A record number of people stood with Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast last week when the health care organization held its annual fundraising luncheon to celebrate the 47th anniversary of landmark Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade, which affirmed the constitutional right to abortion.
The Jan. 31 event at downtown's Marriott Marquis Hotel marked PPGC's most successful luncheon to date, raising more than $1.1 million for the organization that provided more than 100,000 health care visits last year and recently expanded services to include trans and primary care.
"We believe deeply in the right of all people, no matter who they are, where they live, what they earn, or who they love, to access the health care and information they need," PPGC President and CEO Melaney A. Linton said.
The 2,350-strong crowd included a "wonderfully long list" of elected officials, as Linton said before recognizing them: Mayor Sylvester Turner; U.S. Reps. Lizzie Pannill Fletcher, Sheila Jackson Lee, and Al Green; State Sens. Carol Alvarado and Armando Walle; State Reps. Alma Allen, Gina Calanni, Sarah Davis, Anna Eastman, Christina Morales, Mary Ann Perez, Ron Reynolds, Jon Rosenthal, and Gene Wu; Harris County Judge Linda Hidalgo; District Attorney Kim Ogg; District Clerks Marilyn Burgess and Diane Trautman; Tax Assessor-Collector Ann Harris Bennett; County Attorney Vince Ryan; Council Members Karla Cisneros, Abbie Kamin, and Sallie Alcorn; and HISD officials.
Linton thanked them—and all supporters—for standing by PPGC, especially as "politicians in Washington, D.C. and Austin have relentlessly blocked our path." The week before the luncheon, the Trump Administration bucked federal precedent by renewing Medicaid funding for Texas's family planning program for low-income women that allows the state to exclude providers it deems "affiliated" with abortion—providers like Planned Parenthood.
Nationally, abortion represented about 4 percent of the medical services Planned Parenthood performed in 2019, compared with 50 percent for STI testing and treatment, 26 percent for contraception, 13 percent for other women's health services, and 6 percent for cancer screenings.
PPGC's 2020 luncheon theme was "Clear Vision for the Future." For the organization, that means "a world where every child is wanted and cared for; all individuals have equal rights and dignity; sexuality is expressed with honesty, equality, and responsibility; and the decision to bear children is private and voluntary."
And though the future of reproductive rights is uncertain under the Trump Administration and a newly conservative Supreme Court, Linton said, "let me be clear about what is certain: Planned Parenthood's doors stay open no matter what." When it comes to offering comprehensive health care and sexual health information, she added, "we will never waver."
Friends Peggie Kohnert and Gina Carroll and their daughters Vail Kohnert-Yount and Jennifer, Jillian, and Jessica Carroll co-chaired this year's event, making it a multi-generational family affair. That theme continued with the presentation of the Second Century Award to Lillie Robertson, Beth Robertson, and Cullen Geiselman for their family's decades of support, which dates back to 1947 when philanthropist and business owner Hugh Roy Cullen served on the first fundraising campaign for PPGC back when it was still known as the Maternal Health Center. Since 1992, the Cullen Trust for Health Care has partnered with PPGC to provide services and information.
Fittingly, there was also a strong "girl power" theme to the entire affair—right down to the soundtrack, with anthems like Britney Spears's "Stronger" and Lizzo's "Good As Hell" punctuating program breaks. The afternoon culminated with keynote conversationalists Ann Friedman and Aminatou Sow, co-hosts of popular podcast Call Your Girlfriend. They theorized that "friendship is political" by highlighting historical figures who harnessed the power of friendship to create social change. Examples included Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony, Wilma Mankiller and Gloria Steinem, and—to raucous applause in the Texas-sized ballroom—Gov. Ann Richards and Molly Ivins.