Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, making a stop for the Democratic presidential ticket in solidly red Texas, drew parallels Friday between Hillary Clinton's campaign and Richards' mother's trail-blazing path to the Texas governor's office.
"She knew as well as anyone that it's always hard being the first," she said of her mother, Ann Richards, during brief remarks at a Clinton volunteer office in Austin. "And I think that we are seeing day after day the double standard that Hillary Clinton is being held to to become the first woman president of the United States."
When it came to Clinton's chances in the Republican bastion of Texas — which her campaign is paying a little more attention to than presidential candidates usually do — Richards also pointed to the experience of her mom, the last Democrat to have served as governor.
"Could she win here?" Richards said of Clinton after her remarks. "I guess anything could happen. My mom won here, so we can do anything."
Richards, who was introduced by state Sen. Kirk Watson of Austin, otherwise focused her comments on Texas' position on the front lines of battles over women's health care.
"We have been through such a fight in the state of Texas, and of course, unfortunately we've seen — even reported in the national news — some of the things that have happened to women as a result of losing access to health care," Richards told supporters. "It is horrifying to think that the maternal mortality rate doubled in this state. It is horrifying to think that we would have a Legislature that would cut them off of basic family planning, cancer screenings, would refuse to expand Medicaid access, so we have got to do better as a state."
In 2011, lawmakers cut the state’s budget for family planning by two-thirds, leading to the closure of 76 women's health clinics statewide — a third of them Planned Parenthood clinics. Last year, lawmakers also ousted Planned Parenthood from the joint state-federal Breast and Cervical Cancer Services program, which provides cancer screening for poor, uninsured women in Texas.
Richards said she was encouraged by the political activism she has seen in Texas, including the 2013 fight over abortion restrictions highlighted by the now-famous filibuster by then-state Sen. Wendy Davis. Davis and other Senate Democrats knew they did not stand a chance of stopping the legislation, Richards said, but they inspired people to get involved in politics.
While Richards mostly spoke of Clinton and Texas, she did not spare Clinton's Republican rival, Donald Trump. After her remarks, Richards elaborated on what she meant by there being a double standard for the two presidential nominees.
"Hillary Clinton is ... the most qualified and yet I feel like there is this expectation that somehow she's going to be even more than that, and Donald Trump is temperamentally unfit to be the president of the United States," Richards told reporters. "He has zero experience that's needed to lead this country, and there just isn't really any comparison."
Richards' visit to Austin, one of the bluest parts of the state, represented the latest move by the Clinton campaign to energize Democrats in Texas, where polls have shown the presidential race closer than typical. The campaign announced Thursday that it was beginning to open offices in Texas in conjunction with the Democratic National Committee, including one Saturday in Houston.
Read more of the Tribune's related coverage here:
- National Democrats are starting to open offices in Texas ahead of the presidential election in November.
- Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine is returning to Texas later this month to raise money.
Disclosure: Planned Parenthood has been a financial supporter of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.