Today, March 8, is International Women’s Day and we’re so pleased to have a special treat for you here on the Feronia Project.
On Tuesday, Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida was lucky enough to have the fabulous Cecile Richards, President of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, speak at our 46th Anniversary Annual Dinner. She also took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to speak with us at The Feronia Project about the challenges facing Planned Parenthood, how the internet is changing sexual health education, and some of her must-reads. (And if you didn’t see her on the Daily Show last night – you absolutely must!)
Eleanor: What are the upcoming challenges you see Planned Parenthood facing, both locally and nationally? How are you working to solve these issues?
Cecile Richards, PPFA President: Everyone’s seen what’s been going on with Congress and the state legislatures and the constant attacks on birth control and reproductive health care. Those are very real challenges and very real fights.
We couldn’t solve it without social media; a great example is the hundreds of people that came out to the state Capitol in Virginia after finding out about the rally through social media and put politicians there on notice that they cannot put their politics before women’s health.
Eleanor: So, how can mothers introduce to their daughters and sons the importance of standing up for women’s health and women’s rights?
Cecile Richards: A great way to start is by introducing older teenagers to Planned Parenthood. Parents may not feel comfortable talking about sex with their children, but Planned Parenthood is an easy, safe place to refer them so that they can get their questions answered. As long as parents and their children can have that open dialogue and conversation, it’s a great way to talk about women’s rights and women’s health. Some of our best young activists started supporting Planned Parenthood as patients.
Eleanor: As a blog, we’d like to know – how do you see blogs like The Feronia Project, which talks about sexual health and reproductive justice, fitting into the way Planned Parenthood gives accurate sexual education information? And how does Planned Parenthood use social media and the internet to reach those who need its services?
Cecile Richards: The single biggest way that Planned Parenthood patients get their information now is online. And it’s only becoming more important – traffic to our online site has exploded in the last two months. The topics that young people have questions on are changing and social media and blogs allow people to have a conversation about those topics, in real time, and get their questions answered immediately.
3 million patients visit our Planned Parenthood health centers every year; in February 2012 alone, 4 million came online and visited Planned Parenthood’s website and social media sites. Based on those numbers, we’re projecting that 40 million people will reach out to Planned Parenthood online as a trusted sexual health provider this year.
Eleanor: In what way is Planned Parenthood bringing to light the positive stories that happen in our health centers every day? We’re more than abortions and STD diagnoses, after all.
Cecile Richards: You know, I think a key way that we do that is through social media and our website. We’ve shared stories like Close to the Heart: Stories of Planned Parenthood Breast Care Patients, and the wonderful “I Have a Say” videos on YouTube, all showing how Planned Parenthood helps women every day. During the birth control debate, we actually gave some of these stories to members of Congress to illustrate that not only do people use birth control for contraception, they also use it for a myriad of other reasons in reproductive health.
Eleanor: What are some ways that youth could show their support of Planned Parenthood – with their phones, tablets, or computers?
Cecile Richards: The most important thing is like our pages on Facebook and Twitter and re-share Planned Parenthood content with your friends. However, some of the best content is created outside of Planned Parenthood; while Planned Parenthood can create content themselves, one of the best ways that people can advocate for Planned Parenthood is by taking the license to use what Planned Parenthood has available and getting their own content to go viral. I’ve been particularly impressed with the Tumblr site Planned Parenthood Saved Me as a great example of this.
Eleanor: What can we do in Southwest & Central Florida to stand with Planned Parenthood?
Cecile Richards: You’re doing it. I’m amazed [by] being here – all the lobbying you do in the Florida Legislature and standing strong for Planned Parenthood, The SOURCE Theatre, the numerous opportunities to get involved.
The most important way we all can stand with Planned Parenthood is to vote and cast an informed vote; [you should] really look at what the candidates are saying and vote for who represents your views.
Eleanor: On a lighter note, we’re big readers here at The Feronia Project. What’s a book you would recommend to our Feronia Project followers as a “must-read?”
Cecile Richards: I have two great reads. One is How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America by Cristina Page; she’s a great writer and it’s a great exploration of the topic. One slightly different recommendation is The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood, a dark apocalyptic look at what it would be like if women had no rights. It’s a provocative book and shows just what it could be like if the attacks on women’s rights continue – and more than one person has told me that we’re living it right now.
Cecile Richards is a nationally respected leader in the field of women’s health and reproductive rights. As president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund, Ms. Richards leads a national organization that works for a healthier and safer world for women and teens.