Ali Larter is taking a stand in support of Planned Parenthood and hopes others will follow suit.

The actress and author made an appearance at the 2017 Philadelphia Action Forum on Wednesday, along with Cecile Richards, president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund (pictured above). More than 400 advocates gathered at the event for community strategy meetings aimed at organizing and fighting back against policies they feel are harmful to their cause.

Larter grew up in Cherry Hill, NJ, just across the river from Philadelphia. “I was just so excited when they asked me to come to the Planned Parenthood Action Forum,” she tells PEOPLE. “It’s something that I’ve really wanted to get involved with because I’ve been hearing about these attacks politicians have been making towards them and I really wanted to know more about what I can do.”

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In a statement about the event, Planned Parenthood cited politicians like Speaker Paul Ryan, who have expressed interest in defunding the program. If this were to happen, the statement warns, millions of women would be denied “access to the cancer screenings, birth control, STD and HIV testing and treatment and other care they rely on.”

Like millions of other women, Larter revealed she has relied on Planned Parenthood in the past. “I am one of the 1-in-5 women that will use a Planned Parenthood health center in their lifetime,” she says. “And what I think is getting lost in this story is that people really use [Planned Parenthood] and it’s an essential part of health care for so many women in this country.”

Larter also spoke out against the politicization of Planned Parenthood. “This policy has nothing to do with abortion, this about cutting women off from cancer screenings, birth control, HIV and STD testing and treatment,” she says. “And that’s the biggest thing, this shouldn’t be a political issue. It doesn’t matter if you’re a Republican, Democrat or Independent. You should be able to have the right to choose your health care provider.”

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The actress was 19 years old when she first moved to L.A. “I didn’t have any friends, I didn’t have a net, I didn’t know where to go and I didn’t have any doctors,” she says. “But I knew about Planned Parenthood and it was simple and accessible. I think that now more and more, especially for women in rural and underserved areas, this is their only access to be able to take care of their own bodies.”

Larter knows the only way to inspire change is to take charge. “To sit there and just complain about the defunding of planned parenthood or [Trump’s] election is just a waste of time and energy at this point,” she says. “Pick something you believe in and put in your time, energy and money to make change. That’s what you have to do, and that’s the way I’m looking at it.”

A good place to start? Larter suggests reaching out to local politicians. “Call your representative and share your story about why it’s important to you,” she adds. “I’m shaken to the core at the thought of them defunding Planned Parenthood, leaving all these women with no place to turn.”



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