Z-green was a sea of hot pink and teal on Monday when President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund Cecile Richards visited the campus and spoke at a rally about the Florida gubernatorial election. New College students’ volunteerism has garnered attention at the national level. Richards was accompanied by Barbara Zdravecky, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida.
“New College is one of the best groups of Planned Parenthood supporters of all college campuses that we work with,” Zdravecky said during her opening speech.
Students volunteer at canvassing events, phone banks and as patient escorts at the local Sarasota Planned Parenthood office. Phone banking in this area has been some of the most successful in the region due in part to New College participation.
“This is a huge honor,” Sarasota’s Planned Parenthood Advocacy and Volunteer Coordinator and alum Lauren Brenzel (’09) said. “This is because you all have been so stellar that Cecile is coming to New College.”
In her speech, Richards thanked Brenzel, thesis student, VOX co-president and NCSA President Cassandra Corrado and thesis student Catherine Woolfe for their dedication to Planned Parenthood’s work.
Planned Parenthood sees three million patients yearly and is known nationally as a leading supporter of women’s and reproductive health. Planned Parenthood has officially endorsed Charlie Crist’s campaign for governor.
Rick Scott has made the abortion process more difficult for individuals in the state of Florida, has cut funding to rape crisis centers, has not spoken out about rape and violence on college campuses and has cut public education funding.
Crist has pledged part of his campaign to health care and reproductive health. While his political opinions have wavered in regards to issues such as pro-choice abortion policy and same-sex marriage, he now stands firmly in support of both.
In introducing Richards, Zdravecky noted that Richards’s focus is vocalizing young people and students across the country. After the rally, a campus wide dorm-storm canvass occurred and interested students had the opportunity to voice their opinions on film.
“I’m here because women are watching, and I’m really excited,” Richards said referencing the Women Are Watching campaign, launched by the Planned Parenthood Political Action Fund.
Richards noted that the future access to reproductive rights would be the true debate on Tuesday. She was particularly interested in Florida as the campaign for governor showed itself to be one of the closest races in the country.
“Women and their doctors should be the ones making decisions about women’s health,” Richards said. “Let’s take the politics out of women’s health.”
Due to a packed schedule filled with speeches, college visits, and phone banks, Richards was only on campus for a short time. The rally lasted roughly a half an hour and 40 people from both on and off campus were in attendance. There was a Jeb Bush rally at same time, which may have drawn some attention away from the rally.
Those who attended the rally stood with variations on Women Are Watching signs to greet Richards, who shook hands and spoke briefly with many of those attending.
“Cecile has shown us that she is the leader of reproductive rights in the nation” Zdravecky said.
Richards discussed how the Planned Parenthood Political Action Committee has done more this year than it has ever before in its history. She also noted the millions of dollars spent in the election to discourage people from voting.
“The only people that can make a difference now are you,” Richards said. “There is no more important governor’s race than the one in Florida. Let’s go out and win this one.”