Politics & Government

Planned Parenthood president: Gov. Rick Scott an 'aggressive enemy of women's health'

SARASOTA -- Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, was stumping for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist in Sarasota on Monday, calling Republican incumbent Gov. Rick Scott an "aggressive enemy of women's health."

"It's really out of step with where a moderate state like Florida is," Richards said.

Richards was on her own sort of campaign trail, making recent stops in Wisconsin, North Carolina, Texas and Florida to campaign for candidates she described as supportive of women's rights. She was at Sarasota's New College of Florida on Monday morning and planned to make a stop at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg later in the day.

"There is no governor's race as important as the one in Florida right now,"

Richards said.

Richards said Scott cut funding for rape crisis centers and signed "some of the most extreme restrictions on women's access to legal abortions" as huge issues in the election.

"What's at stake on the ballot tomorrow is really the future of access to reproductive rights in the state of Florida," Richards said.

Richards fully endorsed Crist, saying he supports women's access to health care, birth control and equal pay. She said she believes that represents the majority of Floridians' views, as well.

"We believe those should be nonpartisan issues, but I feel like Rick Scott has made them issues that he really wants to fight against," Richards said.

When asked for a response on Richards' allegations, Greg Blair, spokesman for Scott's campaign, referred to a release about Crist taking $90,000 in campaign contributions from strip clubs. The release was from three anti-human trafficking advocates: Niki Cross, human trafficking survivor and founder of S.T.A.A.R. Ministry, Trudy Novicki, executive director of Kristi House and Frances Lee, president of Safe and Free Florida.

"Charlie Crist will say anything to get elected, but actions speak louder than words. He has taken $90,000 from strip clubs to fund his campaign, but the problem isn't the money. It is what it represents," the release said. "Strip clubs devalue women and are often a place of prostitution, drug use and even human trafficking. Ending human trafficking in Florida won't just happen because of stricter laws. It will happen when we have a cultural change that has zero-tolerance for any mistreatment, abuse or demeaning of women."

Richards described the last four years under Scott as a "disaster for women."

"Florida's a big state, and for women to be losing ground like they have under Rick Scott, I just don't think we can afford four more years of him taking away the rights of women."

Students at New College of Florida who worked at the local Planned Parenthood passed out signs, buttons and pink T-shirts emblazoned with the slogan, "Women are Watching."

Catherine Wolfe, an intern at Planned Parenthood and a fifth-year senior at New College, said she volunteered Monday because Scott had moved the state backwards on women's reproductive issues.

"As a woman, as someone who was raised by a single mom, as someone who has to think about her reproductive health and her reproductive rights, these issues become more and more important to me as I get older," Wolfe said. "And it's not just that Charlie Crist supports abortion clinics, but he supports a lot of issues that women face."

Richards was adamant that Crist would be the one who would represent women's and Florida's interests the right way.

"When Charlie Crist becomes governor again in the state of Florida, he is going to restore women's access to health care, restore funding for education and fight to make sure that women actually have something that shouldn't be a radical notion, but seems to be to Gov. Scott -- that women in Florida have access to equal pay."