Planned Parenthood Federation of America was founded on October 16, 1916, when Margaret Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the U.S. in Brooklyn, New York, with her sister Ethel Byrne and Fania Mindell. All three women were quickly arrested (and were then arrested another six times), but that was just the beginning of their fight to provide access to reproductive healthcare to American women.
Today the non-profit organization is still under attack: for example, President Trump is actively trying to defund Planned Parenthood by block Medicaid reimbursements, which would impact millions of Americans, and the administration is rolling back the Obama-era stipulation that employer-provided health insurance policies include female contraceptive coverage.
On the 101st anniversary of Planned Parenthood, the trailblazing Faye Wattleton, who was president of the organization from 1978 to 1992, looks back at how she became an activist, and why she’s not surprised that we’re still fighting for access to reproductive healthcare today.
How did you become the president of Planned Parenthood?
Well, my mother was a minister, and so as a child, I grew up attending tent revivals. So perhaps my courage was derived from the role model of a very strong, articulate orator, who preached with conviction and in her beliefs. My background also is in health care. I have two degrees in nursing. I was trained at Ohio State, and I earned a master’s in midwifery at Columbia University. At that time, abortion was illegal, and so I saw the benefit and the dangers and the results of illegal abortion. My clinical training was at a large urban hospital, and so poor women came in, injured, bleeding, and in one or two cases, I actually saw and witnessed the death of a woman that I cared for. So it didn’t take a great deal of courage to speak on behalf of what I had seen, not what I thought about or theorized about, but rather, what I had seen that goes on in women’s lives.
Before coming to the national organization, I ran a local Planned Parenthood chapter. At that time, it did not provide abortion services, and still, it was under attack, because we provided services to minors without parental consent, so the local Catholic priest attacked us regularly from his pulpit. The opposition to what we did very often resulted in pickets around our clinics, and so it didn’t take a great deal of courage for me to say that, “This is wrong. It’s wrong for America. It is wrong for women. It simply is not the progression that we should expect in this country.” I felt that I could now give voice in a broader and to a broader audience, on a broader platform for real issues that are a part of real women’s lives, not the theory of women’s lives or the judgment about women’s lives, but in reality, what their needs are and what we could offer them in the services provided at Planned Parenthood clinics.
Where are you from?
I’m from St. Louis, Missouri, but I came here to New York in the late ’70s to become president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. When I came to New York, it was a time of great difficulty for the city. There had been an enormous financial crisis in the city. There was the emerging crack epidemic throughout the country, the issues of health care, reproductive health care, teenage pregnancy, a number of issues that were carryovers from the struggles of the country in the ’70s were very much a part of life in New York City.
I loved New York immediately, but I was here in graduate school in the late ’60s, so it was a better time. There were still a number of problems within the city that the leaders of the city were grappling with, but instead of turning away from it and shying away from the difficulties, I saw that really as reflective of a lot of what was going on in the country at large. And my position as Planned Parenthood president allowed me to be a spokesperson for women in the midst of these great changes that were taking place and the turmoil that occurred as a result of the changes.
Planned Parenthood has always been a controversial organization. Did you feel there was a lot of opposition to what you were trying to do?
Well, let’s do a little historic lesson here. The woman who founded Planned Parenthood went to jail seven times. The progression of this organization in advancing women’s possibilities has always been under attack. To be jailed for passing out literature was really the founding roots of Planned Parenthood.
So it was not unreasonable to expect that I would come to the national organization and encounter the same types of opposition, but mid-to-late 20th century opposition… it was a very violent time. Our affiliates were being bombed. They were being picketed daily. The doors were locked with glue, with epoxy.
Planned Parenthood is a network of organizations around the country. At the time that I became Planned Parenthood, there were over 200 family planning clinics in most states in the country, and so the opposition, having lost dramatically as a result of Supreme Court decisions and as a result of the progression of national federal policy funding reproductive services, had expanded significantly the services that women, that poor women, that young women, that minority women could receive.
Those services were in direct opposition to the people who want women to continue to fulfill reproductive obligations, without having the benefit of controlling their bodies in that regard. So what happened was that not being able to control the national progression for women, the strategy was to do what was necessary to block the efforts of people serving women in their communities, and that became the focus and remains largely the focus of the opposition, the continuing opposition, almost 40 years later, of the people who want to roll back the clock.
