Molly: What is your background in politics?
Libby: I took a political route, I started out as an organized for the Michigan Democratic Party, and I learned a lot about community organizing. I started out in partisan politics, and then moved to the legislator and worked for a Democratic candidate. I actually did not agree on things like gun control, and it made her realize how progressive I really was. This is the turning point of when I knew I wanted to turn towards advocacy. I worked for John Striker in the area of LGBT rights, and this is when I really started to work with Planned Parenthood. One of the focuses of the LGBT rights correlated with women’s rights as well. I then realized that I was pro-choice. I then moved over to America Votes, it’s a permanent organization in the state that helps even in the off season for voting. (She was the state director). I left America Votes to go into Planned Parenthood, and it was a very personal choice that felt close to home.
Libby: I first began in Legislative controlling the scheduling for the legislators, and learned a lot in this area because she was the gatekeeper of who they would and wouldn’t meet with. The front end office taught her a lot in the beginning.
Molly: What university did you graduate from?
Libby: I graduated from U of M with a degree in Political Science. Her degree was more in the history of Political Sciences, however her job experiences and prepared her and she learned the skills more on the job.
Molly: What are your goals as the Vice President of public advocacy for Planned Parenthood?
Libby: At Planned Parenthood, the goal is comprehension action for insurance coverage for birth control. Eliminated politician involvement in decision for women and family. Ultimately, people who have no medical background making laws that tell doctors and women what they can and cannot do is very wrong.
Libby: When someone is saying I don’t trust you to make your own decision. We need to change the conversation from abortion to our ability to make our own decisions.
Molly: What are some of your successes working in this realm of politics?
Libby: I am very proud of the team that I have built at Planned Parenthood. We identified over 14,000 new supporters for PP just in one year. Our strength comes from our voice, not only with the organizers on the ground, but ultimately our power comes from the people that they are advocating to. In America votes, it was all about how we do communicate to a community that the people elected does not match our values. We need to build our numbers and supporters to help us win our side.
Libby: Last year we ran a public advocacy program that was funded by the state, a full canvas with people out on doors, mail, and cable television ads, and a phone program. This program was targeted to communities where we have a presence. And it said things like “this is what is happening in Lansing, help us fight back.” We are proud of our online properties that we can run our message through. The most optimal idea is to use a layered approach with face to face and mail and radio to really get to the supporters.
Molly: What are some key tactics that you are using to influence state public policy?
Libby: We have a two pronged approach:
First is the field team, this is where we are working with groups called legislative action teams, core groups volunteers (super activists) in key communities that are organizers that empower and educate the constituents. These are the ones who can call the legislators and are very informed.
Second is the direct of government relations, Amanda West. She handles all of our lobbying. Because we are a health care providers there are a lot of things that impact our facility abilities to provide healthcare. There is a very diverse amount of information that we need to be aware of and keep our legislators informed. There are some republicans in Lansing that do care about Planned Parenthood and she works with the administration to make sure that the work that PP does is understood.
Molly: What are some of your biggest challenges?
Libby: The biggest challenge is that people who haven’t been come into contact with PP in their lives, they don’t understand fundamentally who we are. We are a healthcare provide for women across the world. We may be the only healthcare that a lot of people see in a year. For people who want to shut down PP, they don’t realize that people will lose their health care. So the challenge is, people focus on the abortion services far too much rather then all of the other services they provide like pap smears and cancer screenings. They need to get people to a place that they will listen and understand more about what Planned Parenthood.
Libby: We also need to be better in engaging our Alumni who have had experience with needing Planned Parenthood An example of this is people who can’t afford birth control or their insurance doesn’t cover it, they can come to PP and do the pay what you can afford program.
Molly: Who are some typical opponents?
Libby: In Lansing, it’s Right to Life. They have a lot of really strong supporters. Another opponent of ours is Michigan Catholic Conference as well. Those organizationally are the two largest opponents.
Molly: Has your opinion about state politics changed as you have become more involved in politics?
Libby: I came from a very conservative area, although her parents are much more liberal. People typically become more conservative as they age, but she has become the exact opposite. You can’t totally divorce yourself from your personal experiences. You come into contact with these people who don’t have access to these health services, it does change how you look at the fight you are fighting. The more I get into advocacy, I more I become a liberal.