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Cecile Richards Headshot

A Day of Action!

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We called for a day of action to stop the Stupak abortion ban and that's exactly what we got! Like me, hundreds of activists from across the country flooded the U.S. Capitol today with one mission in mind -- to pass health care reform and to ensure that the anti-choice abortion ban, known as the Stupak amendment, is not part of the health care reform bill.

I was blown away by the energy of the standing-room-only crowd of more than 1,000 advocates at our noontime Stop Stupak Event on the Hill. Pro-choice American women of every age and geographic background and some pro-choice men, too -- thank goodness for them -- made it clear that health reform that robs women of access to reproductive health care is not health care reform at all. The power of our movement was palpable.

Planned Parenthood representatives from 30 states were there. Seeing all of our supporters and our many coalition partners (too many to list here) in one room was awe-inspiring.

Representative Donna Edwards got it right when she said (to cheers), "The ground troops have arrived." Other members who spoke to us told us the same -- we were a sight for sore eyes. Joining us were freedom fighters for women like Senators Barbara Boxer, Patty Murray, and Jeff Merkley, and U.S. Representatives Susan Davis, Jerrold Nadler, Nita Lowey, Rosa DeLauro, Diana DeGette, Carolyn Maloney, Jane Harman, Judy Chu, Jan Schakowsky, Lynn Woolsey, and Lois Capps.

As word spread around the Hill, members we were not expecting made an impromptu stop at our noon event. We were scheduled to have seven members of Congress speak, but we ended up with 14 members who came and talked to the excited and energetic crowd.

I know I wasn't the only one energized by the remarks of Byllye Avery -- founder of the Black Women's Health Imperative. Byllye gave a shout-out to the pioneers, doctors, and advocates who came before us in this struggle. And I was also encouraged by those who will come after us: a huge number of young people answered our call to lobby on health care reform. These young people really do get it. They understand that women's rights are human rights.

One of the amazing moments of the day came in the morning, when Kierra Johnson from Choice USA asked everyone who was born post-Roe v. Wade to raise their hands, and a majority of the room raised their hands. Young people definitely came out in force.

After and between rallies, we set out to lobby dozens of senators and representatives. During the visits with members of Congress this morning and afternoon, activists, doctors, and nurses shared stories of American women who have suffered from not having access to comprehensive reproductive health care. And at the noontime rally, we heard the story of a South Dakota woman who needed to terminate a pregnancy to save one of her twins -- because both could not survive a medically complicated pregnancy. The woman's friend, who told her story to a hushed crowd, made it clear that, under Stupak, her termination would not have been covered by private insurance, adding hundreds of thousands of dollars of financial insult to emotional injury and the very personal loss of a wanted pregnancy.

Stories like these are why we were on the Hill today. The truth is we're closer than we've ever been to making the dream of affordable, quality health care for all a reality. But the abortion coverage ban, which passed the House in early November and is set to be introduced in the Senate, would effectively prevent women purchasing insurance in the newly created "exchange" from buying a plan that covers abortion care, even if they pay 100 percent of the premium with their own money.

Representative Stupak was hoping to ban abortion with his backward amendment. Instead, he's rejuvenated the pro-woman movement. We're fighting now, and we'll keep fighting, until health care reform includes all Americans.

For the women who came before us and those who will come after us, we cannot allow anti-choice politicians to hijack health care reform in their ongoing and ceaseless quest to outlaw abortion and undermine the life and liberty of millions of women. If the abortion coverage ban were to go into effect, millions of women would lose their private coverage for comprehensive reproductive health care. This is dangerous for American women and their families, and it is unacceptable.

And that's what we told Congress. You can, too. Send a message to your senators .