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The Virginia League for Planned Parenthood (VLPP) held its Annual Meeting in Richmond this evening, an energetic gathering of supporters that featured appearances by Governor Terry McAuliffe and Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney. McAuliffe was recognized with the Mary Anne Rennolds award for significantly advancing the mission of Planned Parenthood and reflecting the exemplary values and dedication of VLPP’s first board chair.

The evening’s keynote address was delivered by Stoney who expressed his steadfast support for VLPP and its mission. “I am honored to stand with Planned Parenthood,” he said. “I am humbled by women like those here tonight who stand up for their rights, and who take a stand against attempts by others to get in the way of a woman’s personal health care choices. They and Planned Parenthood are proving everyday that women’s health is community health.” (Complete text here.)

Last week, Stoney joined mayors from 28 states across the country signing a letter urging congressional leadership to reject efforts to block access to care at Planned Parenthood.

In honoring McAuliffe, VLPP board chair Allison Cooper stated, “The Governor has been a champion for reproductive rights and protecting women’s health from the very beginning of his time in office. This award represents our appreciation for his unwavering commitment to ensuring access to affordable and high-quality healthcare for everyone who walks through our doors.”

In accepting the honor, McAuliffe detailed how he worked with the Virginia Board of Health to roll back targeted regulation of abortion providers or TRAP laws, and tied progress on women’s health to the economy. “We are a different state today than we were three years ago,” he said. “Women are treated with dignity and respect and that is how we’ve been able to create so many jobs, by being open and welcoming to everyone.”

Also honored was Taylor Medley who received the Grace Sparks Award. The award goes to a young person who has demonstrated outstanding leadership potential and initiative. As a student leader at the College of William & Mary. Medley distinguished herself with her support for and activism on behalf of Planned Parenthood. (Medley's remarks are here.)

The annual gathering of VLPP supporters drew more than 120 attendees. VLPP operates health centers in RIchmond, Hampton and Virginia Beach, offering comprehensive reproductive health services as well as primary care and transgender health services. More than 32,000 patient visits were logged at VLPP facilities in 2016.

President and CEO of VLPP Paulette McElwain delivered a state of the organization address, reporting on increases in patient volume and expansion of services at VLPP health centers. While decrying the fact that “women’s reproductive health continues to be a political football,” McElwain expressed her gratitude to have the support of the Governor and the Mayor.

“Mayor Stoney has shown an invigorating energy in his support of Planned Parenthood and our mission. And Governor McAuliffe has been steadfast in his rejection of the general assembly’s efforts to undermine women’s health in Virginia. While it’s unfortunate that some politicians feel like they need to interfere in the relationship between a woman and her physician, I’m thrilled to have allies like the Governor and the Mayor in our fight to improve and expand the reproductive health services available in Virginia.”

Mayor Stoney's prepared remarks

I’m honored by your invitation to speak at this event, and to recognize the important work you all do.

But most of all, I’m humbled. I’m humbled by women like Taylor, who I understand couldn’t be here tonight.

Women who stand up for their rights, and take a stand against attempts by others to get in the way of a woman’s personal healthcare choice, and fighting for an organization that is here to protect and preserve that choice.

Women who aren’t afraid to say:

“I’m here. I have a voice.  And I’m going to use it.”

We need to listen to people like Taylor. Because they, and Planned Parenthood, are proving every day that women’s health is community health.

I recently learned that the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood has been active since the 1940s. Since before Roe vs. Wade, the VLPP has been providing education and family planning services to women.

Those services range from preventative educational programs to life-saving procedures.

And since the 1940s, the VLPP has grown, now offering services to more than 18,000 patients throughout 50 localities in Virginia.

I’m grateful that one of those localities is Richmond.

The Virginia League for Planned Parenthood serves all Richmonders. Women, men, teens, and children benefit from the services you provide.

Now more than ever, Richmond needs Planned Parenthood.

From the women who can now afford regular checkups...

To the men who receive life-saving prostate exams...

To the children who benefit from proper prenatal care… our community needs Planned Parenthood.

Because we are living in a time when healthcare is proving more and more precarious, and could soon be more difficult to obtain. President Donald Trump’s budget calls for severe cuts to critical programs like Medicaid and others that provide a safety net for the less fortunate among us. I don’t need to remind you that 25 percent of our residents live in poverty – and 40 percent of our children.  

Now more than ever we need organizations like Planned Parenthood to be funded. We can’t allow quality health care to become a privilege for the rich. It must be a baseline benefit for every American, for every Richmonder.

You know, I ran for Mayor on the concept of One Richmond – a city that works for all, regardless of where you live, how much you make, how you worship, or who you love.

I intend to show Richmonders, ALL Richmonders, what that means.

