BRADENTON -- In celebrating the 40th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision, Planned Parenthood executives spoke about the past year's accomplishments and the next year's goals at the organization's annual luncheon before a record crowd of 180 at Renaissance on 9th.
Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, stated that the organization has been at the center of American life for decades -- serving one in five women at some point in their lives. "That's an incredible alumni association," she said.
As the architect of the demise of last year's Pence Amendment, a congressional bid to eliminate Planned Parenthood's federal funding, Laguens saluted the giant coalition that formed to combat the measure -- including 130,000 phone calls to solicit support.
She noted an increasing number of Republicans are
now backing the group, and that a recent poll found 70 percent of Americans now do as well. The organization has gained two million supporters nationwide, with most under age 40, she said. "The state of Planned Parenthood is strong," Laguens said.
With an invitation to President Obama's inaugural luncheon, she earned a fist bump from first lady Michelle Obama for the organization's accomplishments.
Laguens also addressed the abortion issue, a complex conversation that the vast majority of Americans are uncomfortable talking about, she noted. The organization is reframing its talking points on abortion with a simple reply: "We're not in her shoes and only she can decide."
Barbara Zdravecky, the president and chief executive of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, told the gathering that the Affordable Care Act will have a major impact on the group. "We are cementing our role as an essential health care provider," she said.
She also noted that the regional organization won a $1 million, three-year federal grant to provide a teenage pregnancy prevention program.
"It's been a year full of challenges," Zdravecky said, "and a year full of opportunities."