‘The path to freedom runs through Pennsylvania’: Planned Parenthood’s Alexis McGill Johnson says

By: - November 8, 2022 11:42 am

(*This post was updated at 12:33 p.m. on Monday, 12/5/22 to update Alexis McGill Johnson’s title. She is president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund.)

The Capital-Star spoke with *Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Alexis McGill Johnson, who returned to the Keystone State on Election Day to rally voters, and, she said, to drive home the message that abortion rights are on the ballot in the races for governor and U.S. Senate.

This conversation has been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

Q: What brings you back to Pennsylvania today?

McGill Johnson: This is it. This is our last opportunity to share the message of protecting freedom and democracy and to protect access to abortion. We have endorsed [Democratic nominee] John Fetterman for [U.S.] Senate. We strongly believe in his leadership, and the ability to get to 52 senators to codify [Roe v. Wade] into federal law. This is the first time since [the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe] that people have a chance to express their frustration and outrage. One student said they experienced a sense of betrayal on June 24 [when the ruling was handed down]. We’re here to remind people of how they felt, and to make sure that people are showing up for the election and voting today.

Q: Data show that more than 42 million people already have voted in the midterms. We know that Democrats tend to embrace mail-in voting more than Republicans. Are you seeing similar numbers – and what do those early trend lines tell you?

McGill Johnson: I think Democrats played a long game here, and focused on early voting, and ensured that people had more time to engage in the democratic process, and to make voting more accessible. I’ve been encouraged — traveling across the country — we’ve engaged with students; we’ve been engaged with infrequent voters; we’ve been engaged with independent suburban voters, and we’ve heard, across the board, that this isn’t a partisan issue for many folks. We have seen support for reproductive freedom across the board. But I might argue that this is a partisan issue in how we solve it, given how many folks in the opposition have not come forward with strong plans to protect access.

Q: When they’ve been out in the field, your canvassers have not only been talking to people about the implications for reproductive rights in this election, but also in 2023 in Pennsylvania, with a proposed constitutional amendment that would declare there is no constitutional right to abortion. Have you been talking to voters about that as well?

McGill Johnson: Our primary focus has been on the current race. But I do think ‘22, ‘23, and ‘24 will be critical to Pennsylvania and the country.  The path to freedom runs through Pennsylvania. That’s why we’re making it our focus on the last day. This is a federal fight – and a state-by-state fight. And it’s important for people to get educated on opportunities to weigh in regardless of the outcome of this election

Q: You said you’ve been all over the country. Is there any, one moment that has crystallized for you what this election is about, that has driven home the stakes for reproductive rights?

McGill Johnson: I remember talking to a woman, she showed up at a rally [in Michigan] with her husband and her young children. She shared that, when she was in high school, and she needed to get abortion care, she had to petition the state to get care, with her then-boyfriend, who is now her husband. Planned Parenthood helped her with the process, and it allowed to graduate [from high school], go to college, go to professional school, and get married with the same partner. She said ‘My husband and I normally vote along the same lines, but this is so important, that I am changing how I show up and how I vote. Not only that, I am talking to all my friends about why it’s so important.’

It really reinforces our message that this should not be a partisan issue. It’s an issue that affects the majority of people in each state. 

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.