Recent remarks made by Missouri Republican Rep. Todd Akin regarding abortion in which he used the term "legitimate rape", served as a rallying cry for supporters of Planned Parenthood, who gathered in the Chicago area this week warning that the fate of the health care provider was at stake if like-minded lawmakers win election in November.
Recent remarks made by Missouri Republican U.S. Rep. Todd Akin regarding abortion in which he used the term "legitimate rape", served as a rallying cry for supporters of Planned Parenthood, who gathered in the Chicago area this week warning that the fate of the health care provider was at stake if like-minded lawmakers win election in November.
Akin is currently the Republican nominee for the U.S. Senate in a bid to unseat first-term incumbent U.S. Sen Claire McCaskill (D-Mo). The social conservative sparked controversy when, during an interview last Sunday with KTVI-TV in St. Louis, he responded to a question about whether abortion should be allowed in cases of rape by saying he understood pregnancy rarely resulted from such occurrences, adding "...If it's a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try and shut that whole thing down."
At a rally held in the parking lot of the Illinois headquarters of UAW, a crowd totaling around 50 came out to protest against the efforts of some lawmakers over the past couple of years to defund Planned Parenthood, which they said amounted to nothing less than an affront to reproductive rights. An equal number of anti-abortion demonstrators were on hand to hold a counter protest across the street.
The event was the fifth stop on a nationwide bus tour Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the organization's political arm, has held to garner support for a slate of candidates the group believes will work to counter an increase of anti-abortion legislation proposed and passed throughout the country since 2010.
As Progress Illinois reported in April, the fight being waged in many states over reproductive rights reached the Illinois General Assembly this year with the introduction of two bills designed to put restrictions on abortion access.
Under the Ultrasound Opportunity Act (HB 4085), physicians would be required to offer an ultrasound to patients before an abortion was performed. The second measure, HB 4011, would place additional certification requirements on health facilities that perform 50 or more abortions a year.
"We have endorsed a really good crop of pro-choice candidates in Illinois," said Pam Sutherland, Planned Parenthood Illinois Action (PPIA) vice president. "We are pulling out all the stops to make sure that they get elected and replace a lot of the anti-choice legislators that are sitting in the House now."
Candidates PPIA has endorsed this election include Democratic Congressional incumbent U.S. Reps. Jan Schakowsky (D-Evanston) and Mike Quigley (D-Chicago),as well as 17th Congressional District candidate Cheri Bustos (D-East Moline), who is challenging incumbent U.S. Rep. Bobby Schilling (R-Colona).
Also endorsed is Iraq War veteran and 8th Congressional District Democratic nominee Tammy Duckworth, who took the opportunity while speaking at the event to criticize her opponent, incumbent U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh(R-McHenry) for his stance on women's issues, which she feels ultimately serve to undermine women's rights to make their own choices regarding their health.
"I am running for Congress against a gentleman who does not believe women have the capability to make their own decisions," Duckworth told the crowd. "Which for me is rather ironic because this same nation that thought I was smart enough to fly helicopters in combat and command units with literally millions of dollars in equipment and go into other countries and fight our nation's battles does not think that I am capable of making good decisions about what is right for me and my family and my own personal health."
Here's more from Duckworth as she speaks to the crowd:
According to Michelle Schramm, a women's health nurse from Chicago, the outcome of November's election could significantly impact women's health issues. She feared gains made through the Affordable Care Act, such as requirements for health insurance companies to cover a number of preventive services for women, could be lost if the presumed Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney wins the White House.
"We have to take matters into our own hands, spread the word and protect our access to health care," Schramm said. "And that's why we need to get out and vote for folks like President Barack Obama who are champions of women's health."
According to the organization, since 2010 more than 2,000 reproductive health provisions, which have included restrictions on abortions and birth control, mandatory ultrasounds and "personhood" amendments, have been introduced in state legislatures. According to the research organization Guttmacher Institute, more than 900 measures involving sexual and reproductive health were initiated in 45 states during the first three months of 2012.
Such measures have led to a time of uncertainty for Planned Parenthood, which has been forced to close several of its facilities in recent years due in part to increased regulation and cuts in funding by a number of state governments in an effort to stop the group from providing abortion services.
Planned Parenthood supporters contend that abortion makes up only 3 percent of the services offered by the organization and that the group provides an array of preventive health care, including cancer screenings, sexually-transmitted disease testing, pelvic exams and contraception to more than 3 million women who visit their facilities each year.