For photos from last night’s event, see: PPFA Annual Gala Getty ImagesWireImage, and FilmMagic.

Event Featured a Performance by Salt-N-Pepa and Comedian Retta as Emcee
Other Awardees Include Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, Annie Clark, & Andrea Pino 

New York, NY — Last night, Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) presented several awards to champions of women’s health care and rights.  The highest honor, the 2015 Planned Parenthood Federation of America Margaret Sanger Award, went to Dr. Willie Parker for his unwavering commitment to the reproductive justice movement and his dedicated career providing abortion services to women in Mississippi and Alabama — some of the harshest states for abortion access in the country. 

“I didn’t choose to become an abortion provider, the need for the services chose me,” said Dr. Willie Parker, the recipient of the 2015 Margaret Sanger Award. “Whereas some people have to become comfortable providing abortion care once they realize the need, I became uncomfortable not providing it when I realized what women face.”

The link between poverty and the lack of accessible, affordable reproductive health services for women is undeniable, and nowhere in America is its impact felt more acutely than in the southern states. Mississippi leads the nation in the percentage of pregnancies that are unintended, which means far too many children in this state may be born with delayed prenatal care, premature birth, and the enduring challenges associated with poverty. Not coincidentally, there is only one abortion clinic left in the state of Mississippi, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, where Dr. Parker is one of two providers serving the many women in need.

Dr. Parker’s compassion as a caregiver exhibits what Planned Parenthood has always believed — that all women and families deserve the highest quality of care no matter who they are or where they live,” said Cecile Richards, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “We’re overjoyed to honor him and several other champions for women and their access to health care this year. From campaigns addressing college sexual assault, to global health champions to major movies and television shows accurately portraying abortion, we’re so proud to work side by side with these leaders to create open and honest conversations about women’s health and rights.”

The Maggie Awards for Film and Television were also awarded, with actor Jenny Slate, and filmmakers Gillian Robespierre & Elisabeth Holm receiving the honors for their groundbreaking film Obvious Child and Golden Globe Award-winning actress Gina Rodriguez and creator Jennie Snyder Urman for their hit show, the CW’s Jane the Virgin.

The Gala was part of Planned Parenthood’s “Opportunity of Now” Conference, the organization’s largest annual gathering, attended by Planned Parenthood national and affiliate staff from across the country, elected officials, leaders of other national organizations, and prominent supporters.

Emceed by comedian Retta, of Parks and Recreation fame, with a memorable performance by the pioneering hip-hop group Salt-N-Pepa, this year’s Gala also presented the Planned Parenthood Global Citizen Award to Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin, UNFPA Executive Director and Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations, and the Planned Parenthood Care. No Matter What. Award to Annie Clark & Andrea Pino, Co-Founders of End Rape on Campus, featured in the new documentary The Hunting Ground. Sheri Bonner, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Pasadena and the San Gabriel valley took home the Ruth Green Award for her outstanding leadership and vision.

“We can’t do this work alone,” said Annie Clark, upon acceptance of the Care. No Matter What. Award. “This movement needs to be cohesive and it can’t be on the backs of 18 and 19 year old college students, so we need your help to carry this weight together.” Clark and Pino have been leading the charge to combat campus sexual assault: Calling on universities across the country to do better in handling assaults that are reported on their campuses and advocating for survivors of assault to file Title IX claims against their schools when their assault is not taken seriously.

This past year’s hitObvious Child, which grossed over $3 million, is a refreshingly real, hilarious, and unapologetic story that tells the story about one woman navigating life and dating — which includes her decision to get an abortion. A major breakthrough, this film was an incredibly important step forward in helping eliminate the shame and stigma surrounding decisions about a woman’s pregnancy and helping people have honest conversations with their family and friends about abortion.

“We’re thrilled and so honored to be recognized by such an incredible organization,” said Gillian Robespierre, writer and director of Obvious Child.  “Our goal in making Obvious Child was to ignite a conversation about abortion, to show a complex experience without shame or regret and were so grateful for Planned Parenthood and every single person in this room who fight daily to protect reproductive rights and justice and provide education and access all over our country, and we stand with you.”

In its first season, the CW’s Jane the Virgin, has become a smash debut success and its star, Gina Rodriguez, has received a Golden Globe for her performance. Created by Jennie Snyder Urman, Jane the Virgin tells the story of Jane — a young woman who is accidentally impregnated via artificial insemination — as she navigates her decision to remain pregnant. Jane is able to discuss her options — including abortion — openly with her family and to make the decision that is best for her, and throughout the series Jane continues to display the agency and autonomy to make her own decisions about sex and pregnancy. Rodriguez and Urman accepted the award via video message.

“We’re so thrilled and honored to be accepting the Maggie Award for television on behalf of Jane the Virgin and the cast and the crew,” said Gina Rodriguez. “As an artist I feel very lucky to be part of a project that discusses social issues, that discusses women’s rights, reproductive rights, and is not afraid to open up conversations in a nonjudgmental way.”

Each year, the PPFA Maggie Awards recognize exceptional contributions by the arts and entertainment community that enhance the public's understanding of reproductive and sexual health care issues and sex education.

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Published

March 20, 2015