Posters, stars and lawmakers joined together to raise a call for US lawmakers to maintain funding for women's reproductive health programs from the 2011 budget.
"Over the past few years I've been battling stage three breast cancer, but this is not my first battle with cancer," Carolyn Smithers, a single mother of two teenage girls, on Thursday told several hundred pink-clad demonstrators in Washington protesting bids by Republican lawmakers to halt funding for family planning.
AdvertisementA routine pap smear in a Planned Parenthood clinic when Smithers was 19 found that she had cervical cancer, but caught the illness early enough that she was able to be treated and cured.
"The checkup I received at Planned Parenthood saved my life," Smithers said tearfully after "Sex and the City" star David Eigenberg and Emmy-nominee "Friday Night Lights" star Connie Britton had lit into Republicans for what the celebrities called attacks on women's health rights.
Separately, actress Scarlett Johansson took a break from filming "We Bought a Zoo" in New York to release a video urging Americans to sign an open letter to Congress condemning the plan to cut the Planned Parenthood Federation of America out of the federal budget for 2011.
"A cancer that goes undetected, a sexually transmitted disease left untreated, a woman unable to get the birth control she needs to plan her family and take control of her destiny -- this is the disastrous vision of some leaders in the United States House of Representatives," the star of "Lost in Translation" and "Vicky Cristina Barcelona" said.
The Republican-controlled House of Representatives Appropriations Committee in February proposed slashing the budget for family planning programs by $327 million -- the exact sum requested by Democratic President Barack Obama for such programs in his 2011 budget.
Since then, Republicans and Democrats have been locked in a bitter fight over what programs to cut out of the 2011 budget, with a government shutdown looming as of midnight on Friday if they don't come to an agreement.
Late-night talks at the White House failed to break the budget impasse, and House Republicans Thursday proposed yet another stopgap spending bill to keep the government running beyond this weekend's witching hour.
The temporary measure includes "a provision preventing both federal and local funds from being used to provide abortions in the District of Columbia."
A Republican lawmaker said in February that Planned Parenthood was "the biggest provider of abortion in America."
But Planned Parenthood is barred from using federal money to fund abortions, the organization pointed out Thursday.
"That is not even an issue," a statement sent to AFP said.
"The federal funding Planned Parenthood receives goes towards providing contraception, cancer screenings, and sexually transmitted illness testing and treatment."
Lawmakers seeking to defund Planned Parenthood are "playing 'doctor knows what's best for the little women,"" Democratic Representative Louise Slaughter told the crowd at the foot of the US Capitol.
"But there's nothing in their bills that has anything to do with women's health."