By Sabina Mollot
Inauguration Day for President-Elect Donald Trump hasn’t happened yet, but already Planned Parenthood is preparing for a major battle ahead to protect its federal funding.
Earlier in the month, House Speaker Paul Ryan announced a push by Republicans in Congress to defund the now century-old organization. While Planned Parenthood has always faced opposition from the GOP, soon there will be a Republican in the White House as well as a majority in the Senate and House.
Meanwhile, the women’s healthcare giant has vowed it won’t be going down without a fight.
Locally, Planned Parenthood has a weapon in Peter Cooper Village resident Zoe Segal-Reichlin, the senior associate general counsel and director of advocacy and political law for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. Segal-Reichlin, also a mother of two and wife to City Council Member Dan Garodnick, provides advice and guidance on matters of law and regulation.
Asked what she does on any given day, Segal-Reichlin, 38, said, “I really touch many different aspects within the organization.” This could involve working with organizers at the education and advocacy efforts at the national office. Other times it means working with political action committees helping get candidates elected.
“My job is to make sure programs are structured in a way that’s legally compliant,” said Segal-Reichlin. “It’s to make sure all the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed.”
What Segal-Reichlin doesn’t do however is litigate, although she had done that previously for three years at a Wall Street firm.
“My personality is to be less of a fighter and more of a negotiator,” she said. “My work is sitting down with people and finding out the best way to approach a problem.”
Recently, Segal-Reichlin helped launch the I Stand with Planned Parenthood campaign, which is aimed at educating the public about the legislative war in the works. In December and January alone, there have been over 300 I Stand with Planned Parenthood events across the country.
“We are deeply concerned about (Vice President Elect) Mike Pence and Tom Price being in a position of power,” said Segal-Reichlin. “They are both people with long records of attacking women’s healthcare and Planned Parenthood as well.” (Price is Trump’s pick for Health and Human Services and an abortion opponent in Congress.)
Planned Parenthood currently has over 661 health centers nationwide, five of which are in New York City. There is currently no federal funding for abortions, which is why the organization has blasted Congress’ effort to de-fund it because it’s an abortion provider as misleading, arguing that doing so will just deny women basic healthcare. In New York State, abortion services can be covered by state Medicaid dollars.
Of course, Planned Parenthood has faced challenges in Washington long prior to Trump’s election, and Segal-Reichlin said in tough times she’s always found inspiration in her coworkers.
“I think one of the most amazing things about working here is that I work with people who are incredibly smart and creative but also driven by our mission,” she said. “It’s an honor to take part in this effort.”
It helps, too, that the organization’s mission has recently seen an outpouring of support to coincide with its 100th anniversary. (The first clinic opened in October, 1916, in Brooklyn.) One recent campaign, fueled by social media, resulted in 50,000 contributions being made in Mike Pence’s name, according to an article in People, and that’s just 25 percent of all donations made since Election Day. There are also more young, first-time donors than ever before.
“It’s coming at a challenging time,” said Segal-Reichlin of the centennial, “but we have seen an unprecedented outpouring of support. It seems people are really energized to protect Planned Parenthood and protect reproductive access for all Americans.”
As noted by Segal-Reichlin’s husband on his Twitter feed a couple of weeks ago, hundreds of people could be seen rallying in support of Planned Parenthood outside its New York City headquarters.
Additionally, Garodnick and Segal-Reichlin, while clad in Planned Parenthood t-shirts, also encountered a welcoming crowd when they traveled to Pennsylvania last November to door knock for Hillary Clinton.
“We only saw people who were incredibly supportive of Planned Parenthood and the mission to protect women’s access to healthcare. It was very inspiring,” said Segal-Reichlin. Supporters also included both of her boys, Asher, 6, and Devin, 3, who took turns knocking on voters’ doors and leaving stickers behind.
Segal-Reichlin joined Planned Parenthood in 2010, but said she’d always known she’d end up there. As a student at Brown University, she ran a sex education group that traveled to high schools and provided sex ed workshops to the students. Then later at Harvard Law, she was the president of a campus reproductive justice group.
Asked how she balances her work-family life these days, Segal-Reichlin said it helps that her place of employment is family-friendly.
“I am an attorney so it is an intense job, but I work in an environment that is respectful of my needs to be there with my family,” she said. “I do come home at night and feed the kids and put them to bed.”
While she doesn’t have much in the way of free time, she does use those fleeting moments to do things like sing – she particularly likes 1960s folk music — and is now taking up the guitar. Recently, she got a guitar as a gift from Garodnick at her request. Segal-Reichlin is also a big fiction reader, a runner and enjoys cooking.