Donald Trump continues the attack at the federal level, having signed an executive order in January barring federal funds from groups that promote abortion across the world.
As Bush spoke, more than a dozen protesters gathered outside the hotel to criticize the former first daughter for supporting Planned Parenthood.
“It’s important to make sure there’s a consistent and sustainable pro-life presence at events like this,” said Jillian Ferguson, a 23-year-old Students for Life of America member who drove in from Waco for the event. “We don’t want to leave Planned Parenthood unchallenged, especially with George W. Bush having left such a pro-life legacy.
“We don’t understand why Barbara Bush would go against that legacy.”
This Planned Parenthood chapter raised more than $400,000 Wednesday for local efforts, which officials say will help make sure people who need healthcare get it.
And officials stressed that they are continuing to diversify funding to make sure clinics that provide a variety of health services, including abortions, stay open.
“Healthcare is a right, not a privilege and not a … political statement,” Ken Lambrecht, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, said during the luncheon. “We promise with your help, we are battle ready.”
Among those at the luncheon: former state Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, former Fort Worth City Councilman Joel Burns, Fort Worth City Councilwoman Ann Zedah and Texas Wesleyan President Fred Slabach.
Bush, a 35-year-old New York philanthropist, has called Planned Parenthood an “exceptional organization.”
The older of the twin daughters born to former President George W. Bush and Laura Bush didn’t wade into politics during her speech.
But she did note that she agreed to speak to Planned Parenthood back in October.
“I was under the assumption things would go differently,” she said, referring to the 2016 presidential election. “That’s not a political statement.
“I thought the cards were going to fall in a different way,” she said. “And I could not be more happy that I said yes [to speaking at the Fort Worth luncheon] now.”
Bush has long political ties to Planned Parenthood.
It was her father who ousted the late Ann Richards from the Texas governor’s mansion in 1994. Before that, Richards drew national attention for her 1988 Democratic National Convention keynote speech in which she said, “Poor George. He can’t help it. He was born with a silver foot in his mouth,” about Bush’s grandfather, George H.W. Bush.
Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, is the daughter of Ann Richards.
Outside, protesters carried signs that read, “We don’t need Planned Parenthood” and “Planned Un-Parenthood,” as they hoped to draw attention to the fact they believe Bush shouldn’t speak in support of the organization.
“The Lord led me out here,” said Travis Land, a 40-year-old from Chico who stopped when he saw other protesters outside the Omni Hotel. “Jesus came to set these people free … from their sins.”
‘Family of nerds’
Each year, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas hosts a well-known speaker — from feminist icon Gloria Steinem to environmentalist activist Erin Brockovich — to come in to help raise money for local healthcare services.
This year it was Bush, who talked about her time in the White House when her grandfather and later her father served as president.
She joked about her family, saying she and her sister have always known they “came from a family of nerds.”
And she joked that having a mother who was a librarian meant that “it seemed sometimes the excitement would never end.”
But Bush said it was her exposure to the world with her parents that ultimately helped create her desire to found Global Health Corps, a non-profit geared to help people fight for health equality in Africa and the United States.
She talked at length about the effort, noting that the group partners with other organizations overseas, including several Planned Parenthood branches, to “confront solvable health challenges,” Bush said.
“It is so exciting to know we have the tools to solve so many problems,” Bush told the crowd. “We know this is just the beginning.”