On November 23, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Texas will be able to exclude Planned Parenthood from participating in the Medicaid program, blocking access to essential health services for low-income individuals during an unprecedented global pandemic. This ruling has not yet taken effect, and for now Planned Parenthood health centers in Texas are able continue to serve Medicaid patients — but only until December 14, 2020. Once this ruling does take effect, Texans will needlessly suffer because extremist politicians have chosen to single out Planned Parenthood. Unfortunately, this ruling opens the door for Louisiana to exclude Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid program, too. While this has not yet happened and Louisianans can still use their Medicaid coverage at Planned Parenthood, we anticipate that could change.
Racist and discriminatory policies mean that women and people of color disproportionately are enrolled in public health programs like Medicaid. This decision will most harm communities already facing greater barriers to care, increased exposure to COVID-19, and disparately worse health outcomes. Navigating systemic discrimination and struggling to make ends meet, those who depend on Planned Parenthood for affordable health care may be left with nowhere to turn. At Planned Parenthood we are dedicated to providing compassionate, quality health care for all, regardless of race, gender identity, sexual orientation, or income level. We will always stand with our patients, and we’re pursuing every option to help ensure those who need care will be able to access it — now more than ever.
If you feel moved to action by this devastating decision in Texas, join our Courts Watch Committee on our Louisiana Rapid Response Team. For more information, reach out to [email protected] or visit our webpage.
This year, we observed World Aids Day on December 1. We know that people living with HIV/AIDS can live long, healthy, and fulfilling lives with the right treatment and community support. Let's commit to getting tested and ending the stigma and discrimination that can create even more barriers to care for people living with or affected by HIV.
At PPGC, we are proud to offer PrEP, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis and is also known by the brand name Truvada — a daily pill that can help prevent HIV. If you don’t have HIV, taking PrEP every day can lower your chances of getting HIV from sex by more than 90 percent. PrEP is for people who don’t have HIV and are at higher risk for getting HIV. To talk to one of our practitioners about whether PrEP is right for you, call us for an appointment at 1-800-230-PLAN or schedule online.
Global AIDS Day: We Cannot Change What We Cannot See
In the fight to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic, our most precious resource is information.
Information I didn’t have four years ago, when I was on the other side of the world, sick for months at a time without a clue about what was happening to me. I was living in Australia at the time, and it wasn’t until I returned to the U.S. that I went to a doctor for answers.
I went to my local Planned Parenthood health center in Pennsylvania, because when you need information, that’s just where you go. During my appointment, the nurse asked me if I had ever been tested for HIV. She never pressured me to take the test, but she gave me information about it that I was hearing for the first time. I didn’t think much of it, but I decided to get tested because it was free.
A few days later, I received a call from the nurse that I tested positive for HIV. I was afraid. I didn’t tell anybody about it because I didn’t know if I could tell people whether I was going to be okay or not.
When I went back to Planned Parenthood for my second visit, the staff were extremely helpful, optimistic, and supportive. This was the first time I received accurate, comprehensive information about HIV. I learned it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. They assured me that I was going to be okay. I was referred to another health center for treatment, and I could finally tell my friends and family that I was going to live a normal life.
I had no job and no insurance, but I finally had the information I needed to take care of myself and move forward.
Today, we have a chance to do better — to make information about HIV available to everyone who needs it.
One major barrier to that goal: The global gag rule, which denies foreign aid to health organizations that provide, refer, or even mention abortion to their patients. Under the Trump Administration, that rule has expanded to all global health funding, including for HIV/AIDS, and has had a chilling effect on the already tenuous health systems that people in low- and middle-income countries often rely on.
If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that public health crises do not respect national borders. We know none of us are truly safe until all of us are safe. If we are truly going to end this epidemic, we cannot leave people behind in our response to HIV/AIDS.
With new national leadership in place next year, we can begin to get people what they really need: unbiased, comprehensive, science-based information. That starts with ending the global gag rule, rejoining the World Health Organization and coordinating with the global community, and investing in evidence-based HIV programs that prioritize the needs of key communities at risk: adolescent girls and women, LGBTQ+ folks, and other key communities like sex workers, people who use drugs, people who are incarcerated, and certain Indigenous or ethnic communities.
Globally, about 1 in 5 people living with HIV are unaware of their status. There are countless reasons why: no access to testing, fear and stigma, bad policy, and underinvestment in public health. So much of it boils down to a lack of information. People don’t know that you can live a normal life with HIV. They don’t know that PrEP and PEP, preventive treatments for people at risk of infection, are available. They haven’t heard from people living with HIV to see that there is no shame in knowing your status and advocating for your own health.
We cannot change what we cannot see.
Today, I am very happy and healthy. I earned my master’s degree, bought a house, and got engaged to the love of my life. I’m living my best life, all because I got the information I needed. And I cannot put a price on that.
—Jordyn, PPGC patient and advocate
Photo: The New Orleans 2020 Virtual Fall Celebration featured special jazz music by Jade & Triple Threat.
This has certainly been a year unlike any other, and PPGC has faced new challenges and opportunities alike. Through it all, steadfast supporters like you stepped up and helped answer our call.
At the beginning of the pandemic, just two weeks before our Baton Rouge Spring Fundraiser, our dedicated Baton Rouge community generously donated every ticket and sponsorship intended for the fundraiser directly to our mission —essential as our health centers began temporarily closing to help stop the spread.
In early spring, supporters across our state and country gifted close to $550,000 in emergency contributions to our COVID-19 relief program, which was instrumental in helping PPGC launch our telehealth services and continue to provide care at a time when we could not see many patients in person.
