Dear undecided voter:
New Yorkers going to the polls tomorrow have spent the last weeks going to rallies, watching ads, and reading up on the candidates vying for our votes. For those who are still on the fence, I wanted to throw in my two cents.
Like you're doing now, Planned Parenthood Action Fund did a lot of soul-searching when we decided to endorse a candidate in the primary.
We brought together our Planned Parenthood Action Fund activists and leaders from across the country, and heard from thousands of supporters on the issues that concern them most in this election.
The clear choice was Hillary Clinton.
In addition to being the most qualified presidential candidate this country has seen in a generation, she has spent her entire life fighting for women and families.
We knew we couldn't sit on the sidelines. We issued our first-ever primary endorsement because Hillary is a standout leader on reproductive health. And because the challenges facing the people who come to Planned Parenthood health centers were too urgent for us to to "wait and see."
Some of them can't get health insurance because of their immigration status, language and institutional barriers, or because the states where they live refuse to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Some of them live in communities where options for reproductive health care are few and far between -- and getting more so as state legislators and governors slash funding for public health programs. And some who come to Planned Parenthood are young people who didn't know their options because they're not getting comprehensive sex education.
And as the women of color leading the reproductive justice movement have been lifting up for more than two decades, there are multiple barriers to self-autonomy for the people Planned Parenthood serves: discrimination based upon race, immigration status, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity just to name a few. Let's not also leave out the wage gap, sky-high childcare costs, and the absence of paid family and medical leave and livable wages -- just to name a few others.
There's a lot at stake in this election -- and even more when you consider who the Democratic nominee will run against. Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz want decisions about pregnancy to be the authority of the state, and they have a Congress that is their eager partner to do it. In state after state, the ability to access safe and legal abortion, birth control, and now even prenatal services (we see you, Governor John Kasich) is being eliminated daily.
She put her name on a universal health care plan -- and fought like hell to get it passed. As she said in last week's debate, decades before there was Obamacare, it was Hillarycare. While senator, she introduced eight pieces of legislation to increase women's access to health care -- eight more than anyone else running for president.
When Hillary Clinton was in the Senate, she led the fight for equal pay, introducing the Paycheck Fairness Act three times and co-sponsoring both the Fair Pay Restoration Act and the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.
She and Senator Patty Murray blocked confirmation of a Bush administration FDA nominee until they issued a decision on putting emergency contraception over the counter. It was bigger than just a vote. They made a demand and they stuck to it - that's actually leadership. Today, you can get the "morning after" pill right off the shelf in drugstores across America.
On Thursday night, during the Democratic debate in Brooklyn, she proved yet again why we're fighting to send her to the White House.
In the final minutes of the ninth debate without a question about access to safe and legal abortion, Hillary Clinton saw her opening and called out Republican candidates and governors for restricting women's right to make decisions about their own health.
As she put it, "It goes to the heart of who we are as women, our rights, our autonomy, our ability to make our own decisions, and we need to be talking about that and defending Planned Parenthood from these outrageous attacks."
Three in 10 women have an abortion in their lifetimes. Women we know. Women we love. You're damn right we need to be talking about this.
For me personally, endorsing Hillary Clinton was a moment a lifetime in the making.
I've spent my entire career working for progressive causes -- the first 15 years organizing garment workers on the Rio Grande border, nursing home workers in East Texas, hotel workers in New Orleans, and janitors in Los Angeles. Every day I saw them put everything on the line to improve life for themselves, their families and their coworkers. For them, it wasn't an intellectual exercise. It was doing the work every day to build power and change economic conditions, to earn the dignity and respect they deserved but seldom experienced on the job.
At Planned Parenthood Action Fund, we're proud to be part of a coalition doing that work today.
We're proud to be part of the Moral Monday movement in North Carolina, to stand with our brothers and sisters in Wisconsin to shine a light on the anti-working people agenda of Governor Scott Walker, and to add our pink shirts to the purple wave of SEIU and the green of AFSCME.
We've spent the last 10 years working with our partners to put reproductive rights on the progressive agenda.
Under President Hillary Clinton, access to reproductive health care won't be a footnote. It will always be front and center.
My mom, the late great Texas Governor Ann Richards, used to tell me, "Don't wait until they ask you. You have one shot, so do it now."
Hillary Clinton has never waited for women to ask her to protect and advance their rights. If I have learned anything throughout my career and at Planned Parenthood, it's that you only get what you fight for.
So, still-undecided voter, I hope you'll consider this and pick the candidate who is a true leader on these issues.
Hillary Clinton is now and has always been on the front lines -- I'm proud to be there with her.
Cecile Richards, posting as President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund