NewsRegion St Lucie CountyPort St Lucie


Dozens gather outside Rep. Mast's office to voice concerns

Posted at 8:13 PM, Feb 21, 2017
and last updated 2019-03-27 12:08:35-04

With Congress in recess, U.S. Representatives headed back home for a quick breaK, including Rep. Brian Mast of District 18.

But he had a crowd waiting for him back at his office on Tuesday afternoon. It's part of a statewide effort of Floridians banding together to tell their elected officials to stand up for them as their best line of defense from the "chaos in the White House."

What’s typically a quiet day at Port St. Lucie city hall, turned into a call for action.

“As constituents, we wanted to make sure that we had the opportunity to talk to him about the policies that impact us," said Laura Goodhue, executive director of Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates.

Dozens gathered at Rep. Mast's office, hoping to speak with him face to face about their concerns under the new Republican administration -- many of those worries revolved around healthcare rights.

Republicans in Washington -- spearheaded by President Donald Trump -- want to end or dramatically reduce federal funding for Planned Parenthood because of its abortion service.

Some people at Tuesday’s gathering shared stories about how Planned Parenthood helped them, like when Rebecca Hose of Stuart was diagnosed with a dangerous infection. She didn't have a doctor.

“They said, ’you need to go to an emergency room and if you can’t you need to make sure you don’t sleep alone tonight.' That’s the state I was in. Who knows what would’ve happened. And that was the only place I knew to go,” she said through tears.

Many argue that Planned Parenthood also provides basic healthcare and assistance to women without insurance.

"A lot of people do no qualify for Medicaid. Nor can they afford insurance. And even if they had insurance, how many doctors do you know will take the time -- like up to an hour -- to educate young people possible questions and problems that arise like STD's or other situations," said Judith Brennan. "It's so much more about termination of pregnancies. It's about educating young people."

Jeanette Hartzell, a Port St. Lucie resident, said she worked for Planned Parenthood for several years, overseeing pregnancy testing and counseling. She hopes Mast can support affordable and accessible healthcare or something very similar to it.

"We don't think we're getting heard but we're going to keep up the effort and keep trying. We won't give up," said Hartzell. "Nervous, upset, fearful for the country. We've just been nervous about the direction of the country, instead of being peaceful, we're very divisive and that's been an concern."

She and her husband, Skip, regularly write to various U.S. representatives around Florida, hoping their voices are heard.

"Women's rights are human rights," said Skip. "Women's rights have to be protected. End of story, Mr. Mast."

After grouping outside, the crowd decided to walk into Mast's office with about 40 people packed the hallway outside his doors.  His aides could only see about six people at a time.

"The five I was with had a lot to say. They wanted to talk to him about defunding planned parenthood and the affordable care act in particular. One woman talked about her life before the ACA and having a disability, how much of an economic hardship that has been for her," said Goodhue. "He's in D.C. and the policies that he's voting on affect people back here at home."

Mast was busy attending community meeting in Stuart throughout the day, but some people said he was able to Skype with them during their visit to his office.

Protesters say they have nothing against Mast or other representatives, they just want to be on the same page.

"We're here to present compassion. We want to work with you," said local resident Lucia Philipson.

Through his aides, Mast did make a promise.

"He said he was committed to touring a planned parenthood health center in his district. So I'm going to take that and follow up on it," said Goodhue.

Rep. Mast is expected to host a town hall meeting in Fort Pierce on Friday before heading back to Washington, D.C.