Did I feel that it was a very difficult position to be in? No. I felt very privileged to have been selected to be the voice and the leader. I was the chief executive officer of the national organization, the oldest nonprofit reproductive health care organization in the country. We were in the midst of a very, very severe backlash. Now, when I say we, I mean women, not Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood simply served women, but we had seen a progression of lawsuits that legalized contraceptive use, that legalized abortion, that made reproductive health services more broadly available through federal allocations.
It was a time when women really made tremendous progress toward being really totally in control of their lives and their bodies. So of course, there was going to be an opposition to these dramatic changes, because it really meant a fundamental change for women in our society. And that was very much the case when I joined the national organization to try to lead the organization to address these issues on behalf of women, not on behalf of Planned Parenthood, but on behalf of women, because we were the ones that stood at stake to lose the most.
Are you surprised now that there’s still so much push back today, even though times have really changed?
I recently attended a meeting of Planned Parenthood, where it was announced that one out of every three women in this country have benefited from a Planned Parenthood service. That’s a lot of women. That’s a lot of lives who have been touched, who have been changed. Even though I left the organization a number of years ago, after almost a quarter of a century of service there, I still meet women who say that, “Without Planned Parenthood, I would not have had a life. I would not have been able to achieve what I’ve been able to achieve,” and subsequently have become mothers and successful in their own lives.
So I guess I’m not surprised, because I know that the opponents of this progression, and those who want to roll back the clock for women, are not willing to give up, because they believe themselves to be divinely anointed to do so. They believe that their values should be imposed through government on every woman. They believe that somehow, their view of their world is the view that every woman should accept, and I would like to believe that we are a country that holds to the basic, fundamental beliefs that people should be able to determine their own destiny, without the government attempting to restrict or dictate their circumstances, when those circumstances are often very complicated and are not susceptible to regulatory or legislative authority.
Being a mother myself, I know the experience of pregnancy is a very challenging one. Being a mother and not only having actually given birth to a daughter and raised her and tried to give her the very best possible circumstances, parenthood is a very challenging one. Interestingly, Planned Parenthood was started by a woman who wasn’t so concerned about parenthood as she was about women’s sexual and reproductive liberation. Her view was that women should be able to enjoy their sexuality as a normal part of being human, and that they should not be susceptible to unintended pregnancy as a result of not having the means to control that fertility. So I would like to think that where we have tried to lead is that we’ve tried to say that this is about liberation for women, but also, it’s really about a world in which we can make our personal choices without other people dictating those choices. I mentioned earlier that my mother was a minister. She didn’t believe in government intervention in your personal lives.
She believed very much in the power of persuasion, and I was often characterized as being godless and having no religious values, and I think that my work really informed my values quite deeply in a religious grounding, in the view that we must extend compassion, but also, that we have to understand that everyone doesn’t have the same life, and that the government should not dictate it. That’s, of course, what she did throughout her life and throughout her ministry. When I was a child, I used to go to the altar all the time to get saved. I didn’t stay saved, but her persuasion was quite powerful and was very powerful in changing the lives of many whom she touched. But she did not at any point dictate or advance the notion that the government should carry out her message that she derived from the Bible and from the teachings of the Old and New Testaments. She did not believe that that should be enshrined in laws, to impose and enforce them on others against their will.
But let me tell you, people are familiar with it one way or another, whether they’re an activist or not, because it’s human. It’s about human nature. It’s about the human condition. Sexuality is a part of who we are as creatures, from infancy, even during gestation. Sexual development takes place in the development of the fetus, and so it is a matter of whether we will stand against those who wish to control and regulate or whether we will continue to speak out and advance the notion that, just as other aspects of our health and the wellbeing of our lives is better advanced by being informed, by being educated, by understanding the progression that has been made in understanding how the body functions and how we relate psychologically to one another, it should be a part of that natural aspect of who we are. And, you know, frankly, when people are so consumed with other people’s sexuality, I kind of find it kind of perverse, but I can tell you this: We’re all sexual, and the only question is whether we will be able to express our sexuality by an informed process and with the choices to be able to exercise our choices responsibly, or whether we will be circumscribed to another person’s value system and views as to how we should conduct our lives. And I’d like to think that the work that I was able to do during the almost a quarter of a century of Planned Parenthood is that I preserved a country in which people who really want to have children and who believe that abortion is wrong and that they should not be forced to terminate a pregnancy against their will will also have that right. So it’s really about fundamentally, what do we mean when we say that we live in a free and liberated country? And so I really felt that the context of that work is really about preserving the fundamental principles of our country and our society.
