Finally, Women’s Health Not a “Battering Ram”

Emily Douglas

At a Planned Parenthood luncheon celebrating the inauguration, a heady mix of optimism and relief was in the air -- buoyed by advocates looking forward to working with an administration not openly hostile to women's health.

At a Planned Parenthood luncheon celebrating President-elect Obama’s inauguration, a heady mix of optimism and relief was in the air — buoyed in part by the elderflower mimosas, but mostly by advocates looking forward to working with an administration not openly hostile to women’s health. Women’s health advocates, bloggers, pro-choice Governors Brian Schweitzer of Montana and Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas and even a few celebrities mixed, mingled and talked up their hopes for the next four years.

The list of changes women’s health advocates have for the Obama administration is long, but perhaps the most profound change Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, is expecting is dealing with an administration that can talk about women’s health "as women’s health, not as a political battering ram."  Obama’s appointments to many of the offices relevant to reproductive health have been distinguished, more than anything else, says Richards, by the fact that they approach health care as health care, not as an opportunity to exercise an ideology.

Any indication as to whether Obama will repeal the global gag rule on his first day in office?

"We expect to see action early, but we recognize he has a lot on his plate," says Richards.  "We want him to be President for a long time."

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A highlight of the day for me was meeting Dr. Susan Wood, former assistant commissioner for women’s health at the FDA, who resigned in protest over the agency’s stalling over-the-counter access for emergency contraception.  She, too, is excited to see the FDA promote, rather than outright undermine, women’s health.

Feministe blogger Jill Filipovic asked Cecile Richards what the role of grassroots activists and the feminist blogosphere will be in pushing the women’s health agenda under the Obama administration.

"Now we need to learn how to be partners," Richards responded.  "We need to learn how to support the people who are doing the right thing."

I’ll be heading to the Mall at 4am tomorrow morning to try to stake out a spot amongst the crowds, and when I get back to a computer, I’ll share what I saw.

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