Planned Parenthood President, Cecile Richards, Participates in Panel Discussion on Healthcare Equality

In an impassioned panel discussion, four local and national advocates for healthcare equality took to the Nittany Lion Inn on Thursday night to deliver a message: healthcare should be a basic human right, not a privilege.  The panel included Roselyn Constantino, Penn State Altoona women’s, gender and sexuality studies professor; Centre County Women’s Resource Center Counselor, Michelle Hamilton; Penn State graduate student and volunteer for Planned Parenthood, Roman Jaramillo; and the guest of honor, Planned Parenthood President, Cecile Richards.

Richards became an ‘organizer’ during her college years as she advocated for immigrant janitors to be paid a living wage. Richards, along with the other panelists, expressed extreme distaste for a society in which low-income families are forced to accept mediocre care or neglect care altogether, due to their socioeconomic status.

“There’s no illusion that because there’s some constitutional right somewhere that that’s actually equal to true access in America,” Richards said. 

In a political administration that’s cracking down on immigration, one of the most disproportionately at risk communities due to healthcare access bias are that of legal and illegal immigrants. According to Richards, fears of deportation and legal trouble hinder these patients from accessing essential health screenings. 

Not only do these fears prevent people from obtaining necessary healthcare, but Hamilton argues that they enable both abusers and traffickers by giving them a bargaining tool - go to the police and face deportation. This anxiety often forces people to stay in toxic situations in order to avoid the ICE. 

Immigration is one thing the panelists unanimously agreed should be at the forefront of any healthcare access discussion. For any immigrants seeking healthcare in Centre County and nationally, the Centre County Women’s Resource Center and Planned Parenthood can't and won't ask for immigration documentation.

In addition to stressing the importance of inclusion of immigrants in healthcare, Richards encouraged student activism on all fronts, saying, “We cannot overstate the importance that we all have to stand together now, not only because it’s the right thing to do but because that’s how we’re going to change this country.”

Richards recently announced that she will be stepping down from her position as president of the reproductive healthcare organization. She's looking to put her energy into championing causes near to her heart during the 2018 midterm elections. 


Header image: Allie Maniglia