Portraits of Leadership

Planned Parenthood Confronts COVID-19

Hyperakt’s interview series hands the mic to nonprofit and cultural leaders around the nation as they guide their organizations through the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today we’re talking with Alexis McGill Johnson, Acting President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. As a trusted health care provider, an informed educator, a passionate advocate, and a global partner helping similar organizations around the world, Planned Parenthood delivers vital reproductive health care, sex education, and information to millions of women, men, and young people worldwide.

From your vantage point, what stories are not being told about the impact of the Coronavirus?

Black and Latinx people are trying to simply survive this crisis, physically — both from increased exposure to the virus, and also increased policing and violence under the guise of COVID response — and financially, as many who already struggle to make ends meet are being driven further into poverty.

And under this administration, we’ve seen a dismantling of the health care system that has worsened this crisis. Whether it’s abortion and birth control access, COVID-19, or attacks on health care, communities of color bear the brunt of the pain.

Nationally, we’re also facing a growing STI epidemic — which was preventable — inside of the COVID-19 pandemic. Politicians have spent years weakening our public health infrastructure — refusing to expand Medicaid in 14 states, defunding sexual and reproductive health programs, and dismantling Title X, the nation’s family planning program.

Health departments and rural hospitals are running on fumes. They now face an impossible choice between which public health crisis to address. The COVID-19 pandemic means 83 percent of HIV and STI tracers nationwide have been reassigned to managing the spread of the coronavirus.

For many communities, Planned Parenthood is the only place patients can turn to for STI education, prevention, screening, and treatment. The evidence is clear: people need expanded access to sexual and reproductive health care now, more than ever.

How have you needed to change how your staff works or the way you deliver services in order to meet the new reality?

Planned Parenthood is first and foremost a health care provider, and we know this pandemic has increased barriers to health care for many of the communities we serve — at exactly the time when people need that care the most. Challenging times require us to innovate and expand the tools that connect our expert, compassionate providers with patients who need care.

PPFA is proud to be a leader in using technology to reach people with the care and information they need, when they need it, and Planned Parenthood affiliates have redoubled their efforts to expand telehealth services. We’re committed to providing care, no matter what.

What gives you hope in this moment?

This pandemic has hit us all in such a profound way — I’m really inspired by the ways that communities are coming together and supporting those in most need. From the people running errands for their neighbors to our staff continuing to provide care, there are so many heroes of this moment.

Dive into Planned Parenthood’s work at PlannedParenthood.org and on Instagram. Read more interviews in the Portraits of Leadership series.

Hyperakt is a purpose-driven design and innovation studio that elevates human dignity and ignites curiosity. We believe in design’s power to build a future filled with courage, optimism, and honesty.

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