A Planned Parenthood Illinois leader said her organization is embracing the liberal image opponents try to use against them.
"I don't know if there's a way to move out, but I don't know if we want to," Planned Parenthood Illinois Action (PPIA) President and CEO Jennifer Welch said.
She will speak at the McLean County Democrats Baldini Dinner on Wednesday about the organization's role this election season.
"Planned Parenthood is becoming increasingly intersectional," Welch said. "We are recognizing that our concerns are linked. And because our patients care about immigrant rights, because our patients care about LGBTQ rights, because our patients care about maintaining civil rights in this country, we care about these things, too."
PPIA is focused on advocacy and serves as the political arm of Planned Parenthood in Illinois, according to its website.
"The reality of the situation is that we are at a pivotal time in U.S. history and I want to focus everyone's attention on what's at risk and Planned Parenthood's role in the fight to keep access to reproductive rights and health, and sexual health services in our country," Welch said.
Welch said she fears the thought of women living in a world with less rights than she has now.
"I think we're focusing on these battles that we can't afford to lose right now. The health care and civil rights of millions of people are at stake, along with access to safe and legal abortion," she said. “And I'm talking to any group of people that want to talk about those important issues at this critical time."
Welch said in regards to their strategy, PPIA is "committed to working together to strengthen our power and our resources and working together in the resistance."
"Any movement, if it's going to be truly effective, must be aware of the intersections of the various identities and lived experiences of the people who are in the movement, in the work," she said. "... We know that we are in this together."
Since President Donald Trump's nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court, there has been concern over the security of Roe v. Wade. That's the court ruling that decriminalized abortion across the U.S.
Welch said she is afraid of Kavanaugh's conservative weight giving the high court the power to overturn the ruling, but that is part of the reason why Planned Parenthood "must remain strong" going into the election season and beyond.
"Poll after poll, even polls done by Fox News, indicate that a majority of people in the United States support access to safe and legal abortion," Welch said.
Election Season Action
PPIA endorsed Betsy Dirksen Londrigan, who is running to unseat U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis in Illinois' 13th Congressional District, which encompases parts of Bloomington-Normal. Gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker and Attorney General candidate Kwame Raoul also got endorsements, as well as incumbents Comptroller Susana Mendoza, Secretary of State Jesse White, and Treasurer Michael Frerichs. All endorsed candidates are from the Democratic Party.
Welch encourages Planned Parenthood supporters to vote early, so that Election Day can be devoted to getting others to the polls.
"If we all do that, then good people will be elected in the fall and they will work with us to maintain access to healthcare and the rights and liberties that we're so committed to," she said.
Connection To National Movements
In the era of #MeToo, Times Up, and equal pay movements, Welch said it all ties back to the political intersectionality of the organization.
"All of these efforts are reminding us that women have, I would say, additional struggles or different struggles," Welch said. "And from our perspective, women have a legal, safe, medical procedure that for some reason politicians try to decide about."
She said this is an indication of the discrimination and sexism that women face in our world.
"It's the same sort of society that allows for sexual harassment to continue to take place, and right now, all of us are working together to help educate the world that the time for this has passed," she said.
Planned Parenthood In Illinois
Last year, Planned Parenthood of Illinois's 17 health centers served 68,000 patients, Welch said.
"We know that there are still places where there is unmet need for family planning and abortion services, and we're committed to trying to expand care to reach everyone who needs care," she said.
Welch said Planned Parenthood has centers throughout central Illinois in Peoria, Pekin, Bloomington, Champaign, Decatur, and Springfield.
"Regardless of the political leanings of an area,” she said, “people need family planning and abortion services and we want to provide it.”
You can also listen to the full interview:
People like you value experienced, knowledgeable and award-winning journalism that covers meaningful stories in Bloomington-Normal. To support more stories and interviews like this one, please consider making a contribution.