“No matter how great the challenge, no matter how fierce the opposition, there’s one thing that the past few years have shown,” said President Obama, “that Planned Parenthood is not going anywhere. It’s not going anywhere today. It’s not going anywhere tomorrow."
He continued: “As long as we’ve got to fight to make sure women have access to quality affordable healthcare, and as long as we’ve got to fight to protect a women’s right to make her own choices about her own health, I want you to know that you’ve also got a president who’s going to be with you fighting with you every step of the way.”
Obama was greeted enthusiastically by the crowd of some 1,000 Planned Parenthood supporters. "You're making me blush," he said in response to the protracted standing ovation.
During his speech he aimed his sights directly at pro-life activists. "The fact is, after decades of progress, there's still those who want to turn back the clock to policies more suited to the 1950s than the 21st Century," Obama said. "And they've been involved in an orchestrated and historic effort to roll back basic rights when it comes to women's health."
"When politicians try to turn Planned Parenthood into a punching bag, they're not just talking about you," he said. "They're talking about the millions of women who you serve."
He also recounted how Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, “describes Planned Parenthood as the only organization that she’s ever been at where there are opponents who, in her own words, 'literally get up every day trying to figure out how to keep us from doing our work.'”
He then quipped, “If she had worked in the administration she would be more familiar with this phenomenon.”
Obama had been widely criticized for speaking to Planned Parenthood in the shadow of the trial of abortionist Kermit Gosnell, who stands accused of murdering several newborn babies after botched late-term abortions. During his speech, the president made no reference to the trial, and avoided any direct mention of the word abortion, instead referencing "choice."
Obama had originally been scheduled to headline Planned Parenthood's gala on Thursday evening, but backed out at the last minute earlier this week, saying that he wanted to spend more time at a memorial service for the victims of the fertilizer plant explosion in West Texas.
In his speech he also pleaded with Planned Parenthood clinic workers to help him get the word out about his health care reform law. Initial reports are suggesting that enrollment for the law's health care exchanges are dismally low, putting the whole law in jeaporady.
He concluded his speech saying, "Thank you Planned Parenthood. God bless you."
President Obama was reportedly the first sitting president ever to address Planned Parenthood.
In the lead up to today's speech, pro-life activists had demanded that Obama cancel his appearance, pointing not only to the Gosnell trial, but also to Planned Parenthood lobbyist Alisa LaPolt Snow's testimony before the Florida House apparently defending infanticide, and revelations of horrendous conditions at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Delaware.
In a statement, Lila Rose of Live Action News, had said: "Over the past few weeks, we have heard the brutal details of the slaughter of innocent human beings that goes on within the walls of many abortion clinics, including Gosnell’s ‘House of Horrors’ in Philadelphia and the ‘meat-market’ ‘assembly-line’ Planned Parenthood of Delaware."
“These accounts by former clinic staff have shell-shocked the nation and it is incumbent upon the President to reconsider his support for the abortion industry and Planned Parenthood, which last year profited from abortion $87 million dollars committing over 300,000 abortions,” she said.
Obama has long had a close relationship with Planned Parenthood, which donated $15 million to his re-election campaign last year.
In a press release published earlier this week announcing the president's planned appearance at their gala, Cecile Richards heaped accolades on the president, saying: “President Obama has done more than any president in history for women’s health and rights.”
During the recent election cycle he repeatedly touted Planned Parenthood on the campaign trail, and condemned Republican lawmakers for seeking to defund the abortion giant. On election day, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards went door-to-door canvassing for the president.