Planned Parenthood's Alexis McGill Johnson on What She's Fighting For in 2021


Courtesy of Planned Parenthood Federation of America

What’s left to say about 2020? The year was relentless, for all of us. Zora Neale Hurston wrote: “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” 2020 gave us answers, though not always the ones we wanted.

It taught us hard lessons about who we are and what we’re up against. More than 342,000 Americans have died of COVID-19. The pandemic has caused economic devastation and revealed deep disparities in health access and care for Black, Latino, and Indigenous communities, caused by centuries of systemic racism. We lost a progressive giant, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The Trump administration continued its four-year onslaught on reproductive rights, despite the nation being consumed by a pandemic. Governors followed suit, using COVID-19 as an excuse to ban abortion. In the early days of the pandemic, people drove from Texas to Colorado just to access essential health care.

But this year also gave us a glimpse of who we could become. Black Lives Matter became the largest protest movement in U.S. history and expanded our collective imagination about what’s possible for the future of our country. Gen Z came of age and into their power, showing us what it means to operationalize intersectionality. 2020 will always be the year Joe Biden and Kamala Harris beat Donald Trump. Now, America is entering a new chapter where we can not only undo the damage of the last four years, but really move policy forward.

I have big goals for the year ahead: for Planned Parenthood, for the new Biden-Harris administration, and for myself, as a leader and a mom. Here are a few of my resolutions.

Hold the Biden-Harris administration accountable on sexual and reproductive health.

      Planned Parenthood is committed to partnering with the Biden-Harris administration to ensure sexual and reproductive health doesn’t take a backseat in health policy and when making appointments. On day one, we want Biden to issue an executive order that demonstrates the administration’s commitment to advancing health care access and rolling back harmful policies like the Title X gag rule, which has blocked patients from accessing care at Planned Parenthood health centers. But they shouldn’t stop there. They also must make critical updates to the Title X program—the nation’s only program dedicated to affordable birth control and other sexual and reproductive health care—so that it can better serve more patients across the country. Finally, Planned Parenthood will continue to advocate for the appointment of diverse reproductive health champions to executive and judiciary vacancies.

      Fight to repeal the Hyde Amendment.

          2021 has to be the year we repeal the Hyde Amendment—for good. The Hyde Amendment is a discriminatory policy that blocks people who get their health insurance through Medicaid or other government-funded programs from accessing coverage for safe, legal abortion. Both Biden and Harris support eliminating Hyde. After more than 40 years of Congress including the amendment in its spending bill, incoming House Appropriations chair Rosa DeLauro has committed to removing it this year. That’s a huge victory, won by reproductive justice leaders and groups like All* Above All. Now, we need to ensure it’s removed by both the House and the Senate.

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          Prioritize racial equity at Planned Parenthood.

          Planned Parenthood is 104 years old, and we’re committed to addressing structural racism, both historic and current, at our organization. We have a responsibility to create belonging, respect, and investment for the millions of patients and partners we serve and for the staff who show up every day.

          As a critical part of the public health infrastructure, Planned Parenthood also has an obligation to think differently about health equity. We know that violence against Black people at the hands of the police, separation of families at the border, and control over reproductive choices are inextricably linked—and we stand against all of them. There is no reproductive freedom without racial justice. It’s integral to our mission, and I’m committed to centering racial equity at PPFA in 2021.

          Stop apologizing while I’m parenting and partnering.

          This one’s personal. So much about the way we work has shifted this year, and we’ve been having important conversations about changing norms for good. But at home, mothers are often still the ones taking on the invisible tax of child care. As we work to dismantle hierarchies in our workplaces and movements, we need to make sure we’re not inadvertently replicating them in our own lives.

          I want to stop asking for permission to sleep in or apologizing because my eight-year-old Zoom-bombed my calls with my team or, even worse, members of Congress. I want my staff to understand that it’s okay if they need to mute or go off video to be a caregiver or a partner, and I don’t want them to apologize to me either. Instead of carrying guilt or second-guessing, I’ll focus on being clear and intentional with my partner about our expectations of each other at work and at home (since they are now the same place). This is critical not just for the sake of my sanity or my marriage or my job but also to model for our two young children how to advocate for our needs and manage our boundaries. What better time than a pandemic to learn such a critical life skill.

          Keep up the fight in the states.

          On January 22, 2021, we’ll mark 48 years since Roe v. Wade became law. But today, for too many people, abortion is still a right in name only. That has to change; as our partners in the reproductive justice movement have long said, a right without access is meaningless. In 2021, we must fight for policies that ensure every single person, regardless of their income or zip code, can actually access sexual and reproductive health care. Local Planned Parenthood organizations will hold politicians accountable who are working day and night to dismantle access in states across the country.

          activists hold signs at a rally to oppose abortion bans happening throughout the united states, at the state capitol building

          Activists hold signs at a rally at the State Capitol in Salt Lake City, Utah, to oppose abortion bans happening throughout the United States in May 2019.

          NATALIE BEHRINGGetty Images

          Care, no matter what.

          This isn’t a resolution. It’s a promise to Planned Parenthood patients: We care about you, no matter what. No matter who you are or where you live. But it’s also a declaration to those who stand in the way of reproductive freedom: Planned Parenthood will continue to provide care, no matter what you do to try and stop us. It’s who we are.

          I don’t know yet if 2021 will be a year that asks or answers, but I do know that reproductive freedom will be on the line. So my resolution list is long—but it’s not just for me. It’s for Planned Parenthood’s 16 million supporters. For the 2.5 million patients who come to us for health care and for the providers who show up every day, at health centers and via telehealth, no matter what. For every person who joins the march against injustice. This will be our year.

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