Royals 2017: Why Pharrell Williams, Winona Ryder, Tracee Ellis Ross and More Are the Role Models of Today
Winona Ryder wears Fendi dress; Angela Friedman bra; M&S Schmalberg brooch; Fogal tights; Gucci shoes. Beauty: Chantecaille.
Tilda Swinton wears Loewe jacket, shirt, and pants. Beauty: Chanel.
Hailee Steinfeld wears Valentino dress. Beauty: Maybelline.
Tracee Ellis Ross wears Vetements dress. Beauty: Lâncome.
Saoirse Ronan wears Saint Laurent by Anthony Vaccarello shirt and pants. Beauty: Nars.
Chris Hemsworth wears Boss shirt and pants; his own belt and necklace. Grooming: Hugo Boss.
Pharrell Williams wears Sacai shirt; Bulgari necklace (top); his own necklace. Grooming: Giorgio Armani.
Robert Pattinson wears Dior Homme turtleneck; Haider Ackermann pants. Grooming: Dior Homme.
James Corden wears Ann Demeulemeester shirt and hat. Grooming: Neutrogena.
Jared Leto wears Gucci jacket, shirt, and pants; M&S Schmalberg brooch; Artemas Quibble belt. Grooming: Gucci.
New Royalty: Movie Star
My first kiss was on set. It was my very first film as well. My character really liked this boy, and she didn’t know if he noticed her. In the end she got to kiss him. At that time, I was only 11 years old, and not ready to kiss a boy. I asked the director, “How long do you want me to kiss him? How many seconds?” And the director said, “Three seconds.” So while kissing, I counted in my head. Every single take I was like, One, two, three. And then: “Okay, kill, cut!” I definitely suffered for art.
Ronan wears a Louis Vuitton top, cape, and shoes; Falke tights.
Classic Royalty: Movie Star
Is there anything that scares you? I’m not easily scared, and I’m wary of being bored. I think risk-taking is a subjective thing. One person’s risk is another one’s comfort zone. And, to be honest, I’m too lazy to get easily scared. Maybe I’ve got a bit of my brain missing, but I love not knowing what I’m doing next. What about when it comes to clothes? Did you always have a fashion-forward outlook? Again, what somebody might think of as unusual is, to me, supercomfortable, inspiring, and interesting. I’ve never truly been that aware of fashion; I’m interested in style.
Swinton wears a Haider Ackermann shirt; Alexander Calder necklace from Stephen Russell, New York.
New Royalty: Renaissance Person
Where do you get your ideas? The shower is a frequent place. Actually, near any running water—whether it’s the faucet or the shower. And sometimes I get ideas on a plane because of the sound deprivation.
Do you record your ideas on your phone? I just hold on to them. The best way to remember something is if you home in on the excitement. That you don’t forget.
Is there a song that makes you cry? It’s been maybe 10 years since I heard something that made me cry. There is an old Donny Hathaway song called “Take a Love Song,” and it would make me emotional. But I think I was eating a lot of weed candy at the time, so that may have pushed me over the edge.
Whom do you consider Royal? Wes Anderson. I love what he does. Bill Murray running from a playground in Rushmore made me very happy. Anderson’s composition is amazing: his color, the music that he uses. I’m not an actor, but, in a heartbeat, I would just walk by or whatever he asked me to do in one of his films.
Williams wears a Chanel jacket and necklace; G-Star pants; Adidas Originals = Pharrell Williams shoes; his own shirt, belt, bracelets, ring, watch, and socks.
