“These doors will stay open.”
While many of us within the LGBTQ community have spent the aftermath of the 2016 elections in a state of disbelief, doubt, and fear, Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains has been gearing up to fight for reproductive freedom and dignified healthcare for all.
And they are cautiously optimistic this is a winning battle.
“We have had some significant successes this year,” says Sarah Taylor-Nanista, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes Colorado. “Our message is still really strong.”
Taylor-Nanista is quick to acknowledge this has been a difficult time for vulnerable populations, which is why it is so important to celebrate their victories. This year, Colorado voters affirmed their commitment to women’s and LGBTQ people’s total equality — including access to affordable, comprehensive healthcare. Coloradans did choose the pro-choice and pro-LGBTQ presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, in the general election, and elected Democratic US Senator Michael Bennet to another term. We also sent two new, strong supporters of PPRM to the Colorado State Senate.
In addition to voting for candidates who support PPRM, Coloradans have also been voting for the organization with their dollars and time. A fundraising arm of PPRM saw a massive donation increase following the election when compared to that same time last year. Some of those donations have been made in Mike Pence’s “honor,” a jab at the vice president-elect’s notoriously anti-choice record. PPRM currently has 150 new volunteers waiting to participate in its Health Center Advocacy Program.
“We are definitely hearing people say very loudly that they are on our side and they are going to work for us,” says Taylor-Nanista.
Of course, PPRM knows that in order to fully care for their patients and community at this time, they must address their concerns and fears regarding the incoming Trump administration. President-elect Trump and VP-elect Pence have both expressed support for overturning Roe v. Wade, and Pence has advocated for anti-gay “conversion therapy.”
Taylor-Nanista and colleague Ashley Wheeland say common concerns include ultra-conservative Supreme Court appointees and possible challenges to Roe v. Wade, the dismantling of the Affordable Care Act (including provisions specific to women’s reproductive health), the potential privatization of Medicaid, and a loss of federal funding for Planned Parenthood.
While there are no abortion-related cases facing a Supreme Court decision at present, Planned Parenthood anticipates litigation will be filed once Republicans take over the House, Senate, White House, and, subsequently, the Supreme Court next year. Republicans have also vowed to weaken or do away with the ACA and make significant changes to Medicaid. These Medicaid changes could ultimately jeopardize Planned Parenthood’s funding.
“Defunding Planned Parenthood would come through attacking Medicaid, which 38% of our patients use,” says Wheeland, legislative and political director for PPRM. “That would endanger their ability to get the care they need. We are the experts at providing reproductive healthcare. We are inclusive, and we are compassionate.”
So how do we fight back?
“Stand up for your healthcare,” Wheeland asserts.
Wheeland encourages PPRM supporters to contact their representatives and let them know where they stand on these vital issues — and don’t be afraid to get personal.
“Tell your story,” she says. “That is how we change minds.”
No matter what challenges we may face under the Trump administration, PPRM vows to be one of our toughest allies. Among its expansive services, PPRM provides hormone therapy for transgender patients, STI treatment, and birth control in a comfortable and sensitive setting. And they pledge to continue.
“We just celebrated our 100th anniversary here at PPRM. We have seen backlash and attacks, and we continue to fight back,” says Taylor-Nanista. “Our promise to our community is, regardless of what this administration may have for us, these doors will stay open.”
For more information on volunteering for PPRM’s Health Center Advocacy Program or participating in PPRM’s political advocacy work, such as Women and Family Wednesdays at the Capitol, please visit PlannedParenthood.org/Planned-Parenthood-Rocky-Mountains.