Steinem stresses reproductive rights at Planned Parenthood gathering

Posted: April 18, 2013

NOTED FEMINIST Gloria Steinem took the podium at the National Constitution Center on Tuesday night, addressing a crowd of 500 spanning four generations at Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania's annual Spring Gathering.

Steinem's talk came at a time when illegal-abortion doc Kermit Gosnell's trial is highlighting the uglier side of the abortion issue in Philadelphia, and as state legislators are considering measures to limit abortion access under future government-funded health-insurance plans.

Organizers said the event - and Steinem herself - would move the public's focus to the organization's work.

"The Gosnell trial has shifted the focus off the high-quality services we provide," said Dayle Steinberg, the organization's president and chief executive. "These are criminal, horrendous . . . acts and should be appropriately punished."

Steinberg said that when Gosnell was in practice, women would sometimes come to Planned Parenthood for services after first visiting Gosnell's West Philadelphia clinic, and would complain to staff about the conditions there.

"We would always encourage them to report it to the Department of Health," Steinberg said as she sat with Steinem before Tuesday's events.

Of the Gosnell trial, Steinem added: "It makes more clear why you need Planned Parenthood."

Her speech, Steinem said beforehand, would aim to "remind us that reproductive freedom is a fundamental human right."

Steinem called the legislation being considered in Pennsylvania's Legislature "self-defeating." The bills would limit abortion covered by federally subsidized insurance to cases of rape, incest or those that are life-threatening.

"It's putting women's health at risk," she said. "It's like saying, 'You have freedom of speech, but only if you say one thing.' "

Steinem's address was punctuated at several points by bursts of applause and nods of agreement from the audience.

She praised politicians and men in attendance who support women's reproductive rights, but likened the battle to the fight for the right to vote and said she believes it's only about half-finished.

She called reproductive freedom the "key to equalizing males and females," and praised Planned Parenthood and its supporters.

"There's nothing on earth more important than what Planned Parenthood is doing," she said. "It is connected to everything else."

On Twitter: @morganzalot

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