Classic Royalty: Renaissance Person
When did you start dancing? When I was 3. I loved it. I did recitals and I loved being onstage. I particularly loved the collective mind of the audience. Applause was nice, but I liked the silence of the audience better. The silence means, Oh, my! You have their rapt attention.
MacLaine wears an Akris turtleneck.
Classic Royalty: Activist
I came to New York in the ’70s to become president of Planned Parenthood. It was a time of great difficulty for the city—and for the country—but also one when women made tremendous progress toward being in control of their lives and their bodies. My position allowed me to be a spokesperson for women in the midst of the great changes that were taking place and the turmoil that occurred as a result of them. Today, 40 years later, the continuing opposition to Planned Parenthood comes from people who want to roll back the clock.
Wattleton wears a Row coat; Vhernier earrings; Verdura necklace.
New Royalty: Activist
When I was 11, my parents gave me an iPhone. I think it shaped who I am as a person because I had access to everything very, very early on. But now I’m 18 and I have gotten rid of it. I was worried about the mental-health effects it was having on me. The phone was taking over my life. I felt like I was floating away, and part of that had to do with being in a virtual world without any tangible substance. I felt like I was always refreshing Instagram instead of refreshing my life.
Stenberg wears a Prada top; Buccellati earrings.
New Royalty: Renaissance Person
To me, Paula Abdul is royalty. I just saw her live, and the whole time I was watching her, I was hitting the person next to me and saying, “Oh. My. God. Yes!” I’m late to the game, but Paula Abdul is completely amazing.
Steinfeld wears an Yves Salomon coat; Nili Lotan dress; Mahnaz Collection ring; Lynn Ban earring.
New Royalty: Renaissance Person
There were eight boys in The History Boys, and we were all at a similar point in our careers. The other seven would get incredible scripts for Spielberg movies or big HBO shows, and I would get a one-page script for the guy who drops off a TV for Hugh Grant. I remember thinking, These decisions are being made based on the way I look. I realized then and there that I needed to try and start creating stuff on my own. And I did.
Corden wears a Berluti jacket; Burberry shirt; Balenciaga scarf.
New Royalty: Society
The notion of being born into the right stratosphere no longer exists. More and more, young people want to dedicate their lives to doing something meaningful that has a positive effect on the world. That’s what is valued now—not your name or your lineage.
Bush Lauren wears a Ralph Lauren shirt; Zimmerli of Switzerland tank; Hermès scarves; Vicki Turbeville earrings; vintage bracelet from Stazia Loren, New York.
Classic Royalty: Society
You got involved with God’s Love We Deliver during the ’80s AIDS epidemic. It was a terrible time. We delivered meals to people who were sick. A lot of my friends thought I had lost my mind. There was so much fear.
How did you meet Robert Trump? At a fundraiser. We were married in 1984. But years later things changed, and, in 2007, we divorced.
Did you go to your former brother-in-law’s presidential inauguration? Yes. It was kind of an out-of-body experience. [Laughs] It’s like, Am I really here? I went to all the balls, and there was a wonderful small lunch, and Donald and Melania were there. She looked beautiful.
Is it strange to see your last name everywhere? Yes—very, very strange. I mean, forget paying with a credit card. It’s always, “Are you related?” It never ends.
Trump wears a Chloé dress; David Webb earrings.
New Royalty: Model
I always go into a zone when I’m posing for a photographer. I like to try and get into whatever character is wanted for the photos. For this shoot, I tried to be kind of vulnerable and soft because I can be quite hard with my resting bitch face. I wanted to look innocent, but mysterious. And royal. Very royal.
Aboah wears a Calvin Klein 205W39NYC dress; Stephen Russell earrings; Vhernier bracelets; her own rings.
Classic Royalty: Model
What is your secret skill? Fucking.
Fucking? Mm-hmmm. It’s an awfully good thing to be good at, no? And it goes on forever, guys and girls. You should remember that.
Hutton wears a Row coat.
Classic Royalty: Superhero
My first audition was for some random sort of commercial. I remember walking in and having to tell them about myself, and none of it was very interesting because I never got those jobs. My first regular acting gig was on a soap opera called Home and Away. I did that for three and a half years, and I went through every melodramatic tragedy that one can go through: plane crashes, fires, robberies, landslides. I had three different kids with three different women. And my character was 19 for three years. I never had a birthday. Never aged.
