The following is the text of Patti Harris’ remarks as prepared for the Lasker-Bloomberg Public Service Award in New York City on Friday, September 15 2017:
“Good afternoon. I have the privilege of introducing this year’s Lasker-Bloomberg Public Service Award recipient. The award honors exceptional individuals or organizations that have strengthened medical research, public health, or healthcare in ways that significantly benefit the greater good.
“The Lasker Foundation is an amazing organization. So I want to recognize Dr. Pomeroy, board chair Mike Overlock, and, especially, board member Al Sommer who is a longtime friend, the chair of the Lasker-Bloomberg Award selection committee, and also an outstanding member of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ board.
“When Mike Bloomberg endowed this award in 2011, our goal was to help recognize those who are making the biggest difference in the greatest number of lives, which is also our foundation’s mission.
“In the past, winners like Doctors Without Borders and Bill and Melinda Gates exemplified our goal. This year’s Lasker-Bloomberg Award recipient – Planned Parenthood – is a perfect example of our mission.
“Planned Parenthood was founded a century ago on the idea – which was revolutionary at the time – that every woman should have access to the care and information needed to live a healthy life.
“At Bloomberg Philanthropies, we’ve gotten the chance to see how effectively it carries out its mission to provide high-quality, affordable healthcare. We’ve supported their work protecting the health and rights of women and families in Nicaragua, Burkina Faso, Senegal, and Uganda. And in the U.S., when others have withdrawn funding due to political pressure, Mike Bloomberg has doubled down on his longtime support.
“Across the world, Planned Parenthood works to provide better access to contraception, opposes laws that restrict a woman’s right to choose, and uses evidence to show that expanding reproductive health access not only reduces unintended pregnancies, but also empowers women and strengthens communities.
“Unfortunately, even after a hundred years, their work is far from over. In fact, Planned Parenthood is facing more attacks than at any point in decades. Washington has blocked foreign aid – through the global gag rule – to any organization that even mentions abortion as an option and Congress has been threatening to join a number of states that have attempted to cut off funding to the group.
“Forty years after Roe v. Wade, we can’t allow our country to take steps backwards! And I can assure you that Planned Parenthood is not backing down and neither are their supporters.
“There is no one who could lead these efforts more effectively than Cecile Richards. Cecile is a tireless advocate of women’s health rights and has built an incredible team and an amazing board – including current board chair Naomi Aberly and former chairs Jill Lafer and Alexis McGill Johnson, who are all here today.
“Most recently they ensured that Planned Parenthood would continue to receive federal funds to support their work and were crucial in expanding access to contraception for 55 million women under the Affordable Care Act – a truly remarkable achievement!
“Cecile’s mother, Ann Richards, was a legendary governor of Texas and I’ve read that she liked paraphrasing the 20th century poet Edna St. Vincent Millay’s saying, ‘Life isn’t one thing after another. It’s the same damn thing over and over.’
“When it comes to women’s rights and healthcare this quote is far too often true. We face the same challenges over and over.
“But we have and will continue to make progress thanks to Planned Parenthood – and leaders like Cecile, Naomi, Jill, and Alexis – with the determination, dedication, and drive to meet any challenge along the way.
“I could not think of a more deserving recipient of the Lasker-Bloomberg Award.”