‘No one can be neutral’: Planned Parenthood boss on abortion rights | Family planning

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men the time after the US Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion in the United States, thereby allowing nearly a dozen states to ban the procedure, the president and CEO of the health care provider America’s largest abortion provider, Planned Parenthood, has worked feverishly with three goals in mind. .

Alexis McGill Johnson wants to get women where they need to be to access abortion, whether that means helping patients cross state lines or getting doctors to states where abortion is still legal.

Next, he wants to win in state court. Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have filed 11 lawsuits seeking to delay abortion bans or, perhaps hopefully, overturn them altogether.

“What we can see, essentially, is a lot of chaos, a lot of confusion, and a lot of concern that patients on the ground can get the care that they need,” McGill Johnson told The Guardian. “What we have also seen is a significant amount of anger.”

That will fuel his third goal: winning at the polls.

“Our job right now is to maximize the care that we can in the states that we can, and also use this moment as an opportunity to maximize mobilization.”

Abortion is already illegal or largely inaccessible in half a dozen states, as bans and subsequent court battles unfold. And all of this will become more difficult as many more states join their ranks in the coming days, weeks and months, until 26 states are expected to ban abortion outright.

As abortion is suddenly out of reach for more and more women, there will be more and more pressure on the remaining resources, likely delaying appointments even in states where abortion is protected.

“The reality is that there is no world where 24 states can absorb the nation’s abortion care,” McGill Johnson said. “The intention… of the opposition has been to end access to abortion.”

To combat this, Planned Parenthood is strengthening “logistics centers” and “provider corps” so that there is capacity at “emergency sites” to serve patients in states that protect abortion. Patient “navigators” will connect women with charities to help pay for abortions and the costs of long travel: gas, plane tickets and hotel stays. McGill Johnson’s hope is eventually to help build a kind of online travel agency for abortion access.

To support this, Planned Parenthood also plans to combat the expected next line of attack on abortion access: the right to travel out of state. Anti-abortion organizations have already suggested that state lawmakers bar patients from crossing state lines for abortions, and perhaps extradite providers.

Even with the huge logistics operation McGill Johnson has in mind, he recognizes that tens of thousands of women a year will never reach these resources and will be forced to have unwanted children.

“Every day a clinic is able to stay open changes lives,” Nancy Northup, president and CEO of CRR, said in a press call with McGill Johnson on Friday. They have managed to delay bans in Florida, Kentucky and Utah.

However, it is the third leg of this stool that shows the radical and long-term effects of the Supreme Court’s decision. although about 85% of Americans believe abortion should be legal in at least some circumstances, more than half of states are likely to ban it.

“The reason we’re here is because a lot of the state chambers … where we’re seeing these restrictions have been rigged in such an extreme way that we’re at a structural disadvantage in shaping political fights there,” McGill Johnson said.

Indeed, partisan redistricting or gerrymandering has made elections less responsive to the will of voters. Following the supreme court decision, and without congressional action, the only way to restore legal abortion is through the state ballot box. That reality is reflected in Planned Parenthood’s plan to spend $150 million on the ballot.

Still, restoring legal abortion to deeply red states like Texas or Arizona, home to 13.5 million women of reproductive age, currently seems like a distant future.

“Our job now is to make sure that all these politicians who are completely out of step, that people understand where each state is. [representative] takes a stand on this issue so they can start building power in the state,” he said. “We’re going to have all candidates, whether they’re running for school board, state supreme court or governor, reflect on where they stand on this decision.”

Outside of legislatures, direct democracy will constitute new battlefields. A referendum against abortion in Kansas will ask voters to affirm that there is No right to abortion in the state constitution.

But crucially, voters in Vermont, California and purple Michigan will cast votes on whether to affirm abortion rights along with other reproductive rights, such as contraception.

“Nobody can be neutral right now.”

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