The 27th Annual Planned Parenthood Awards Luncheon took place Wednesday at the Omni Dallas Hotel. The North Texas branch reached its goal to raise $1 million in donations for the first time, exceeding the set amount within two hours.
While celebrating International Women’s Day, Planned Parenthood carried its theme of “I stand with Planned Parenthood” in regards to the House Republicans’ recent American Health Care Act proposal. After welcoming remarks from Rabbi Alan R. Freedman, Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas board chair, and the invocation from Rev. Dr. Neil G. Cazares-Thomas of Cathedral of Hope, United Church of Christ, the luncheon chairs, Lindsay Billingsley and Laura Wright, presented the 2017 Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Awards.
The Gertrude Shelburne Humanitarian Award was given to First Unitarian Church of Dallas that has been a “proudly progressive religious community since 1899 with a focus on promoting social justice and service for 118 years.”
The Gertrude Shelburne Volunteer of the Year Award was presented to Isaiah Merritt, a senior at the Barack Obama Male Leadership Academy. Merritt has accumulated more than 140 community service hours at Planned Parenthood. Billingsley and Wright highlighted his passion for philanthropy and his plan to consider attending Ouachita Baptist University to major in theater.
President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas Kenneth Lambrecht gave his remarks afterward, touching on the “challenges we’re facing as an organization, but how strong we remain.” Lambrecht noted Congress’ newest proposal to block uninsured members from coming to Planned Parenthood for services with tighter Medicaid restrictions, saying despite the lower reimbursement rates, they have re-sized in order to provide help to as many individuals as they can.
“Healthcare is a right, not a privilege, and certainly should not be a political statement,” Lambrecht said. He also reviewed a four-part initiative to keep Planned Parenthood active and provide “education and health services” to 15,000 North Texans. “We want to expand education [and services] to ensure the next generation is the healthiest ever,” Lambrecht said.
Speaker and actor Stephanie March later introduced the luncheon’s keynote speaker, Marcia Clark. Clark, an author, legal analyst, and former Los Angeles prosecutor—she’s best known for her role in the O.J. Simpson murder trial—spoke about her past experiences, women’s rights, and Planned Parenthood’s personal impact on her life.
“In a society that marginalizes women … women’s rights are civil rights and it’s so fundamental,” Clark said. “Can you imagine it being the other way and telling a man that? They wouldn’t allow it.”