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Breakfast With

Gloria Feldt

Monday, September 11, 2000

By Marylynn Uricchio, SEEN Editor

Gloria Feldt is president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the country's oldest and largest reproductive health care and advocacy organization, with more than 900 health centers. Feldt joined Planned Parenthood in 1974 as head of the Odessa, Texas, affiliate, eventually becoming national president in 1996. Vanity Fair recently named Feldt one of America's Top 200 Women Leaders, Legends and Trailblazers. She will be in Pittsburgh Thursday to address Planned Parenthood of Western Pennsylvania's 70th Anniversary luncheon. Call 412-434-8957.


Q After 84 years, is Planned Parenthood still controversial?

 
Gloria Feldt 

A Planned Parenthood is an extraordinarily well regarded American institution. Almost everyone has heard of Planned Parenthood, and of those, 70 percent have highly favorable opinions, about 15 percent have negative opinions and there a few in the middle. While there are always some people out there screaming and yelling, the fact of the matter is Planned Parenthood is mainstream America. Ninety percent of Americans now support access to family planning, and family planning and Planned Parenthood are almost synonymous.

Q What damage has the religious right done to Planned Parenthood?

A I think the hard-line religious political extremists have done a great deal of damage to American women's ability to get family planning and reproductive health care. They have polarized the issue by being so doctrinaire, so hard-line. If they really wanted to prevent abortions, their time would be better spent working with us to provide family planning and education than by carrying picket signs.

Q What stance is your political action committee taking on the upcoming presidential election?

A We're not endorsing in the presidential race -- it's an organizational policy. But for the first time in its 84-year-history, Planned Parenthood is doing voter education on where the presidential candidates stand on family planning, abortion and sex education. We are taking that dramatic step this year because the stakes for women are so high, and we have no more margin for loss. We have lost so much in access and we have gained so little in making services available that we decided we have a moral obligation to speak up. We are particularly aiming to inform those compassionate, "conservative" women, moderate Republican and independent women, because they can turn this election one way or the other and choice is an issue that will determine their vote.

Q Planned Parenthood has been an advocate of contraceptive equality. Has there been any progress?

A We are working on legislation in Congress -- the Equity in Prescription Insurance and Contraceptive Coverage Act. That bill has not been passed into law yet, but we have been successful in getting contraceptive coverage for federal employees, and that is the largest health insurance plan in the country, and one that is often used as a model. It's a simple matter of gender equity. Birth control bills and other contraceptive measures are the most frequent prescriptions that women have. More insurance plans cover Viagra than birth control pills.

Q Have any states succeeded in withdrawing funding because of abortion?

A They have tried in many creative ways, but thus far I think Planned Parenthood has been very successful in remaining a part of the provider network in any given state. One thing Planned Parenthood will not do is compromise our fundamental principles. We will not be bought. So whenever a government body restricts our ability to give a patient full and complete information about all their options, we would consider that unethical medical care and we would choose not to participate.

Q How much of a threat is there?

A It's a constant battle, both at the federal level and state by state. But it's a battle we take on enthusiastically because we know how much these services are needed. As Thomas Jefferson said, eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. As long as we're all active in making our voices heard, we will be able to provide services. The minute we stop, we will lose those services.

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