It means empowering organizations that empower Richmond.

It means resisting anyone who resists women’s access to healthcare.

And it means realizing that the good you do isn’t just about women’s health.

It’s about community health.

Two of my biggest efforts are reducing the percentage of Richmonders living in poverty and increasing our city’s investment in education. You’re helping me do both, and I hope you understand the size of your role.

What you do, for so many Richmonders, is remove obstacles on the road to success.

The VLPP is an option for Richmonders who face economic roadblocks. In fact, the average Planned Parenthood patient is in school or working hard, but is either uninsured or significantly underinsured.

Some may be furthering their education. Others may be working  a 9 to 5 job with limited benefits. Some may be working a number of jobs to feed their family.

But they all have two things in common –

They are receiving affordable care from Planned Parenthood. Care that is necessary and important and that they couldn’t get anywhere else.

And they are all contributing to our larger Richmond community. As students, parents, employees, and leaders, they all have something to offer.

By providing that affordable care, you clear an obstacle out of the path of a woman or a man who is determined to go far.

You help Richmond become a more engaged, educated, and healthy city. One whose residents are ready to tackle the biggest problems we face, at least in part because they don’t have to worry about mounting medical bills.

And it’s not just in Richmond where the VLPP provides economic relief and education for those who need it most.

Consider that in 21 percent of counties with a Planned Parenthood health center, that health center is the only safety-net family planning provider.

Planned Parenthood is the backbone of family planning services. The backbone of contraception, primary care, cancer screenings, and sexual education.

This goes beyond women’s health. This goes beyond partisan politics. Healthcare is the core of a community.

Women’s health is community health. We all have the opportunity, the responsibility, to address the needs of women in Richmond and beyond.

But this requires investment. Investment on the part of people like me. Like Governor McAuliffe and your representatives.

So that is why, as you know, I’m proud to stand with you in urging our legislators to oppose defunding Planned Parenthood.

Because if anyone has proven that investing in women is the right call, it’s the people in this room right now. You, who dedicate your career to the service of the greater community.

YOU decreased the Newport News teen pregnancy rate by 40% in just over 4 years.

YOU educated 4,627 young Virginians about sexual health and responsibility in one school year.

And this year, YOU allowed for 18,000 patients to access healthcare that they wouldn’t be able to otherwise afford.

And that is why I’m honored to be here today.

Thank you for having me. Thank you for all you do.

And rest assured, when the time comes to defend Planned Parenthood, I will stand with you.

I’ll point to Taylor.

And I’ll say “I’m gonna fight with her.”

Thank you.

Taylor Medley's Prepared Remarks

Although I cannot be present to join you all in person this evening, I am eternally grateful to be honored alongside Governor McAuliffe tonight as the recipient of the 2017 Grace Sparks Award.

As a young queer person growing up in southwest Virginia, Planned Parenthood's care was a “common secret” – essential to my own health and well-being and that of my friends, but often sought out in silence and shame; however, stepping inside their health center always felt like one of the safest places I could be. Indeed, my local health center was one of the only places I could speak openly about my sexuality, my health concerns, and my future when my family, church community, and public school's abstinence-only sex education program fell short.

When I started school at the College of William & Mary in 2013, the first thing I did was seek out the Planned Parenthood Generation Action group, known as VOX, that existed on my campus. This was a natural move on my part - I yearned for an affirming, feminist community and wanted to defend the organization that had given me so much opportunity.

After immersing myself in all the advocacy experiences VOX had to offer, I decided to major in Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies and Public Health in preparation for nursing school. My goal is to become a nurse-midwife, a profession where I can help make reproductive justice a reality on an individual level as a birth worker, abortion provider, and community steward of reproductive freedom and healthcare.

For this, I want to thank my abortion provider - a Planned Parenthood physician who may be in the room tonight. Thank you for comforting me at age 19 and making sure I would never look back on my decision with regret. I hope I can even partially embody your caring, courageous spirit in my future work.

I am, in the words of the Grace Sparks Award, "the future of this movement," but it's incredibly important for us to pause and reflect on the community that made my future possible in the first place. Planned Parenthood's commitment to youth activism and leadership has provided hundreds of young people like me with the chance to tell our stories and make real change. Furthermore, it has given us a vision for the future that we can help build. I find it especially fitting that Nia Bentall is delivering these remarks on my behalf - she has the unique job of empowering and mobilizing young people across Virginia and she does it with great humility. I would not be receiving this honor or living this incredibly fulfilling life if not for her, Tara Gibson, Jessi Coble, and countless others at Planned Parenthood who have made it their jobs to invest in futures like mine. To take a moment to recognize them is the greatest honor of all. Thank you so much.

Tags: Annual Meeting