A sign supporting Roe v. Wade at a rally, held by Planned Parenthood, commemorating the 45th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court decision at the Capitol, Monday, Jan. 22, 2018.
( Rich Pedroncelli
Melissa: Joining me now is Alexis McGill Johnson, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Alexis, my friend. Thank you for joining The Takeaway.
Alexis McGill Johnson: I'm happy to be here with you to process, Melissa.
Melissa: I know that so many have expected this moment, especially after the leaked decision, but were you holding out hope?
Alexis McGill Johnson: Absolutely. That is exactly right. We believed it would happen. Anybody who sat and listened to the oral arguments in December, anybody who's been watching what's been happening as these court's been remade and the Supreme Court got three justices at the last term, last administration, knew that this day was coming. We believed beyond all measure, but even after the leak I was still holding hope beyond measure that someone in that court would come to some understanding that this decision being overturned would be a devastating healthcare crisis for this country and for the millions of women across the nation, trans, non-binary folks, largely Black, Indigenous, people of color, who will be impacted the most.
That someone would have some compassion for what this decision could mean. It's devastating.
Melissa: Planned Parenthood. You have framed this as looking for some compassion for the health of Americans. Planned Parenthood provides healthcare for 2.4 million people every year. What does this mean for the health of the millions who you all serve?
Alexis McGill Johnson: Look, for our patients this is a scary and confusing time, but Planned Parenthood is still here and will be here to help everyone not only understand how these laws will affect their care, but we're going to continue to provide the information and resources to get people care in other states. Our health center doors remain open.
We will be there to support patients with birth control and STI testing and all the things that they need to lead fully sexual and reproductive healthy lives. For our patients, it is the people who are seeking access to care right now in Texas and Oklahoma, they're already devastated.
They're already traveling. They're already trying to make plans for their families, and many of them, quite frankly, may end up with forced pregnancies. That is going to have a devastating impact on their lives and their families, and their communities.
Melissa: Forced pregnancy. To hear that word feels obscene.
Alexis McGill Johnson: It is. It's unconscionable. It's unconscionable that for 49 years we have held a right, constitution guaranteed us a right to be free and equal. The fact that our daughters, Melissa, our young daughters, are going to grow up with less rights than we've had in that same amount of time.
Melissa: Alexis, I want to be sure that we are clear who is affected by this decision.
Alexis McGill Johnson: Absolutely. Look, we know that people who are live on the margins now, right, who are most likely to be people of color, people who have low incomes, people who live in rural populations, people who, again, are ones for whom systemic discrimination is a real and everyday lived experience. They will be the ones who are most harmed, for sure. We also know that overturning Roe is just the beginning. One of the things that I think was lost in the leak on May 2nd that morning, the opposition had already laid bare their plans for a nationwide six-week ban. Mitch McConnell said later that week that he would take it up if he became Senate majority leader again.
We know they will move even further after they've kicked us out of the constitution, they will fight for a constitutional amendment for the unborn. That very notion of knowing that while we, largely Black women, will bear the burden of this immediate overturn, they are coming for all of us. They're coming for all of our bodies. The fact that that is the reality, that we have to start thinking about and planning for and fighting back against, should wake everybody up.
Melissa: What is the plan for the fight?
Alexis McGill Johnson: The plan is to be in every state that if you were in a state that has access to sexual reproductive healthcare, including abortion, we need to make sure that we are expanding as much access as possible in those states. In the states where they're going to be, and already moving forward to restrict access even further, ban it, we need to make sure that everyone in those states understands the consequences. We can't let people sit on the sidelines here. We cannot be a bystander on this issue. Every single person who is running for anything will need to answer for where they are because we know the majority of people support access to abortion. The majority of people do not want to see the criminalization that we know will come, the increased surveillance that we know will come.
We need to make sure that we are holding electeds and anyone who wants to be in office accountable because that's how we got here, and it's the only way to undo it.
Melissa: For someone who right now, today, maybe someone in Missouri, which became the first state within minutes to issue an all-out ban on abortion, is there any hope for someone living right now today in Missouri who needs an abortion potentially even to save their life? Where can they go?
Alexis McGill Johnson: They can go to abortionfinder.org for information about where they might find available appointments. They can call their local Planned Parenthood health center to get information about where they might be able to find appointments. That's who I'm thinking about, Melissa. The people who are waking up today, the people who are waking up with this news and grappling with the fact that they now have to go on a journey, go on an adventure just to get healthcare that they should be guaranteed. That's what's so devastating. The end of Roe. Millions of people are going to have to travel if they can or be forced into pregnancy.
Melissa: Alexis McGill Johnson, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood. Thank you for being here.
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