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Gov. Wolf visits Philly's Planned Parenthood to offer support

Rita Giordano, Staff Writer

Updated: Thursday, September 7, 2017, 4:26 PM

Gov. Wolf pauses outside the Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center on Locust Street during his visit Thursday.

Gov. Wolf, an advocate of Planned Parenthood, visited Philadelphia’s Elizabeth Blackwell Health Center on Thursday to show his support for the work of the agency and its volunteers — and to send a not-so-subtle message to those who would disagree.

“I think what you are doing is more important than ever before, and the need is great,” said Wolf, the state’s top Democrat, to a gathering of Planned Parenthood staff and volunteers after touring the Locust Street center.

Wolf’s visit came on the heels of the Planned Parenthood national organization’s receipt of a prestigious Lasker-Bloomberg Public Service Award for “providing essential health services and reproductive care to millions of women for more than a century.”

The award is seen as public show of support for services to women at a time when some of those services are politically imperiled.

Planned Parenthood, with its activism for reproductive rights, sexual education for youth, and support of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer communities, has long been a bull’s-eye for conservative opponents and is continuously in the crosshairs of Republican leaders on Capitol Hill and elsewhere. In the spring, some Republican legislators in Pennsylvania tried to drum up support for excluding Planned Parenthood from Medicaid funding.

Members of Planned Parenthood’s many constituencies, including most recently undocumented immigrants, increasingly feel at risk as the Trump administration seeks to dismantle programs and whittle away at gains that had been achieved through Obama-era policies.

With television cameras running, Wolf sought to give a voice to some of those constituents and offer his support.

Phebe Brandt, a Planned Parenthood staff clinician, spoke of a woman who visited the clinic with undiagnosed cancer. Brandt said she was able to get the woman quick access to a local hospital so she could have her condition confirmed and start treatment.

Jasmine Riveria, an advocate for immigrants, said many undocumented women would go without care if not for Planned Parenthood.

“The reality is our folks have to put off [care] because they can’t afford it,” she said.

Katharine Miller, a Planned Parenthood volunteer, recalled her own personal story with the organization. As a student, her private doctor denied her follow-up care after a surgery because she was no longer covered by her parents’ insurance and the doctor would not accept her Medicaid coverage. Planned Parenthood saw her.

And Signe Espinoza, another patient volunteer and advocate, told how Planned Parenthood helped her terminate an unwanted pregnancy years ago. She and the father have since married and she has been accepted to graduate school. They plan to have a family.

At the gathering, Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania was also highlighted for beginning to offer hormone-therapy services for transgender patients at its Philadelphia and Pottstown offices.

Wolf and his wife, Frances, have served as escorts for Planned Parenthood patients attempting to enter the agency’s York office.

In comments after his visit with the Philadelphia Planned Parenthood staff, Wolf said his stance isn’t political. “It’s practical,” he said of supporting needed health care for members of the community.

Rita Giordano, Staff Writer

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