The former president of Planned Parenthood nationwide joined U.S. Senator Jon Tester in Bozeman, Thursday afternoon, to continue the Democrat’s effort to energize his voting base five days before the midterm election.
“Women’s rights are on the ballot this year,” says Cecile Richards, who served as the president of Planned Parent Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Action Fund from 2006 until earlier this year.
Richards and Tester spoke to a crowd of around 60 people in a theater at Montana State University.
There is a sizeable gender gap when it comes for who men and women in Montana are expected to vote for this year, according to a poll of over 2000 likely voters conducted by Montana Television Network and MSU in late September and early October.
According to the poll, women favor Tester by about 13-percentage points. Men favor Rosendale by about 6 points.
“Our access to health care, our ability to make equal pay, our ability to get affordable childcare and participate in the workforce - so, for women, this is it. This is the election,” Richards says.
Richards and Tester also said this year’s election could determine the future of the Affordable Care Act. Tester’s opponent in the Senate race, Republican State Insurance Commissioner Matt Rosendale has pledged to work to real and replace the ACA.
Tester says the ACA isn’t perfect but it is increasing people’s access to health care.
“Look there are plenty of problems with the ACA that need to be fixed and need to be fixed in a bipartisan way. But just to repeal it and throw all the good things away that that bill did, is a big mistake. I’ve had plenty of debates with folks that say, look, my health care rates are too high. And so this is a problem. We've got to figure out ways to help drive it down for everybody, including women.”
Tester and Richards talked about the importance of access to and affordability of health care, working on bipartisan health care policy, and reinforced throughout their conversation what they say is at stake for women’s health care this election.
Not once during the roughly 40-minute event did Tester ever say the word ‘abortion,’ which is among the many health care services provided by Planned Parenthood, but undoubtedly the most politically charged.
Throughout Tester’s reelection bid, he’s continued to walk a fine line trying to appeal to the state’s conservatives that helped put Donald Trump in the White House, as well as appealing to Montana’s Democratic base.
Tester said Planned Parenthood shouldn’t be controversial when talking about health care access in Montana.
“No, everybody, everybody. I don’t care if you’re a Republican, Independent, Democrat, Libertarian, it doesn’t matter. Look, Planned Parenthood offers healthcare to people. In a rural state like Montana that access is critical. Not unlike community health centers, not unlike small hospitals throughout the state.”
Cecile Richards, formerly of Planned Parenthood leadership, is the most recent high-profile name to campaign on behalf of one of the candidates in Montana’s U.S. Senate race. Tester has also drawn on Actor Jeff Bridges and the band Pearl Jam to help rally support.
Republican Matt Rosendale has leaned on the celebrity appearances of President Trump and his surrogates. Trump will be back stumping for Rosedale this Saturday in Belgrade, his fourth trip to Montana. Vice President Mike Pence is making his third visit to the state on Monday.