The Virginia League of Planned Parenthood honored Gov. Terry McAuliffe this week for supporting reproductive rights and vetoing legislation that would have defunded the nonprofit organization.
McAuliffe received the Mary Anne Rennolds Award, named after the VLPP’s first board chair, at a ceremony Wednesday night at the Glave Kocen Gallery in Richmond.
“The governor has been a champion for reproductive rights and protecting women’s health from the very beginning of his time in office,” said Allison Cooper, Planned Parenthood’s current board chair. “This award represents our appreciation for his unwavering commitment to ensuring access to affordable and high-quality health care for everyone who walks through our doors.”
In February, for the second year in a row, McAuliffe vetoed a bill that would have prohibited the state from providing grants or contracts to Planned Parenthood and other organizations that provide abortions. Republicans wanted to channel the money to other health clinics that they say provide more comprehensive services.
In accepting the award, McAuliffe said laws and regulations restricting women’s health affect the state’s economy.
“We are a different state today than we were three years ago,” he said. “Women are treated with dignity and respect, and that is how we’ve been able to create so many jobs – by being open and welcoming to everyone.”
Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney, who gave the keynote address at the award ceremony, echoed that message.
“To start throwing roadblocks and obstacles for women, it will change our ability to attract the best and the brightest to the city,” the mayor said.
Stoney said he knows the importance of Planned Parenthood because he himself was once a client.
“My first year in Richmond after I graduated from James Madison, I also used Planned Parenthood,” Stoney said. “I wasn’t making a lot of money, and I needed health care.”
Stoney reflected on his time at James Madison University when, as student body president, he was introduced to Planned Parenthood. He rallied opposition to efforts by state Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg, to discontinue the distribution of the morning-after pill on campus.
“They got their way that day, but we were persistent. We waited it out till (then-Gov.) Mark Warner appointed some new members to the Board of Visitors. And sure enough, we re-enacted the engagement of the morning-after pill, and we called that a win.”
In his address, Stoney listed some of the VLPP services that he learned about during his first visit to a Planned Parenthood clinic.
“From the women who can now afford regular checkups, to the men who receive life-saving prostate exams, to the children who benefit from proper prenatal care – our community needs Planned Parenthood,” Stoney said.
According to the current president and CEO of the VLPP, Paulette McElwain, the number of people who use Planned Parenthood’s services continues to grow.
“In March, we had a record number of 3,300 visits,” she said. “And this year, we are expected to see over 36,000 visits.”
McElwain congratulated the organization’s sex education program in the Newport News public school system. Since the program started in 2012, Newport News has seen a decrease of 40 percent in its teen pregnancy rate, she said. The program is expected to expand to the Suffolk area in the next three years.
During the awards ceremony, Stoney congratulated McAuliffe on being “a brick wall” against legislation that would roll back abortion rights.
Earlier in the week, the governor received the Brick Wall Award from NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia, an abortion rights advocacy group.