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I'm Voting for Our Future: Cecile Richards on the Significance of This Election

On Election Day, the Planned Parenthood president reflects on the incredible women who have gotten us here—and the millions of people whose lives will be impacted by who we elect.

Cecile Richards

Photo by Jennifer Graylock via Getty

I've been thinking a lot during this campaign about the incredible women, including my mom, who came before us to make this election possible. Voting for Hillary Clinton is a way to honor all their work and sacrifice to get us here today. But my vote isn't about the past. It's about the women who are here right now. It's about the future.

In particular, my vote tomorrow is for the 2.5 million patients a year who come to Planned Parenthood health centers for care, many of whom will want to come back next year, too. They come for health care that is straight-up, no-judgment, high quality, and affordable: women who need Planned Parenthood to check out a lump in their breast; young women who have their first job but no insurance and need birth control; women who get pregnant when they aren't expecting to and need somewhere to go and someone to talk to; young people who think they might have an STI and need to get tested and treated right away.

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These are the people I'm voting for. These are the folks that Donald Trump and Mike Pence are going to block from health care the minute they have the chance. That's the promise they made—to end access to Planned Parenthood, and, as Mike Pence says, put Roe v. Wade on "the ash heap of history." One of two candidates for president is going to appoint the ninth justice to the Supreme Court, meaning it could be within Trump's power to do just that.

Patients depend on Planned Parenthood health centers for their health care, for their dignity, and for their right to make their own decisions about their pregnancies and future. I'm voting for them.

Hillary has been on the side of Planned Parenthood patients her entire lifetime, whether it was putting women's rights on the national stage as First Lady or fighting to get emergency contraception over the counter as a US Senator. She declared to the world at the final debate in Las Vegas that she supported access to Planned Parenthood and the right of all women to make their own decisions about their pregnancies. That's our right—and we need a President who will stand for us.

Four years ago, President Obama spoke in the second 2012 presidential debate about Planned Parenthood and the lifesaving work of the organization. He made the point that he supported Planned Parenthood, while Mitt Romney had pledged to get rid of it. (It was not an idle threat, and the Republican-led Congress has voted nine times in the last year to do just that. Only because of President Obama has Planned Parenthood been able to continue to provide care to millions of people each year.)

A few days after that debate, a woman came into a Planned Parenthood health center in Houston because she had felt a lump in her breast. She didn't have a doctor. The clinician who saw her thanked her for coming in and said they could take care of her. Then she said, "Can I ask who referred you?"

The woman replied, "Well, I heard President Obama say in the debate on TV the other night that you do breast exams, and that's why I'm here."

That pretty much sums it up. That woman in Houston with nowhere to go: She's why I'm here. She's who I'm voting for, campaigning for, getting out the vote for. Not my mom, not my grandmother, not the extraordinary women who fought to get us this. My vote is for the women who are here today, and whose lives will be either much better or much worse depending upon whom we elect.

My mom, Ann Richards, served as the governor of Texas and was as fierce a fighter for the underdog as that state ever knew. She believed that public service was a calling and that she was blessed to have a job that actually could make a difference in the lives of other people. As she said, "Why should your life only be about you?"

She was right. This election, in large part, isn't only about you. It's about the millions of people who are counting on us, counting on Planned Parenthood, counting on their government to be on their side. I'm with them—and I hope you are, too.