Planned Parenthood and the power of women

Posted on 10 Mar 2017 at 8:00am

Annual awards luncheon highlights organization’s role in empowering women, features a conversation with Marcia Clark

Marsha-Clark

Actor and activist Stephanie March, left, and former prosecutor Marcia Clark headlined the Planned Parenthood awards luncheon this week.

 

Tammye Nash  | Managing Editor

Even as Republicans in Washington, D.C., surge forward in their efforts to cut all federal funds to Planned Parenthood, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas will continue to stand strong in its mission to provide reproductive health services, organization leaders promised Wednesday, March 8, at the annual Dallas Awards Luncheon.

The awards luncheon featured best-selling author Marcia Clark, the former prosecutor who was on the legal team that in 1995 attempted to convict pro football star O.J. Simpson of the 1994 murders of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Lyle Goldman. Actor, philanthropist and Dallas native Stephanie March, known for her role as Alex Cabot on Law & Order SUV, introduced Clark and led the author in a discussion of her career and the difficulties of being a woman in a male-dominated field.

More than 1,600 supporters packed into the ballroom at the Omni Dallas Hotel for the event, which raised more than $1 million to fund essential healthcare services such as contraception, sexually transmitted infecting testing and treatment, HIV testing, well-woman exams, clinical breast exams, cervical cancer screenings and safe, legal abortion.

Kelly Hart, senior director of public affairs for PPGT, noted that Planned Parenthood has “always been a safe and welcoming space for everyone,” including members of the LGBT community. Julianna Gonen, policy director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights, confirmed Planned Parenthood’s commitment to LGBTQ people in a statement released Thursday, March 9, announcing that 30 LGBT organizations had sent a joint letter to Congress calling on the House and Senate to drop their efforts to kick Planned Parenthood out of the Medicaid program.

“The LGBTQ community stands firmly with Planned Parenthood and all of the reproductive health care providers who have thrown their open their doors to us when other places in the medical care system have been less welcoming,” Gonen said.

Kenneth Lambrecht, president and CEO off PPGT, reaffirmed that welcome.

“As a gay man and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas, I am proud that every single day Planned Parenthood advocates for access to trusted, non-judgmental healthcare for all Texans,” Lambrecht said. “We provide healthcare, regardless of a patient’s insurance or immigration status or who they love or what zip code they’re from.

“We are all in this together and we are stronger together,” he added. “For 100 years in the U.S. and more than 80 years in Dallas, Planned Parenthood has been a trusted source of expert healthcare and health education. In Planned Parenthood’s outreach and advocacy, we strive to destigmatize sexual healthcare in the communities we serve. It is very important to our mission that LGBTQ Texans know that all are welcome at our health centers for expert, non-judgmental healthcare services.”

And those open doors should soon be open even wider. Hart noted that PPGT has plans to launch a new pilot program at clinics in Austin and in Plano, expanding the organization’s outreach to the LGBT community.

Sarah Wheat, chief external affairs officer for PPGT, noted that the organization’s clinical staff “just participated in a training with Dr. Hastings of the Center for Excellence for Transgender Health to enhance our provision of culturally sensitive, gender affirming care to trans patients. Our staff is planning to offer trans healthcare services later this year.”

A conversation with Marcia Clark

Clark acknowledged that the prosecutorial team “knew going in that the odds were against us” in their efforts to convict Simpson, “but you still have to fight for what’s true. You have to fight for what’s right.”

Clark and March agreed that while race played a big role in the Simpson trial, the “cult of celebrity” had a significant impact on the proceedings.

“We didn’t have Twitter and Facebook and Snapchat and Instagram back then, thank goodness,” Clark said. Still, she said, “faxing was the new big thing at the time and every day they blew up the fax machines in our offices” with messages about some small detail of the trial, which was being shown on TV each day.

But, Clark added, had the social media avenues of today existed during the Simpson trial, she believes that “women would have stood up” and spoken out against “the ridiculousness” of TV pundits who focused more on Clark’s skirts and her hairstyle rather than on the facts of the case.

When March asked if having the TV cameras in the courtroom affected the outcome, Clark said yes, without a doubt. And while she believes that it is important to have cameras in courtrooms so that the general population can see the justice system in action, “what’s problematic is the people who then come on and try to tell you what you’re seeing. It’s the broken punditry that causes the problems.”

The importance of having cameras in the courtroom is subverted, she said, by the so-called experts who are commenting on legal points and details of a case that they don’t actually understand.

The O.J. Simpson trial also showed in stark relief “how incredibly sexist” the U.S. justice system is, March said, commenting again on how the public’s and the pundits’ focus on Clark’s skirts and her hair made it more difficult for her than it would have been for a male prosecutor.

Clarke agreed, saying that the sexism was especially pervasive in the Simpson trial because the presiding judge, Lance Ito, was himself very sexist and “a celebrity fan who loved the cameras.”

In fact, Clark said, she believes that the TV ratings, pundits’ remarks and the public’s response actually affected the outcome of the trial by affecting some of the judge’s rulings. One glaring example, she said, revolved around whether testimony indicating that one of the police officers investigating the case, Mark Furhman, was racist, and if so, did his racism prompt him to plant evidence against Simpson.

Ito initially ruled that testimony on whether Furhman used “the N word” in referring to African-Americans in the early 1980s was irrelevant and was excluded. But when “the pundits went crazy” over that decision, Clark said, Ito changed his ruling “and that, I think, changed the outcome of the trial.”

While the sexism was “unusually bad” in the Simpson trial, Clark said women often find themselves caught in the dilemma of trying to be hard-nosed enough to accomplish their goals and not being labeled a bitch.

March agreed: “If you’re not strong enough, they say you’re not smart, that you’re not doing your job. But if you are stronger, then you’re just being a bitch. Bitch is the new black.”

Planned Parenthood, the women both said, is helping combat the anti-woman atmosphere by helping make sure that women retain ownership and control of their own bodies.

“There are many ways that society minimizes and marginalizes women,” Clark said. “Stripping away your power, your control over your own body is one of them. These are civil rights we’re talking about here, rights that are just so fundamental.”

Clark said that she had recently remembered that as a teen, she got her first birth control pills from Planned Parenthood. Without that help, she said, she might not have graduated from high school, might not have been able to attend college and then law school.

“So Planned Parenthood helped me become who I am today,” she said. “I don’t really care whose from what [political] party. I’m just all for a good idea. And Planned Parenthood is a good idea.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 10, 2017.

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