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As companies brace for Roe’s reversal, here’s how Planned Parenthood CEO Alexis McGill Johnson is building the ‘Kayak of abortion care’

May 26, 2022, 1:05 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! Brittney Griner’s wife speaks out, the second anniversary of George Floyd’s murder was this week, and Planned Parenthood’s CEO is preparing for what comes next. Have a reflective Thursday.

– Prepare for the worst. On the night of May 2, Planned Parenthood CEO Alexis McGill Johnson was sitting in her kitchen, on the phone with her record-executive best friend. The pair was discussing how to get more recording artists involved in the fight for reproductive rights when news broke of the leaked Supreme Court draft decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

“We just started crying,” says McGill Johnson.

The Planned Parenthood CEO had been preparing for this moment for months—years even—but especially since the Supreme Court’s conservative justices indicated where they stood on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization during oral arguments for the case in December. “We’re professional scenario planners,” McGill Johnson told me during a recent interview at her home in New York. “And the scenarios for this court decision were essentially bad, badder, and baddest.”

And yet: “It was still shocking to see it in print.”

Her phone started ringing that night and hasn’t stopped since. Prior to her appointment at Planned Parenthood in 2019, McGill Johnson spent a decade advising C-suite executives and other leaders on bias and discrimination. Many of those connections have sought her out as they deliberate how to respond to the likely end of nationwide abortion rights publicly and within their own workforces.

Alexis McGill Johnson, President of Planned Parenthood photographed at her home in New York, NY.
Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood photographed at her home in New York, N.Y.
Photograph by Mackenzie Stroh for Fortune

McGill Johnson tells the CEOs who call her that “businesses have a strategic imperative here,” which she expands upon in our interview for the June/July issue of Fortune. Outside of a handful of businesses that have publicly opposed the expected decision, with some stating that they will cover travel costs for workers or broaden health care benefits, companies have been slow to take action. But failure to act will have profound consequences, impeding nationwide access to abortion and other reproductive rights, even for women leaders who have the socioeconomic means to travel for reproductive care. “If you don’t trust me to make a decision about my own body, are you going to put me in front of a client?” McGill Johnson asks. “When you don’t allow me full autonomy over my own body, you’re implicitly telling me you think I’m unequal in other ways.”

While she informally advises CEOs on the side, McGill Johnson also has a day job: preserving access to abortion wherever possible and ensuring the future of Planned Parenthood. Although abortion services make up just 4% of Planned Parenthood’s business, the organization and its 49 affiliates provide 37% of abortions in the U.S., making it the single largest provider of abortion care nationwide.

Planned Parenthood is providing resources to clinics in states that are likely to protect legal abortion and receive an influx of out-of-state patients as a result, while increasing support for other longstanding offerings, such as STI tests, breast cancer screenings, and birth control.

For all of its 2.4 million patients, Planned Parenthood with partners Power to Decide, the National Abortion Federation, Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health, and the Abortion Care Network, is building what McGill Johnson calls the “Kayak of abortion care,” referencing the online travel search engine. The website, AbortionFinder.org, is intended to help patients understand regulations and restrictions in their location and find available appointments anywhere in the country.

Early data from Texas has helped the nonprofit formulate an idea of how to prepare for the abortion bans that are expected to soon blanket half the country. After the state implemented a six-week abortion ban in September, which prohibits abortions two weeks after a missed period and often before people know they are pregnant, the number of patients with a Texas zip code who sought care in nearby states increased an average of 6% each month, making Texans 16% of the patient population in neighboring states. Those patients have now had to travel seven times farther for abortion care than they did pre-ban. “The impact is going to be profound,” McGill Johnson says.

Read more of my interview with McGill Johnson about the corporate response, or lack thereof, to Roe’s impending reversal here.

Emma Hinchliffe
emma.hinchliffe@fortune.com
@_emmahinchliffe

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ALSO IN THE HEADLINES

- Outrageous ban. Oklahoma last night became the first state to entirely ban abortion: not just banning the procedure starting at six weeks, which effectively bans nearly all abortion, but making it illegal to end a pregnancy starting at "fertilization." The only exceptions are for medical emergencies and pregnancies that are the result of rape, which must be reported to law enforcement. CNN

- Not forgotten. Cherelle Griner, wife of detained WNBA star Brittney Griner, gave her first interview since Griner was arrested in Russia in February. Speaking to Robin Roberts on Good Morning America, Cherelle Griner said that support from the league and fans "lets [Brittney] know she's not forgotten." ABC News

- Two years. Wednesday marked the second anniversary of George Floyd’s murder by former police officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis, Minn. In light of the somber anniversary, Minnesota lawmakers declared May 25 George Floyd Remembrance Day. “As we grieve on the two-year anniversary of George Floyd’s murder, we should find purpose in recommitting ourselves to a meaningful, sustained push towards racial justice and police reform,” Sen. Tina Smith wrote on Twitter. Bloomberg

- Results are in. Former White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders won the Arkansas Republican gubernatorial nomination on Tuesday, securing 83.2% of the vote. Two women are also vying for Arkansas’ lieutenant governor race, likely marking the first time in U.S. history that two women will lead a state in its top roles. In Georgia, Democrat Bee Nguyen will face incumbent Brad Raffensberger for secretary of state. She could become the first Asian-American woman elected statewide. In Texas, Rochelle Garza will challenge incumbent Republican Ken Paxton for attorney general and could become the first woman and Latina elected to the role if successful.  Center for American Women and Politics 

- Curbing expectations. Sports equipment and apparel retailer Dick’s Sporting Goods has cut its earnings outlook for 2022, following a decline in sales in the first quarter. Sales fell 7.5% from 2021 and are now expected to drop as much as 8% and bring in lower profits. CEO Lauren Hobart said the retailer is being “appropriately cautious as we look toward a lot of things that are outside of our control when we look at the rest of the year,” noting it hasn’t had to resort to markdowns to sell items. Wall Street Journal

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Beyond Meat has given Kim Kardashian the title of "chief taste consultant" to promote the brand in a new campaign. The National Association of Corporate Directors has elected SAGE Leadership & Strategy founder and managing partner Sue Cole as chair of its board of directors. 

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

- Record numbers. A record 11.4% of young women in the U.K. identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, according to the Office for National Statistics' annual population survey. This is the highest number the survey has reported since its first findings in 2014 when just 3.1% of women aged 16 to 24 identified the same way. It's also the first time more young women have identified as non-heterosexual than young men. However, that number remains low for older groups; only 2% of women aged 25 to 34 and 1% of all older ages do not identify as heterosexual. Guardian

- New evidence. A CNN investigation found that Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was shot dead in a targeted attack by Israeli forces. The network found that there was neither active combat nor Palestinian militants near Abu Akleh at the time of her death to explain accidental fire; videos, eight eyewitness accounts, and experts suggest she was targeted and killed by Israeli forces. The Israeli military has maintained that it's not clear who killed Abu Akleh. CNN

- Baby boom. Birth rates in the U.S. increased for the first time since 2014, with a particular increase for women ages 35 to 39. Approximately 3.66 million babies were born in 2021, a 1.98% increase from the year prior. But birthrates still remain low after peaking in 2007 before the recession. The numbers suggest that the pandemic "baby bust" was smaller than predicted. Wall Street Journal

ON MY RADAR

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PARTING WORDS

"We must have the courage to stand up to the gun lobby and pass reasonable gun safety laws."

- Vice President Kamala Harris, responding to the Texas elementary school shooting in a speech Wednesday. 

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