Hillary Clinton Delivers Impassioned Speech on "Unprecedented Attacks" on Women at Planned Parenthood Gala

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Hillary Clinton

"Let's respect people's convictions, but never back down from our commitment to defend the ability of every woman to make these deeply personal decisions for herself," said Clinton at the gala, also lauding Shonda Rhimes.

Hours after declaring to CNN that she is "back to being an active citizen, and part of the resistance," Hillary Clinton kept her word by delivering an impassioned speech on the "unprecedented attacks" on women's rights at Planned Parenthood's 100th-anniversary gala in New York City.

"Protecting access to the full range of reproductive health care. It is a health issue, of course, it is a core economic issue. Women in every corner of our country understand that intimately. And anyone who wants to lead should also understand that fundamentally, this is an issue of morality," urged Clinton upon accepting the Champion of the Century Award after a standing ovation from attendees including Meryl Streep, Julianne Moore, Scarlett Johansson, Chelsea Handler and Harvey Weinstein. "I wish it were common ground, but I know for sure it is higher ground. And I believe, as you do, that trusting and valuing women is the right and moral position to take."

Of the country’s current division on the matter, Clinton explained, "I believe we can and should respect deeply held beliefs of our friends, our neighbors, our fellow citizens, even if they differ from our own. That's what should make America, America. But it is possible to do that while holding firm to what we know is the only right approach in our diverse democracy. Oh, yes, let's respect people's convictions, but never back down from our commitment to defend the ability of every woman to make these deeply personal decisions for herself."

Throughout her speech, Clinton shared statistics "just to provide a little additional information for those who are determined to end the work of Planned Parenthood anyway they can" and noted how "this administration wants to appoint someone to lead our nation’s family planning program who doesn’t believe in birth control,” yet never mentioned Donald Trump by name. “As we speak, politicians in Washington are still doing everything they can to roll back the rights and progress we've fought so hard for over the last century. I mean, could you believe those photos of men around that conference table, deciding how to strip away coverage for pregnancy and maternity care? I gotta say, my favorite internet meme about this were the dogs sitting around the table discussing feline care — I found that so on point!"

Clinton also commented on the Hulu series The Handmaid’s Tale before leaving the stage. “I’m not suggesting this dystopian future is around the corner, but this show has prompted important conversations about women’s rights and autonomy,” she said. “In The Handmaid’s Tale, women’s rights are gradually, slowly stripped away. As one character says, ‘We didn’t look up from our phones until it was too late.’ It is not too late for us, but we have to encourage the millions of women and men who support Planned Parenthood’s mission to keep fighting. To paraphrase Margaret Atwood, we can never let them grind us down.”

Shonda Rhimes was also honored at the rose-colored ceremony at Pier 36. "Protecting the health of women requires champions in 2017. ... I don't understand how anyone can feel our health needs are really an option, but also feel that erectile dysfunction medication should be covered by insurance," said the prolific showrunner upon accepting the Champion for Change Award, presented by Streep. She reiterated that the controversial plotline in which her Scandal heroine Olivia Pope (played by Kerry Washington) gets an abortion because "it's her legal right," and that "in Shondaland, my goal is not to reflect the exact world, it's to show you what happens when women run things." Of her work to push women forward on and offscreen, she pledged, "That was me at half speed. Me at full speed, you better get out of my way. ... Here I am, full speed ahead."

The program began with opening remarks from Handler, who led the Women's March at the Sundance Film Festival. After a final speech from Halsey, attendees closed off the night with an afterparty led by Questlove.

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