Hemsworth wears a Boss jacket, shirt, and pants; Western Spirit bolo tie; stylist’s own belt.
New Royalty: Superhero
I don’t fuck with karaoke. I tried it once, and it was the biggest disaster. The song I bombed on was “Eye of the Tiger.” It was at a wedding, in front of hundreds of people. The only line of the song that I knew was “eye of the tiger,” so I just mumbled, and it was awful. Deep shame. Now I stick to singing my own songs onstage with my band, Thirty Seconds to Mars. There are some things you just know you’re not good at.
Leto wears an Ann Demeulemeester shirt; Gucci pants; Mikimoto pearls; his own ring and necklace.
New Royalty: Television
As a boy, I was very, very sensitive. Ever the emotional young thing. In eighth grade, a drama teacher put me in a play, and I got really involved with theater. Within a year, all the kids who were making fun of me were my allies. I remember thinking, Instead of being a weird guy in the corner of the classroom, now I’m the weird guy that everyone has to pay attention to! And, like, Wow—maybe someone will kiss me!
Middleditch wears a Prada shirt; Coach 1941 pants; Artemas Quibble belt; Calvin Klein 205W39NYC boots.
Classic Royalty: Television
Since signing on to Stranger Things, I’ve become a binge-watcher of TV. My favorite show is The Americans. It’s brilliant, and Keri Russell is just mind-blowing. I watched the entire last season all at once, and I was crushed when it ended. I met Keri, and I was like, “What’s going to happen?!” I had turned into a fan-geek. But she wouldn’t tell me. Everyone in TV has to keep things a big secret—which I’m learning.
Ryder wears a Dior dress and hat.
New Royalty: Movie Star
I didn’t think I could play Dr. Dre in Straight Outta Compton. I was asked to audition, and I remember saying no because I didn’t want to be the one to mess it up. I was nervous because it was Dr. Dre. And now, after the film, I walk down the street and people ask, “Is that Dr. Dre?” Nobody did that before Compton. Now everybody does it.
Hawkins wears a Giorgio Armani jacket, shirt, and pants; Tom Ford shoes.
Classic Royalty: Movie Star
What was your first acting job? When I was 15 or 16, I was cast as Reese Witherspoon’s son in the film Vanity Fair. I went to the screening, and no one had informed me that I had been cut from the film. But the casting director felt so guilty that she gave me a first run at the part of Cedric in Harry Potter, which I booked. So, in the end, I was quite glad to have been cut from Vanity Fair.
How did you prepare for your role as a bank robber on the run in Good Time? I stayed in character for several days and got a job at a car wash. I wanted to change myself so that people would not be able to recognize me for the whole shoot. And it worked. We were filming in a packed subway at rush hour; I was directed by text message, and no one could tell we were making a movie. Not one person took a cell-phone picture, which would have ruined the whole thing. It was great to not be recognized.
Pattinson wears a Berluti jacket; Charvet scarf.
Classic Royalty: Television
After Everybody Loves Raymond ended, it wasn’t hard to say no to other sitcom offers. This sounds awful, but I had all the money I needed, my wife had all the money she needed, and creatively I wanted to do other things. I thought, Suddenly I have time, I have money, I have a bit of fame, and this is going to be fun. After three months, it wasn’t fun anymore. I had a kind of emotional breakdown until I started creating the next show. People ask me sometimes, “How do you keep going?” And I like to say, “I have to keep moving, or I catch up with myself.”
Romano wears a Balenciaga shirt.
New Royalty: Television
Your mom is Diana Ross. Did you ever borrow her clothes? I’m not going to lie: It was more like stealing. One time, she left the house and I saw her car go down the driveway. I marched myself into her bathroom and started taking clothes. I liked to put them in my closet and live with them as if they were mine. Just as I was loading up, my mom walked into the bathroom. She said, “What are you doing?!” I was like, “I’m organizing your closet for you!” To this day, I visit her closet and call it shopping.
Ross wears an Alexander McQueen dress; Gianvito Rossi shoes.
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