Gloria Feldt is president of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.

Monday, 13 Sep 1999


Monday started on Sunday. A call from Mel Carnahan, the governor of Missouri, encouraged me to help raise the last $75,000 needed to complete the media buy to support his veto of an abortion ban bill, which is scheduled for an override vote later this week. I immediately began placing calls.

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This kind of “above and beyond the call of duty” fund-raising and organizing has become increasingly necessary with regard to state as well as federal legislation. I’ve always believed that we can’t fault our adversaries for participating in the democratic process — we simply must participate more and better. We have to be more proactive in advancing positive legislation.

I was thinking as I prepared for work today about an interview I did late last week on the actress Cybill Shepherd’s possible race for the presidency in 2000. Ms. Shepherd’s stated purpose for running is to ensure that mainstream candidates address reproductive rights and health issues.

My first comment to a reporter was, “Well, if Warren Beatty could do it, why not Cybill Shepherd?” My second, and more serious, response was that it’s a good thing to help raise the public’s awareness of the fact that we stand only one Supreme Court vote away from Roe v. Wade being overturned.

It’s the same kind of aggressive approach that made Earth Day such a successful social movement in the past and will again in 2000. And it’s the same philosophy behind the Planned Parenthood Responsible Choices Action Agenda (RCAA), a nationwide service and advocacy campaign that is occupying most of my waking life. Not just today but every day.

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Ninety percent of Americans support access to family planning, and more than 90 percent of couples use or have used birth control. Eighty-two percent of Americans support responsible sex education — the kind that gives young people all the information they need to make good choices. Two-thirds of Americans believe that safe, legal abortion should be accessible.

You wouldn’t know any of this by watching your Congress or state legislatures in action!

Responsible Choices was designed to bring policy makers more in line with where most Americans stand on these issues. The only way to do that is by setting the agenda ourselves — not waiting for politicians or the media to decide that these issues are worthy of public attention.

Two examples come to my attention during my first staff meeting of the day. First, an update on the status of the contraceptive coverage and equity legislation, which we have fostered in Congress and 35 state legislatures this year. Hard as it might be to comprehend, 40 years after the birth control pill was introduced, many insurance plans still don’t cover it. Even many of those that do cover the Pill do not cover the full range of medically approved birth control methods. This is a matter of simple justice for women and we have begun a nationwide movement to correct that inequity.

The second is Planned Parenthood Global Partners, a program that matches domestic Planned Parenthood affiliates with family planning programs in other countries for the purpose of shared learning and mutual program improvements. Its ultimate effect will be to build grassroots advocacy here in the United States to encourage our government to resume its former leadership role in international family planning and population programs.

The 21st century has already been labeled the Global Century because it has become clear that we are all connected — economically, environmentally, and in all aspects of our health and well-being. These thoughts are uppermost in my mind as I prepare for today’s conference call with key staff and volunteers from around the country regarding Planned Parenthood’s emerging vision for 2025. What do we want to have accomplished by then? How will the world be better because we were here? And what must we start doing today in order to ensure the achievement of that vision 25 years out?

In the 20th century, Planned Parenthood played a pioneering role in enabling people to manage their fertility, plan and space their childbearing, determine the course of their own destinies, embrace the ideal of a society in which every child is planned and wanted, and assure a world in which population and resources can be in balance. This is perhaps the most profound social revolution of the last 100 years. As we enter the 21st century, there are new challenges and issues, but more important, new opportunities for a new generation of pioneers.

That’s what Mondays are about — new ideas, new hope, new beginnings.