More than 200 people gathered in early April for the second annual Planned Parenthood Great Plains [PPGP] conference in Kansas City. This year’s conference focused on expanding access to sexual and reproductive health care.
Participants came from throughout Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and as far away as Texas.
Sessions covered topics that ranged from culturally competent care for LGBT+ patients and patients of color, to sex education for those with disabilities to conversations about the current political landscape and what it means for Planned Parenthood.
Bonyen Lee-Gilmore, the communications director for Planned Parenthood Great Plains, said the conference brought together clinicians, advocates, activists and policymakers. She added that while the organization coordinated the conference, it was about more than just Planned Parenthood and abortion services access.
“This was not a rah-rah Planned Parenthood day. This was about healthcare. And at the end of the day, that is what Planned Parenthood does,” Lee-Gilmore said.
Lee-Gilmore added that the conference was about having candid conversations about tough topics within healthcare and about shining a light on partner organizations.
“It is important to offer spaces for healthcare providers to understand how they can continue to make their environments inclusive,” Lee-Gilmore said.
Laura McQuade is the President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, and she said that the organization is working to adapt to the current political climate in Missouri.
She said the fact that many higher executive offices in Missouri, such as governor and attorney general, are now held by Republicans, makes life a little more complicated for the Columbia Planned Parenthood clinic.
“We have built a policy and advocacy program… to deal with this, “ McQuade said. “ So we will use all resources at our disposal not only to stop bad things from happening, but to promote positive access to healthcare across the state.”
McQuade said she is feeling “encouraged and hopeful” about the future of abortion services access in Missouri following a memo from federal judge Howard Sachs that was released earlier this month.
In this memo, Sachs disclosed his intention to block the restrictions on Missouri abortion clinics by granting Planned Parenthood a preliminary injunction. But he also wrote that he planned to give the state additional time to avoid “unintended damage.”
McQuade said she does not know when abortion services will be reinstated at the Columbia clinic because the exact language of the injunction is not yet known.
“We are waiting for that final ruling right now - to see how we can work with the court and the state to reintroduce services as quickly as possible,” McQaude said. “There is a set of circumstances where we could be providing services within a couple of weeks of receiving the preliminary injunction."