Member Spotlights

Planned ParenthoodVotes Northwest

By Illysa Schrager

Planned Parenthood Votes Northwest (PPVNW) is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that promotes and protects reproductive health, rights, and justice by educating policy makers and the women and men living in Washington,Idaho, and Alaska. PPVNW advocates for public policies that guarantee the right to full and nondiscriminatory access to reproductive health care. Through voter education, candidate endorsement, and other activities, PPVNW fosters and preserves a social and political climate favorable to the exercise of reproductive choice. The organization’s work is supported by its legal status as a 501(c)(4), enabling it to engage in lobbying, public education, regulatory advocacy, and electoral activities.

In the summer of 2011, PPVNW was created through the merger of three organizations – Planned Parenthood Votes (PPV)Washington, PPV Idaho, and PPV Alaska. PPVNW serves as the “advocacy and political arm” of Planned Parenthood (PP)affiliates in Washington, Idaho, and Alaska: Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest; Mount Baker PP; PP of Greater Washington and North Idaho; and PP – Columbia Willamette.

The organization has 22 employees located across the three states. Although based in the state of Washington, a regional team (made up of the CEO, policy director, communications director, political director, research associate, and chaplain)supports efforts in all three states. Advocacy support varies state to state, but the regional team strives to support each state’s work equally, while balancing emerging issues. In each of the three states, there are field staff and public affairs managers. The field staff is responsible for organizing activists and volunteers for outreach activities like phone banking. The public affairs managers more or less operate like field directors and in Idaho and Alaska,they are also responsible for some political and lobbying work. PPVNW staff has strong relations with other staff in the affiliates,and particularly works closely with affiliate billing staff to support their advocacy work around Medicaid reimbursement.

Among many of its advocacy goals, maintaining funding for family planning and supporting the operations of affiliates across the three states remains a top priority of PPVNW’s work. This summer, PPVNW is focusing on outreach and education efforts around the Affordable Care Act and having Washingtonians, Idahoans, and Alaskans pledge to enroll in health insurance come October 1, the date of open enrollment for the new healthcare marketplaces. PPVNW is educating communities about enrollment options and actively promoting enrollment via its Facebook page and a section of its website that allows people to pledge to enroll through an online form.

As in many states across the nation, PPVNW has spent a great deal of its time on defense in its advocacy efforts over the last several years. For example, in Alaska, PPVNW staff and advocates defended a woman’s right to choose and advocated against a state senate bill that would have narrowed access to abortion under Medicaid, so that most women would not qualify for services under a new definition of “medical necessity.” Through the hard work of the organization and its supporters, this measure did not pass. Last year in Idaho, PPVNW’s advocacy efforts helped block a mandatory ultrasound bill and contraception refusal bill. Also in Idaho, field staff are actively involved in the “Add the Words” campaign,a movement to advocate for Idaho policymakers to include gay and transgender people in Idaho’s human rights act for fair employment, housing, education, and health care services.

PPVNW was awarded a NFPRHA Medicaid advocacy grant to support its Medicaid work in Washington State. The grant has enabled PPVNW to make great strides advocating with and educating policymakers about the importance of Medicaid coverage and Washington’s Medicaid family planning waiver, called Take Charge. Throughout the last year, PPVNW’s advocacy work supported the increase of access to services through telemedicine; achieved parity with pregnancy care eligibility in Medicaid family planning services by increasing eligibility to 250% of the federal poverty level; included work on application and billing issues,including the removal of barriers to same-day services and prompt reimbursement; and promoted 12-month birth control coverage which is projected to save more than $4 million in public money as a result of a reduction in unintended pregnancies.

Whether staff and activists are educating citizens about the breadth of family planning services that are available to them; instate capitols advocating for higher funding levels and improved programs; defending against measures to restrict reproductive choice; or endorsing local, state, and federal policymakers who support its mission, PPVNW is making a crucial difference in the day-to-day lives of Washingtonians, Idahoans, and Alaskans. 

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National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association

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© 2011 National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association