With Election Day on the horizon, Sustain was thrilled to sit down with Meagan Gallagher, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern New England.
In our Q&A below, Meagan talks Lena Dunham, who she's voting for on Nov. 4 – and the biggest challenge we face when it comes to reproductive health.
We're thrilled to talk with you and spread the message of PPPNE. Tell us a bit about your role.
I am proud to lead Planned Parenthood of Northern New England (PPNNE). In partnership with our incredible staff, I work to ensure nearly 45,000 women and men of Northern New England have access to the exceptional sexual, reproductive and women's health care we provide at our 21 health centers across Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. At the moment, the political arms of PPNNE are working hard to make sure voters understand where candidates stand on women's health. We are also hard at work raising $25M to renovate our health centers and support direct care, among other projects. Our new Burlington, VT health center is an example of how we are relocating and recreating our spaces to increase visibility and reflect the quality of care that we provide.
What do you think is the biggest challenge we face today when it comes to access to reproductive health?
Since 2010, more than 200 restrictions on access to women's health care – including safe and legal abortion – have become law across the country. Without question, these restrictions are the most significant challenge to a woman's ability to make the reproductive health care decisions that are right for her. Planned Parenthood of Northern New England is not immune from attempts to bring such restrictions to Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. It wasn’t that long ago New Hampshire passed restrictions on access to abortion and family planning for young women. Fortunately, in 2012 we were able to help elect more candidates that support women's health and access to health care, and we have been able to expand access and prevent other restrictions from becoming law. In addition, we have been able to increase protections for abortion rights in Vermont by removing an outdated, unconstitutional statute that criminalized the provision of abortion.
What do you think about Lena Dunham?
Lena Dunham is an outspoken supporter of Planned Parenthood, and we are so proud that she is standing with us. She is unwavering in her support of reproductive rights and a leader who is inspiring and empowering a generation.
With Election Day around the corner, can you explain why it's so critical for young women to get out and vote?
Women – particularly young women – need to let candidates know that they are watching. Given the restrictions on access to women's health care that we have seen become law, the most important thing young women can do is make their voice heard. This is as much about access to birth control as it is about access to abortion. Young women can make the difference between a government that supports women's health and one that does not, but only if they vote.
Planned Parenthood has publicly supported Wendy Davis, as have we. What would you say to someone who is on the fence about what to do on Nov. 4?
There couldn’t be more at stake this year, and your voice – and your vote – matter more than ever. In the Texas gubernatorial race, the choice could not be more clear. Wendy Davis is the only candidate who stands with women and will protect their right to make their own health care decisions. I would encourage any undecided voter to vote for Wendy. She understands that politicians have no business making women's personal health care decisions.