After an Electoral Disappointment, Planned Parenthood Prepares for an Uncertain Future

Planned Parenthood Action Fund backed Hillary Clinton for president since the primary elections, and their candidate suffered a shocking loss. Now, with a confirmed pro-life president and strong Republican majorities in Washington, what are the main concerns and plans of action going forward? Tory Mills of Planned Parenthood in Knoxville sheds some light on what could be on the horizon.

These. Doors. Stay. Open. Those were the words, signed by Cecile Richards, sent out to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund email list the morning after Donald Trump was elected. The emails to supporters, the mobilization for action, and the fears for the future haven’t stopped in the days since.

While abortion has been a hot-button issue since before Planned Parenthood’s founding 100 years ago, the health care provider has been dealing with a resurgence of bad press since the video scandal of 2015. Since then, the health care provider has dealt with a shooting in Colorado, and a threat of widespread clinic closures after new abortion laws were passed in Texas. Those laws were struck down by the Supreme Court, a major victory for Planned Parenthood and its advocates.

However, the new administration brings a new wave of uncertainty. President-elect Trump reaffirmed his pro-life stance in his first post-election interview, casting doubt on the future of Roe v Wade. Vice president-elect Mike Pence was once called “a one-man crusade” to deny Planned Parenthood federal funding.

Planned Parenthood, supporters, and affiliated organizations have been active on social media the hashtag #standwithPP since the election.

Tory Mills, external affairs manager at Planned Parenthood of Knoxville, clarified what those two potential outcomes, an overturning of the Roe decision and federal defunding of Planned Parenthood, would mean for clinics across the nation.

In Trump’s words, “If Roe ever were overturned, it would go back to the states.” For some states, this would mean complete outlawing, something that hasn’t been seen in America since 1973.

“It would create a landscape like we’re already seeing in some states like Texas. We saw dramatic increases in the number of women forgoing birth control and other family planning needs. We actually saw a huge increase in the number of folks who were trying to give themselves abortions. We see this in other countries too, where abortion is illegal. The need for abortion does not go away; people just do it in an unsafe way,” Mills said.

#Prolife groups on Twitter have also been active, viewing the election of Donald Trump as a victory for their cause.

What would abortion made illegal mean for Planned Parenthood?

“I think the biggest concern is less for Planned Parenthood and more for our patients. We do so many things. I’m less concerned for Planned Parenthood; we just celebrated our hundredth anniversary, we are truly not going anywhere, but for the millions of people whom that would affect.”

Mills shared the 2008 statistic that 1 in 3 American women have abortions in their lifetime. As she said “abortion is a part of a lot of people’s lives.”

While overturning a Supreme Court decision would have a big impact, it’s a distant prospect for now. The more immediate consequence for Planned Parenthood to fear is the potential loss of federal funding.

Mills explained that some clinics do receive Title X funding that helps to provide family planning services on a sliding scale. The vast majority of federal money received by Planned Parenthood comes from Medicaid reimbursements. That means Planned Parenthood could be affected not just by defunding, but by cuts to Medicaid and potential repealing or amending of the Affordable Care Act.

Would revoking of funds at the federal level actually close Planned Parenthood health clinics?

“I think it depends on the Planned Parenthood. I think even if it doesn’t close centers, it doesn’t allow us to serve patients in the way that we want to and in the way that is so important to us by making sure that they can afford their birth control and that they’re getting the healthcare they want from the provider that they want,” Mills said.

With all the prospects on the horizon, one would think morale among those on the pro-choice side of the fence would be low. But Mills said in Knoxville, that hasn’t been the case.

“I think I’ve seen over 200 new volunteer applications come across my desk in a week. We had two guys who stopped by yesterday to drop by a handwritten note and a $20 bill. I think people are moving to action, and that is what I hope for, more than kind letters, more than notes, more than donations, I hope that we take this as a call to action.”

Action has been the theme of the emails sent out by Cecile Richards almost daily since the election. Action is also the overarching theme of those on the pro-life side of the fence. While Planned Parenthood is maintaining its stance of the last 100 years: ‘we aren’t going anywhere,’ the fears of what’s in the future aren’t going anywhere either.

 For a more in-depth version of my talk with Tory Mills, click below.

You can also view this story on by clicking here.


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