FORT WORTH, Texas — Feminist icon Gloria Steinem said Gov. Rick Perry has without a doubt created a lasting legacy in Texas.
When the state's longest-serving governor and former GOP presidential candidate signed off on plans to shrink funding for family planning -- and revamped the women's healthcare program, excluding Planned Parenthood from participating -- his place in history became clear, she said.
"He personally will go down in history as an authoritarian -- a dictatorial, unacceptable American," Steinem, 78, told the Star-Telegram on Friday before speaking to a crowd of more than 800 during the annual Planned Parenthood luncheon at the Omni Fort Worth Hotel downtown.
"This does not compensate for the women who are suffering from the lack of healthcare because of his actions and the amounts of federal funds this state has lost because of his actions."
She recommended that Texans "dis-elect him, get rid of him, get rid of the guy."
"Can't you impeach him?"
Steinem fought for women's rights for decades, playing a key role in the women's liberation movement and helping to pave the way for others.
Through the years, she co-founded New York Magazine and Ms. magazine and was an outspoken supporter of abortion rights. She helped create the National Women's Political Caucus, the Women's Action Alliance and the Women's Media Center.
She was the keynote speaker at Friday's luncheon, which raised more than $230,000 for Planned Parenthood.
Among those attending were U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Fort Worth; state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth; state Reps. Lon Burnam and Nicole Collier, both D-Fort Worth; state Rep. Chris Turner, D-Grand Prairie; Tarrant County Commissioner Roy Brooks; and Fort Worth City Council members Joel Burns and Kelly Allen Gray.
On Friday, Steinem said women's healthcare is suffering in Texas mainly because of decisions by the 2011 Legislature, led by Perry.
The Legislature revamped the Texas Women's Health Program, which provides crucial screenings and birth control to women who lack insurance. And it prevented Planned Parenthood -- a family planning group long criticized by abortion opponents because of its separate affiliates that provide abortions -- from participating. The plan was upheld by the courts.
State lawmakers also cut funding for family planning by 66 percent, from $111 million to $38 million, for the current two-year budget. As a result, dozens of health centers closed, including 14 Planned Parenthood facilities, one of them in Arlington.
Because fewer facilities are open, the group estimates that 160,000 women a year will lose healthcare and that Medicaid-eligible women will have 23,760 additional births, which could cost Texas taxpayers up to $273 million.
"These two actions have jeopardized healthcare for 200,000 Texas women," Kris Kaiser Olson, board chairwoman for Planned Parenthood, told the luncheon crowd. "It's because of your support that the Planned Parenthood centers in Fort Worth are still open."
Olson told those gathered that they need to let their lawmakers know that "we will not tolerate women's health being abused anymore."
Steinem said all Americans have a fundamental right to reproductive freedom. Perry "is putting very unfair restrictions on Planned Parenthood, on women's decision or not to have children," she said.
Steinem told the crowd that she looks forward to visiting Texas when "a worthy successor to Ann Richards" is in the Governor's Mansion.
As for Perry?
"He might be more at home in some parts of Afghanistan because his attitudes toward female human beings more resemble those in other countries," she said.