The Atlanta Voice sits down with Planned Parenthood Action Fund CEO Alexis McGill Johnson. Johnson was appointed as President and CEO of Planned Parenthood in June 2020. Johnson is in Atlanta stumping for incumbent Raphael Warnock in advance of today’s runoff. She is the second Black president in the history of the organization after the 14-year tenure of Faye Wattleton from 1978-1992.
Planned Parenthood is one of the largest providers of women’s healthcare in America and a recent 6-week abortion ban signed into law by Governor Kemp and supported by US Senator Warnock’s challenger, Herschel Walker is the impetus for the campaigning.
Atlanta Voice: Just for the record, what’s your name?
Alexis McGill Johnson: Alexis McGill Johnson and I’m president and CEO of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund.
AV: What are you doing here in Atlanta today?
AMJ: I am here to ensure that people understand that freedom is on the ballot right now, and democracy is on the ballot. And while Georgians voted very clearly, on November 8, is critically important for them to show up again today, to reinforce their vote for Senator Warnock.
AV: What do you want to say to people who feel like the election has already been decided?
AMJ: I think that’s a function of voter suppression. The fact that Georgia is in a runoff race that is compressed into a week, is going to impact the ability of people to turn out. But what I’ve seen and consistently heard here from voters across the state is that they are continuing to show up and show out because they understand how important it is to send Rev. Warnock back to the Senate.
AV: What does Planned Parenthood do now in a state like Georgia, which is going in the opposite direction of reproductive freedom?
AMJ: Planned Parenthood and Planned Parenthood-affiliated health centers are still providing health care. And will be providing all the forms of health care that they can still legally provide.
But the impact that it [not being able to provide abortion care in Georgia] is having on our patients is tremendous. Would-be patients have to travel outside of Georgia in order to get access to abortion care. Georgia is a state where only half of the counties have an OBGYN provider, it is a state where it has the second-highest maternal mortality rate in the country. It is also a state that has actively stated that it won’t expand access to Medicaid for most people. And so, Planned Parenthood Action Fund is to help educate Georgians about what is happening with their reproductive health care in this state. And we hope they factor that in when they go to the polls today.
AV: What do you say to black voters who maybe aren’t really sure where they fall on this issue?
AMJ: I would say to black voters who maybe aren’t really sure where they should fit on this issue is that our bodies are on the line. Our bodies have always been on the line in this country. When a state tells you that you don’t own your body–when a state tells you that they are concerned about you crossing state lines to get access to care…or don’t wants to give you the basic information of what it takes to actually get the access to care. That means they are trying to control you.
That means that they are trying to build power and control your body. And so black people we understand that we understand that from the time we stepped on the on this soil. And I’m pretty sure that black women in this state get that very clearly.
AV: And speaking of black women, in particular, Georgia has a very high percentage voting in this election. So what do you think are the biggest issues for Black women?
AMJ: Black women have been one of the biggest constituencies voting. In Georgia, they have been the ones saving democracy. They’ve been the ones organizing, and doing critical work. It’s freedom, it’s reproductive freedom, it’s democracy, those are the things that we understand are inextricably linked. When they come for your ability to control your own body, that is a descent into authoritarianism. That’s a descent into tyranny. That’s taking us back not just 50 years, but 250 years and black women understand that I believe innately.
AV: What can people expect from your tenure as leader of Planned Parenthood
AMJ: I have been very committed to making sure that equity is at the center of everything that we do as an organization. Planned Parenthood Federation of America, we have put aside a $50 million initiative on black women’s health. The Black Woman’s Health Equity Initiative where we’ll be investing in states, all throughout the South where access to abortion care has been banned or will be banned. We’ll be doubling down on access to contraception, birth control, and other forms of health care to ensure that we are, you know, there with our patients no matter what.
AV: Okay, on behalf of The Atlanta Voice, thank you for taking time out today to speak with us.