Silver Linings

Planned Parenthood Is Back on Defense. Just the Way They Like It.

The local CEO is ready for the fight over reproductive health services.

By Allison Williams January 19, 2017 Published in the February 2017 issue of Seattle Met

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Christine Charbonneau had the same reaction to the election as her staff: “This ‘Oh my God’ grief reaction, and then after that it’s an ‘Oh, hell no’ fight reaction.” She’s CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands, covering 80,000 patients annually—and her 30-year PP tenure prepared her for a good fight. The battlefield isn’t exactly what you’d think; Charbonneau doesn’t believe that there are Supreme Court votes to criminalize abortion. Her work is mostly making reproductive health care as accessible in her region’s farthest corners as it is in Seattle. The affiliate pioneered a telemedicine process; women in Hawaiian’s remote Molokai receive contraceptive prescriptions over the phone, and Charbonneau is eyeing an Idaho law that restricts prescribing abortion pills the same way. She’s also targeting an Alaskan law that forces women to fly to Seattle for abortions after 20 weeks.

 “I was worried about people resting on their laurels” after a Clinton win. “Turns out not to be a problem.” She got 400-plus new volunteers postelection who’ll be trained in activism or tapped for legal help. “I remind myself,” she says, energized in her First Hill office, “we are at our absolute best on defense.”

She points to the easiest way for Seattleites to help Planned Parenthood: Use it. “If someone brings their insurance we can actually piggy-back a couple of poor women onto that,” says Charbonneau. “Have the checkup you were going to have anyway and make a political statement and help a few people.”

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