Our supporters didn’t stop there: In early June, PPGC participated in the annual GiveNOLA Day 24-hour fundraising campaign held by the Greater New Orleans Foundation. Our New Orleans community went above and beyond our goal, surpassing all previous years of participation and raising over $43,500 from 439 different donors.
This fall saw new opportunities, as PPGC held our very first virtual event: our New Orleans Fall Celebration. While we couldn’t gather together to celebrate in person, guests were treated to a full program of live entertainment, speakers, and storytellers from the comfort and safety of their own homes. Hundreds of supporters tuned in from around the country, helping us raise over $85,000 in support of our work.
As this year draws to a close, PPGC offers our most sincere appreciation for your continued support. We would not be where we are today without your unrelenting dedication. Thank you for all that you’ve done and continue to do.
Photo: Rhonda Broussard, Founder and CEO of Beloved Community, speaks during the New Orleans 2020 Virtual Fall Celebration.
Photo: Alanah Odoms, Executive Director, ACLU of Louisiana, speaks at the My Right, My Decision Rally held in New Orleans on March 4, 2020.
The Public Affairs team hit the ground running this year, and while much of our work looked different, we were still able to mobilize and achieve many milestones.
We educated our community, particularly 20 faith leaders, on why courts matter, highlighting the harmful impact of lifetime judicial appointments by the Trump Administration. We also hosted a Town Hall and individual sessions with faith leaders, which propelled us to begin finding meaningful partnership opportunities on future projects.
We worked closely with faith leaders in New Orleans and Baton Rouge on civic engagement efforts, successfully hosting virtual and in-person voter registration drives, voter education sessions, census education efforts, and “church to the polls.” Together, we registered 145 voters and sent census information to 4,000 supporters.
We implemented the Louisiana Rapid Response Team, an elite group of volunteers and activists committed to taking specific actions during our fast-paced legislative session. Our goal is to have people in each legislative district willing to make time-sensitive contacts to key legislators.
Not only was this an election year, it was a busy year for the entire justice system. We worked in coalition with our partners around June Medical Services v. Russo, the U.S. Supreme Court decision. that struck down an admitting privileges law that would have decimated abortion access in Louisiana. The 5-4 decision which came this June, was a great victory for our state.
We also had the responsibility of educating our supporters about Constitutional Amendment 1, a ballot initiative to add anti-abortion language to the Louisiana State Constitution. We hosted a town hall and 27 virtual education sessions, activated over 40 volunteers, sent more than 14,000 text messages, called over 800 Louisianans, canvassed 2,000 homes, hosted four honk-and-waves, and distributed over 250 yard signs all in an effort to educate our community and defeat this harmful amendment. Unfortunately, the initiative passed on Election Day, but we built a stronger network of support for future fights to protect access to abortion and all reproductive health care in our state.
Finally, our team worked with six patients to publicly share their Planned Parenthood stories and oriented 107 new volunteers throughout the year. We could never do this work without your support. Thank you all for a great year!
Photo: Volunteers in Baton Rouge participate in a honk-and-wave to spread awareness of harmful Amendment 1.
Photo: Volunteers in New Orleans participate in a neighborhood canvassing event.
Photo: New Orleans Health Educator, Bria, teaches an outdoor session in the Algiers Point neighborhood of New Orleans.
Our Louisiana Education team stayed busy in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic forced us to find alternate ways of providing education — and our team knocked it out of the park.
We transitioned our entire Summer Learning Series to a virtual format this year as we adapted to pandemic restrictions. The virtual format allowed us to deliver our standard education sessions on STIs, protection methods, healthy relationships, and so much more while reaching more people across our service area, including some who would have otherwise faced geographic restrictions. Additionally, Planned Parenthood and the peer educators of teenREACH educated high school students between the ages of 14-19 on topics like birth control options, preventing STDs, healthy relationships, and healthy sexuality. Our team was part of new affiliate-wide “Teen Social Hour” meetups, for all our teen program participants from each city in our service area to get together and have fun. We also started an affiliate-wide monthly meetup for Sisters Saving Sisters, an opportunity for young women of color to check in, engage in different discussions, and support each other.
Our educators became trained and are still diligently working in Planned Parenthood’s Chat/Text Program. The program allows people from all over the world to chat in real time, online and via mobile chat platforms, with our expertly trained sexuality educators. Educators across the country are available seven days a week to answer users’ questions about birth control, STIs, pregnancy, abortion, relationships, and so much more. Aijha, a PPGC Health Educator in Baton Rouge, and Bria, a PPGC Health Educator in New Orleans, were trained over the summer to assist users in navigating their questions about sexual health. They now correspond with users as part of PPGC’s regular education outreach programming. To chat, simply visit https://www.plannedparenthood.org/online-tools/chat or text “PPNOW” to 774636.
While 2020 has looked very different for us, we were able to grow new partnerships to provide education through various mediums. We are looking forward to what’s to come in the new year.
1. Give local. Donate to Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast and 100% of your gift supports Louisianans.
2. Volunteer. Contribute your time and talents, ensuring that we’re able to continue providing health services, advocacy, and education to the communities we serve.
3. Become a patient. Make your next health care appointment at one of our Planned Parenthood health centers in Louisiana.
4. Act. Call your representatives and tell them you stand with Planned Parenthood.
5. Connect. Follow us at @ppgulfcoast, stay engaged with our movement, and use #IStandwithPP to post your support on social media.