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Guest Voz: Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood: “Today we fight back!”

By Cecile Richards

Today is National Pink Out Day, when millions of people will stand up to support Planned Parenthood and fight back against baseless attacks on reproductive health care.

Some people will attend one of the nearly 300 rallies and events happening across the country today. Others will wear pink clothes to work or change their Facebook or Twitter profile image. Some will get free sexually transmitted infection testing that Planned Parenthood is offering in 28 cities.

All of them have the same message: We know exactly what Planned Parenthood does for millions of people in this country, we will not let those committed to ending abortion access in this country use fraud and deception to cut millions of people off from high-quality preventive care, and we will not stand for this relentless assault on reproductive health care.

It's a message I'll be delivering on Capitol Hill, when I testify this morning in front of one of four committees officially investigating Planned Parenthood. The inquiries were all sparked by false and discredited claims by activists whose real goal is to ban abortion in this country. (For those who may not have seen them, heavily edited videos were released over the summer by a network of extremists who engaged in a massive fraud in order to try to entrap our staff in improper conversations about fetal tissue donation. They didn't catch anyone doing anything wrong, so they edited the tapes to make it look like Planned Parenthood was engaged in wrongdoing, and the media went along for the ride.).

Whether talking to a congressional committee or to your neighbor, here are five things that all of us can make sure people know:

1. Planned Parenthood is fully focused on providing health care and sex education — and we're on the move.

Every year, 2.7 million people come through the doors of our health centers, a million people participate in our sex education programs, and 60 million people get health information and other resources from us online. Today, we're finding new ways to reach even more people. This morning, Planned Parenthood is opening a new health center in Milwaukie, Oregon. This afternoon, we're putting up the walls in a new health center we're building in New Orleans. Today, transgender patients are getting services at our health center in Denver, which just began offering them. And this morning, we announced a new partnership with Junto Health, a leader in health care technology and innovation that we'll work with to find more ways to reach patients quickly and conveniently.

2. The claims being made against Planned Parenthood aren't new — and they're totally false.

Every couple of years, anti-abortion extremists launch a new smear campaign against Planned Parenthood, all following the same pattern: Make outrageous claims, heavily edit undercover videos to support them, whip up media attention, and get right-wing politicians to push for investigations. Every time, the claims fall apart upon closer inspection. This latest smear campaign claims — falsely — that Planned Parenthood is selling fetal tissue. The exact same claim was made in 2000, also involving heavily edited undercover videos, sensational media coverage, and congressional hearings. It was all a lie, as the main witness admitted. This time, even the heavily edited videos do not show Planned Parenthood engaged in any wrongdoing, and three teams of forensic experts concluded that videos significantly distort and misrepresent actual events.

3. This is really part of an extreme political agenda to ban abortion and deny patients the ability to go to Planned Parenthood.

This isn't about fetal tissue. To be clear, fetal tissue research can lead to important medical breakthroughs (it helped lead to the polio vaccine), but Planned Parenthood affiliates in just two states provide this opportunity for their patients. What this is really about is banning abortion and denying women and families the right to go to Planned Parenthood — as the activists and politicians behind this smear campaign have said themselves.

4. The public overwhelmingly supports Planned Parenthood and opposes this extreme agenda.

Today, Planned Parenthood patients and supporters will deliver more than two million petition signatures to Congress, from people in all 50 states who stand with us. Every national and state poll that's been conducted shows that most people support Planned Parenthood, want abortion to remain safe and legal, and want Planned Parenthood to continue to be reimbursed by the government for providing preventive health care services to low-income patients just like other health care providers in this country who serve these patients.

5. This fight is about women, men, and young people across this country whose access to health care is at stake.

This isn't an assault on Planned Parenthood. It's an assault on every woman whose cancer has been detected early because our nurses were able to see her the same day she found a lump. It's an assault on every man who didn't just get HIV test results, but also got a 30-minute counseling session and connections to follow-up care and support. And it's an assault on every woman who decided to end a pregnancy for reasons that are hers and hers alone, and was able to get safe, compassionate abortion services without facing shame or judgment. That's what at stake in this assault on women's health.

When I testify today, I'll tell members of Congress about Dayna Farris-Fisher, one of our patients in Plano, Texas. When I met her a couple weeks ago, she told me that Planned Parenthood saved her life. In 2013, her husband lost his job and their health insurance. Not long after, Dayna found a lump in her breast. The only two clinics she could find that would take a patient without insurance or much money had two-month waiting lists, so Dayna came to Planned Parenthood for a breast exam. Our clinician of 21 years, Vivian, guided her through the process of follow-ups and referrals to make sure her treatment was covered. She called Dayna frequently to check on her as she entered treatment. Dayna is now cancer free and just started a new job — where she'll wear a pink shirt today.

National Pink Out Day is for Dayna and all of the other patients who walk through our doors every day for good health care — and get it, no matter what.

(Editor's Note: This column originally appeared on Huffington Post.)

Cecile Richards is President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Planned Parenthood Action Fund and Planned Parenthood Votes

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