Sabrina Rodriguez sits down with Planned Parenthood president Alexis McGill Johnson to talk about everything from combating misinformation to being a Black woman tasked with ushering in a new (more equitable) chapter of a 104-year-old organization.
THE RECAST:What is it like being a Black woman running an organization that’s frequently as politicized as Planned Parenthood?McGILL JOHNSON:We are a 104-year-old organization. There is no organization that’s as old as we are that is not founded and steeped in conversations and realities around white supremacy. So, I am really 100 percent clear that my job is to do what I can to shift that infrastructure.
I think it’s exciting in a way because I look at the vastness of Planned Parenthood. We are at the center of serving populations in 50 states, where we could really laser focus on reducing health disparity. We have thousands of employees across the federation, so we can build a workforce that is reducing those barriers and invest in talent and growth. We have 17 million supporters who are this muscle of fighting for equitable policies.
So, I sit in a place of privilege of how to shift this massive federation toward fighting for the things that, you know, are going to be incredibly impactful for communities of color. And when we are very intentional about naming who is at the center of our work, it really does help us transform the ways in which we do that work. headtopics.com
Those are the conversations we’ve been having. They’ve been hard. They’ve been tough. We don’t have a completely reflective workforce. We are working on that. But the people are digging deep in and doing some really hard work to get there.THE RECAST:Now, on the policy front, what’s going on? Let’s jump in on the state level.
McGILL JOHNSON:At the state level, the 2021 state legislative season is one of the most hostile in recent history, particularly with respect to reproductive health and rights. And we’ve seen the number of restrictions increase threefold over the last couple of years.
Twenty-nine states are actually controlled by anti-sexual and reproductive health majorities. They are states where there is a majority support ofRoe[v. Wade, which protects women’s right to an aboration]. So, what that tells me is that we have a small group of vocal legislators who control these levers of power, who will really hell-bent on trying to control our bodies and control our freedom.
To me, that’s where the work is right now.THE RECAST:What do you want to see the Biden administration accomplish? What’s your wishlist?McGILL JOHNSON:What’s been amazing about the Biden-Harris administration from their start was that they focused on ending the domestic gag rule and headtopics.com
the global gag rule. It’s a step in getting people back into being able to access resources and not have our providers worry about whether or not they could refer people to abortion should they ask about it. We also saw the Biden administration pass the American Rescue Plan Act, which expanded health insurance coverage so people could get care.
That’s been the beginning of undoing some of the harm of the Trump administration that we’ve seen over the last few years.THE RECAST:Where does Congress fit in here? What do you want to see them get done?McGILL JOHNSON:Hyde Amendment[which bars the use of federal funds to pay for an abortion]. Of all of the things that I would want to see over the next two years, that would be at the top of the list.
We continue to follow the leadership of our reproductive justice partners, like All* Above All [an abortion justice organization], who have been relentless about naming how the Hyde Amendment is fundamentally a racist policy and how we continue to see barriers, particularly on low-income, Black, brown, Indigenous communities who need access to insurance to help support if they choose to have an abortion.
THE RECAST:On another front, we saw so much misinformation and disinformation surrounding the 2020 election with communities of color being disproportionately targeted. How does the level of misinformation we’re seeing impact conversations around women’s sexual and reproductive rights? headtopics.com
McGILL JOHNSON:When it comes to sexual and reproductive health, because of the way the opposition is organized and funded and resourced, misinformation actually gets built into infrastructure.There are these things called crisis pregnancy centers that, when Planned Parenthood was forced to leave Title X, they were able to receive resources from the federal government that literally their entire job is to mislead people around their pregnancies if they have questions around termination.
So, when you think about how misinformation gets codified, with resources, into actually impacting the way people are being treated, that to me is concerning. It’s not just living in the world of conspiracy theories. It’s actually impacting how people are able to receive health care.
That is a fight that we have to continue to engage in.⧫⧫⧫Editor's note:Next week marks the debut of Brakkton Booker, The Recast’s new author. We’re super excited Brakkton will be joining us, and we think you will be, too. Other things we’re excited about this week: We were featured in the Washingtonian “D.C. Culture Meter” as a cool newsletter they’re digging. And we surpassed 10k subscribers this week. Here at The Recast, we’re focused on building a community and diving deeper into all things race, policy and politics. We’re thrilled you’re along for the ride.
Now… on to our Weekend To-Dos:Sylvia Obell and Deanii Scott host— andwe think you should tune in.They tackle everything from memes to heartbreak to honest conversations about being Black women in industries dominated by white men. And it’s just so fun to hear them chat and
showcase their friendship. Read more: POLITICO »
Seared Salmon with Summer Vegetables Recipe
This simple seared salmon is paired with summer vegetables for a classic, light meal. Get the recipe at Food & Wine.
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