Event co-chair Lindsay Billingsley was hoping to make headlines on March 8, aka International Women’s Day, when Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas hosted its 2017 Dallas awards luncheon. The way to do it, she figured, was to raise more money than Dallas ever had for the vital organization. Or, for that matter, to raise more money than any Planned Parenthood local affiliate ever had during a single lunch.
Well, PPGT did it: The fundraising total surpassed $1 million. They had $800,000 when they walked into the Omni Hotel in downtown Dallas, and the 1,600 people in the ballroom — 300 more than last year — got the tally into the seven figures.
Those numbers are not surprising given the current climate, as Planned Parenthood is under attack, causing its supporters to rally. Rabbi Alan Freedman, PPGT board chair, was clear in his opening remarks that nothing would stop Planned Parenthood from continuing to offer affordable, critical healthcare services, including abortion, to millions of American women.
Another message was clear throughout the afternoon: Now more than ever, regardless of our political affiliations, we must stand united in protecting women’s rights.
After a powerful invocation from the Rev. Dr. Neil Cazares-Thomas, Billingsley and her fellow co-chair, Laura Wright, approached the podium. It was then that Billingsley admitted she was a bit jealous of the publicity the Fort Worth Planned Parenthood luncheon — and its speaker, Barbara Bush — had received. Hence the ambitious fundraising goal.
She urged everyone to text in their donations, which were tallied live on the projection screens. We couldn’t help but notice that $500 donation from keynote speaker Marcia Clark herself.
Clark, best known as the prosecutor on the O.J. Simpson case, was interviewed onstage by Dallas native Stephanie March — who also is known as a prosecutor, of the fictional variety anyway, from her time on Law & Order: SVU. March was a natural choice as special guest, because her great-grandmother founded the West Texas Mother’s Health Center, which later became part of Planned Parenthood of West Texas, in 1938.
They were a fun pair to watch, as they bantered about such topics as Clark’s seeing her life re-created on TV (Sarah Paulson did such a good job it was sometimes hard to watch, Clark said), celebrities, cameras in the courtroom, sexism, and fiction writing. Regarding the latter, Clark realized a childhood dream when she published Blood Defense.
Naturally the conversation also veered toward Planned Parenthood, and its important role in giving women not only expert healthcare, but also options. Clark commented that during her days as a practicing lawyer, she saw far too many women who had difficulty breaking the cycle of poverty. Something as simple as having access to birth control can change a woman’s path.
In closing, March asked Clark to pose for a selfie, with the audience in the background. We are pretty sure March wanted to send the pic to her mom.
In addition to hearing from these two inspiring women, attendees joined Planned Parenthood in honoring First Unitarian Church of Dallas and Isaiah Merrit, recipients of the Gertrude Shelburne Humanitarian Award and the Gertrude Shelburne Volunteer Award, respectively.
Planned Parenthood of Greater Texas creates healthier communities by providing comprehensive reproductive and related healthcare services, delivering science-based education programs, and serving as a strong advocate for reproductive justice in Texas.