On June 24, the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade, eliminating the constitutional right to an abortion after almost 50 years.
For months prior, pro-choice Americans prepared for the worst. In 2022 alone, nine states passed laws restricting abortion services. One-by-one, these decisions culminated to Politico’s bombshell leak of the Supreme Court’s intention to rule against Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a move that would overturn the abortion rights for 36 million Americans of reproductive age.
We know what happened next.
“It’s really important for anyone reading anything, anywhere, to understand the enormity of this,” says Dr. Laura Meyers, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington (PPMW). “[Dobbs is a decision that] poses grave risk for other freedoms we now hold dear.”
Meyers has served as a CEO for Planned Parenthood for more than 17 years and has led Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington as CEO since 2008. Throughout her decorated career, she has worked with sexual health clinics, adolescent pregnancy prevention organizations and empowerment support groups, all with one goal: to help.
“If we’re thinking about this from an ideological perspective,” she explains, “this latest decision runs contrary to the fundamental American values of freedom, self-determination [and] liberty.”
Extensive polling reveals more than 60% of Americans believe abortion services should be legal, according to the Pew Research Center.
“This decision is so out of sync with where Americans are,” Meyers says. “People need to make their voices heard, whether that’s in the streets, through their dollars or through the voting box.”
Like many pro-choice advocates, Meyers’ fight to retain access to abortion services across the country is personal. The eldest of six children, Meyers witnessed her mother undergo two turbulent pregnancies that resulted in long periods of hospitalization. At age 9 and then again at 12, Meyers became aware her mother wasn’t supposed to have more children because of potential health complications.
This was the ‘60s — an era of sexual friction where conversations about reproductive health and sexuality were growing, but still incredibly taboo. While Meyers’ mother survived pregnancy complications, others haven’t been so fortunate. Observing a time where access to abortion services were illegal, Meyers understands what it means to be able to control one’s body — and one’s future.
“If you can’t control what happens to your body, you can’t control your destiny,” she says.
From Meyers’ perspective, PPMW’s activism plan is multilayered.
“It’s about helping people who understand the issues further galvanize people to action,” she says.
The first step is providing care and resources to out-of-state patients most affected by the ruling. PPMW is welcoming patients from across the country with open arms, having already received an influx of out-of-state calls inquiring about abortion services at PPMW’s Washington and Maryland locations. In tandem, Axios reported the D.C. Council is reviewing policy that will strengthen protections for those traveling out-of-state to seek abortion services in Washington.
Meyers also underscores the importance of fundraising.
“[It’s critical to] ensure we have the financial resources to provide care without cost to patients.”
Funding will also support PPMW’s efforts to resolve public health inequities for reproductive rights within the DMV. In both Washington, D.C. and Virginia, Medicaid users currently cannot use their health insurance to obtain an abortion. In contrast, Maryland recently enacted a law that expands who can provide abortion services and funding for training.
“Politicians should not be involved in the provision of healthcare,” Meyers said. “[Those] decisions should be made by medical professionals in consultation with a patient. It’s [about] what’s best for that individual.”
Currently, PPMW is working with local elected representatives and Mayor Muriel Bowser to strengthen reproductive protections within D.C.
“Abortion is healthcare. [It] should not be stigmatized [and] should not be siloed out of health insurance,” Meyers says. “I think those of us who believe in fundamental American values of liberty, self-determination and freedom absolutely have to channel that rage into action.”
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