Lifteveryvoice, Projecttellme

Lifteveryvoice, Projecttellme

In Conversation With Faye Wattleton: The Fight for Reproductive Freedom Is Far From Over

“We’re not without power to change things,” says the former head of Planned Parenthood.

6/15/2021 6:57:00 PM

“We’re not without power to change things,” says Faye Wattleton, the first Black president of PPFA—but it’s up to us to protect women’s health. “Each of us has the responsibility to take it up in whatever way we can.” LiftEveryVoice ProjectTellMe

“We’re not without power to change things,” says the former head of Planned Parenthood.

, spent decades advocating for women’s health and reproductive rights. Here, in an interview conducted by Rachel Williams, a political science major and communications minor at Alabama State University, she talks about her experiences and the work that still needs to be done.

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Did growing up in a strict religious household affect your views around sex and sex education?The Bible says to be fruitful and multiply, so there was really no sex education within my family, and at school, it focused on menstruation and not sexual development or healthy sexuality. Sex outside of marriage was viewed as sinful and condemned. But all of that did inform how I work to oppose the people who want to overturn reproductive rights—I understand their vernacular and way of thinking.

How was your activism impacted by your education and time as a nurse?Had I not pursued the medical degrees and career that I did, I might have taken a very different path and probably wouldn’t have been open to a wider point of view and a world beyond what I grew up in. headtopics.com

Religion can be a factor for many people in the discussion about reproductive rights. What’s your point of view on that?What I think is worth highlighting is that my pastor mother’s teaching wasn’t that the government should impose its will. I never once heard her suggest that there should be laws to enforce religious tenets. But religion is still being used to circumscribe women’s behavior. As a nurse and midwife in the ’60s, I was exposed to low-income women at a time when they were injured and killed in an effort to control fertility—something to which it seems politicians today want to see us return. There is no question that as we go backward, those who will be most harmed are the people who don’t have the resources to overcome these obstacles,

particularly women of color.As president of Planned Parenthood, you made a lot of strides, but it seems like there is still so much to do. What now?I think we really need to maintain perspective about how long this area of a woman’s life has been under attack. And it’s really important not to see this as a Planned Parenthood issue. It’s incumbent on every woman to see this as

herissue. We’re not without power to change things, but we really have to take responsibility and get engaged to directly hold public officials accountable for stepping away from women’s bodies and leaving us to make the best decisions for our own lives.

Another area of women’s health where we see a lot of disparity is maternal mortality and how it disproportionately affects Black women. Can you speak to that?We have to take a more holistic approach to maternal mortality. The focus shouldn’t only be on childbearing as a woman’s role; it should look at headtopics.com

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health inequitiesacross the board and how that foundation affects pregnancy. There is no reason for there to be a gap between those who have good health care and those who do not.What message do you want to send to women coming behind you who continue to fight for their rights?

Recognize the long, difficult, and dangerous journey so far, and that there’s a great debt to pay. People have died defending, advancing, and working to protect women’s right to control our fertility. You can march, write to politicians, or give a few dollars, but each of us has the responsibility to take it up in whatever way we can.

Read more: Prevention Magazine »

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