FARGO – The president of Planned Parenthood is speaking at a local fundraising event here next week.
Cecile Richards, who has led the nonprofit that focuses on reproductive health since 2006, will be a featured speaker at the 11th annual Progress on the Prairie on Dec. 3, a fundraiser for Planned Parenthood in North Dakota, said state public affairs manager Amy Jacobson.
The event is at 5:30 p.m. at Ecce Art Gallery downtown and will be followed by a VIP reception with Richards. It typically draws 100 people and is capped at 200 this year.
"We're expecting to be full," Jacobson said.
Planned Parenthood, which provides abortion services at many of its clinics, has recently come under fire after the release of undercover videos regarding its practices with fetal tissue. The controversy prompted new attempts in several states and Congress to defund the organization.
Jacobson said Richards will use her speech to address that hostility, by saying that "no matter what, Planned Parenthood will be here for the women and families of our country," she said. "No matter what happens, no matter what bills they throw at us, no matter how many attempts they make to defund us as an organization, we will be here for our patients."
Fargo and Moorhead's Planned Parenthood locations don't perform abortions. Fargo's Red River Valley Women's Clinic is the only abortion provider in the state.
Jacobson invited Richards personally after Richards said she had never been to North Dakota. The state has attracted attention from opponents and supporters of abortion rights since the Legislature in 2013 passed a slate of new laws restricting access to abortion.
Despite that, Jacobson said Richards will be thanking North Dakotans next week for defeating a controversial "right to life" proposal last November. Measure 1 would have amended the state constitution to protect life "at any stage of development."
Because voters defeated it, "we were able to move forward some great work during the last legislative session, like the SANE (sexual assault nurse examiner) bill, instead of having to fend off, you know, these abortion restrictions that the people of North Dakota do not want," Jacobson said. The SANE bill included funds to train more nurses in sexual assault exams so that wait times would be shorter for rape victims.
"North Dakota is a conservative state, but we have repeatedly shown that we support the values of Planned Parenthood," Jacobson said.