Students, including some protestors holding signs that read “Don’t Regulate My Body” and “Stop Abortion Now,” gathered Monday to hear Senate candidate Chris Murphy, President of the Planned Parenthood Federation Cecile Richards, Senator Richard Blumenthal and women’s health advocates discuss the importance of women’s rights and healthcare in the 2012 election.

The talk, which was organized by the Yale College Democrats and also featured president of Planned Parenthood of Southern New England Judy Tabar, Yale School of Medicine professor Mary Jane Minkin and Murphy’s wife Cathy Holahan centered on the importance of the right to women’s healthcare in the election and how the political focus on healthcare has shifted over the past few years. Speakers also highlighted the difference between Murphy and his Republican opponent, Linda McMahon.

“With the election of the last Congress [four years ago], there was suddenly an intense focus and attack on women’s healthcare, and so that’s really brought new focus to the issue,” Tabar said. “I think women now understand what is at risk.”

Murphy echoed Tabar’s perspective and emphasized the implications of a Republican victory in the race when he said he “[has] been sitting in the Congress as the Tea Party has tried to dial back the discussion on women’s healthcare by about 60 years.”

Blumenthal advocated for the importance of women’s healthcare, stressing that a woman’s personal choices on contraception are a fundamental component of one’s right to privacy — the “bedrock of our Constitution.” He noted that the right to “decide for herself what to do with her own future, her body, her being” is “at stake in this election.”

Beyond discussing the stakes of the November elections, the speakers all cited specific policy issues that the Senate could influence, including Planned Parenthood funding, the Blunt Amendment to allow employers to withhold insurance coverage for contraception and the Affordable Care Act.

With November elections less than two weeks away, speakers turned their focus to Murphy’s opponent McMahon and her positions on healthcare issues. While McMahon has publicly labeled herself as “pro-choice,” Blumenthal, Muyrphy and others criticized her opposition to women’s healthcare legislation, including her support of the Blunt Ammendment and her opposition to providing emergency contraception to rape victims.

“I’m tired of Linda McMahon telling us she’s pro-choice and then tell us that she’ll vote against every pro-choice measure which will come before the Senate,” Murphy said. “You’re not just pro-choice because you use the word.”

During his tenure as a congressman and as the chair of the Public Health Committee for the U.S. House of Representatives, Murphy supported increasing access to contraception and Planned Parenthood funding.

In an interview with the News, Murphy said one of the most impactful moments for his support of healthcare was meeting the father of a son with a heart condition while visiting the community pool with his family.

“[The father] said not only will this bill make sure that [my son] has health insurance for the rest of his life, but it will give me peace of mind to know he will be able to choose whatever he wants to do with his life. He won’t be imprisoned by his condition,” Murphy said.

Murphy has served as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives since 2007.