While the mission of Planned Parenthood is near to actress and activist Ashley Judd’s heart, what that can mean is often misconstrued.
“There’s been a lot of unintended pregnancy in my family,” Judd said in an interview with the Daily News before taking the stage at the 10th annual Choice Affair, Planned Parenthood’s largest local fundraiser, held Saturday.
The important thing for people to remember though, is that Planned Parenthood is first and foremost a healthcare option regardless of one’s ability to pay, offering an array of services, said Judd, star of such films as “Double Jeopardy,” “The Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood” and “Heat.”
“This year, for example, in Collier County 97 percent of Planned Parenthood services have nothing to do with abortion,” Judd said. “In other words, last year , three percent of the services provided were abortions and there’s this huge, exaggerated emphasis on that, when in fact 97 percent of people who walk through the door are looking for straight healthcare. I would imagine that that’s statistically shocking to some.”
Going into her speech to more than 400 attendees at the fundraiser, held at the Naples Beach Hotel & Golf Club, Judd said she can recite statistics and debate policy, but so can a lot of other people.
“The most helpful thing I can do when I speak is to speak from my heart and tell my story,” she said. “Hopefully I’ll have the willingness to be vulnerable.”
Event chairwoman Marla Weiss introduced Judd, noting that last year Gloria Steinem was the featured speaker and this year they were searching for the same level of "equal feminist icon status," but for a younger crowd.
"Our purpose was not to invite an actress ... Rather our purpose was to invite an activist who has traveled around the world," Weiss said.
Planned Parenthood President and CEO Stephanie Marshall said Judd was a clear choice given her perception as someone who empowers women, and as someone who is such an eloquent speaker.
“Ashley’s done a lot of work and she’s spoken out so much for women to speak up for themselves and make good decisions and we really wanted to bring that to Naples,” Marshall said.
But not everyone was happy about the event. A line of anti-abortion protestors lined the entrance to the hotel, upset that Planned Parenthood does offer abortion services in Collier County.
“They spend $350 per plate and we just want to show them what their money is really being spent on, on top of the $30 million in taxpayer dollars Planned Parenthood gets,” said protestor and Naples resident Terese Flanigan.
The protests were enough to get passerby Laurie Cherbonnier to stop, park, and grab a sign. She said it’s a deeply held belief system that led to her standing on a corner, enduring crude gestures from the event’s attendees.
“I think a lot of people think Planned Parenthood just doles out birth control and if they see our signs, they might think twice,” she said. “It is the most barbaric practice ... That shows indifference to cruelty and they need to understand that.”
Pro-life activist since 1975, Fred Goduti said he was at the event to open eyes.
“They don’t help children, they kill them. So we’re here to speak for the voiceless,” Goduti said.
But Marshall said its important for people to keep in mind that abortion is not the focus or the mission of Planned Parenthood.
“We provide comprehensive women’s healthcare including well women exams, breast exams, prenatal care, miscarriage care and provide information about a range of women’s health issues and our doors are open to anyone regardless of their ability to pay.”
Marshall said in Collier County the poor and uninsured wouldn’t have anywhere else to go without the donors supporting the group at events like Saturday’s.
“In our community, 20 percent of women of childbearing age are in poverty, and 40 percent are uninsured,” Marshall said. “We’re proud of the high quality care we can give our patients.”