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Tampa Bay mayors honored at annual Planned Parenthood luncheon

TAMPA — There was wine and chocolate cake and a faint cheer for "girl power."

Even the flower centerpieces at Planned Parenthood's annual local fundraising luncheon made a statement — they were made of condoms.

At least 250 supporters from the Tampa Bay area gathered Tuesday afternoon at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts to honor the mayors of Tampa and St. Petersburg, and to talk about the challenges facing women and their access to affordable health care.

"Here we are in 2016, and they're still trying to prosecute and persecute women in this country," said CEO Barbara Zdravecky, the keynote speaker.

To the crowd of community leaders, lawmakers and political candidates, Zdravecky spoke of the "progression of horribles" that have piled up since controversial video footage leaked last summer of Planned Parenthood officials discussing their fetal tissue donation program.

The videos, though they were not filmed in Florida, still had severe repercussions for Planned Parenthood clinics in the state.

Last month, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a bill requiring abortion clinics to have admitting privileges or transfer agreements with a nearby hospital, which women's health advocates argued unreasonably restricted access to health care.

Also in the wake of the videos' release, state health regulators investigated three Florida Planned Parenthood clinics on charges they were performing unlicensed abortions. The state eventually dropped the case, which Zdravecky argued was politically motivated and meant to tarnish Planned Parenthood's reputation.

During the reception, she spoke of Planned Parenthood's battle to get back the $160,000 in legal fees spent fighting the charges.

"Our public health system in Florida is being dismantled by the governor and folks in the legislature," Zdravecky said. And she used that as the reason supporters should open up their pocketbooks.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a past honoree, echoed that sentiment, sharing stories from her own fight in Washington D.C.

"Hasn't this been an outrageous year?" she asked the crowd.

She criticized Rick Scott and Republican presidential contender Ted Cruz.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn accepted his recognition as someone fighting for reproductive rights, and said his two daughters and doctor wife, an obstetrician, make this issue especially important to him.

"Her life is providing women with adequate health care, with good advice, and the last person she needs between her and her patients is somebody like me, or worse, somebody in Tallahassee, who doesn't understand," Buckhorn said.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman was also acknowledged for his efforts in the fight to obtain equal access to health care, but wasn't able to attend the luncheon.

Before the crowd was dismissed, Zdravecky asked for their continued support.

"Thank you so much," she said. "Onward!"

Contact Katie Mettler at kmettler@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3446. Follow @kemettler on Twitter.

Tampa Bay mayors honored at annual Planned Parenthood luncheon 04/05/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 5, 2016 4:00pm]
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