Speaker addresses birth control controversy


Zachary Strain

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, signs a supporter’s poster during a rally on the lawn of the Lyndon B. Johnson Library Friday afternoon. The rally, organized by University Democrats, focused on birth control awareness in light of the issue’s recent jump into national politics.

David Leffler

In an effort to raise awareness about birth control and its importance in national politics, Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards spoke to a crowd of supporters on campus.

Richards, a native Texan, spoke at a rally held on Friday on the lawn of the LBJ School of Public Policy. The rally focused on the ongoing national debate over whether or not contraceptive health care should be provided to women who work at faith-based institutions.

“Every woman in this country, regardless of where they work or go to school, deserves and will get affordable health care coverage through their insurance plans,” Richards said.

Richards said in order for this to happen, women will have to overcome stubborn political opposition.

“There are people in Congress and throughout the country, including presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who want to ban birth control entirely,” she said. “We can’t let that happen.”

The most recent congressional hearing over President Obama’s proposed birth control mandate took place four days ago. However, none of the speakers at the hearing were women. Richards said the fact that only men spoke at the hearing is unacceptable.

“It is time the people who used birth control are heard in Congress and heard across the country,” Richards said.

Richards said Planned Parenthood plans to fight to ensure that the mandate is passed.

“We’re going to stand strong for women in this country, for young people in this country, to have access to the health care that is their God-given right,” she said. Associate government professor Terri Givens spoke at the rally about her experience with birth control. Givens said when she was diagnosed with endometriosis, a gynecological condition that can lead to infertility, a doctor prescribed birth control to her.

“I could’ve lost my fertility if I did not take birth control,” she said.

Givens said she believes birth control must be provided to women as part of their medical coverage.

“Women are out there who really need this and it’s important that they are able to get this,” she said. “It’s important for women to have control over their bodies and their fertility.”

Givens also said birth control plays a large role in improving women’s economic and political capabilities.

“Study after study has shown that being able to control your fertility leads to economic growth and increased political power,” she said.

The University Democrats organized the rally. Andre Treiber, spokesman for the University Democrats, said bringing Richards to UT was a great accomplishment.

“We think it’s important for us to visibly display what we have to say in this discussion and to show there are both men and women that support what Planned Parenthood does,” he said.

Treiber stressed the importance of having the event on campus.

“This being in Austin, less than a mile from the Capitol, is a great way to make our voices heard to the state legislature,” Treiber said.

Opponents of Planned Parenthood and birth control held signs displaying slogans protesting the rally.

Sister Maria Rosario, a nun of the Dominican Sisters of Mary, Mother of the Eucharist, said listening to the speeches given at the rally upset her.

“I find what was said very offensive and I believe it violates my freedom,” she said.

Rosario said she believes the birth control mandate proposed by Obama presents a serious threat to religious freedom.

“I don’t want Americans to have to live in fear and not be able to practice their faith,” she said. “We’re given the gift of life and I think we should share that.”

Printed on Monday, February 20, 2012 as: Rally discusses birth control, national politics