A Conversation with Gloria Feldt

Right-wing challenges to women’s access to safe and legal abortion, and to other reproductive rights, are being mounted in many locations. Gloria Feldt (www.gloriafeldt.com), former president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, is a leading activist for women’s rights. Author of No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power, Feldt has some ideas about how we can seize back this important agenda.

How did your background as a Jewish teen mother get you where you are today?

When I was young, I felt different for being Jewish in a small town in Texas. I think that that feeling of differentness made me want to be the all-American girl when I was a teenager. And being the all-American girl in rural West Texas in the 1950s meant getting the boy, getting married, having babies, packing your husband’s lunch, having a picket fence.

I became pregnant. On one level, it was unintentional. On another, I think it was intended. I was conforming to the role society was telling me I should play.

As I became more mature, I began to reflect on my upbringing. I began to work to help other people get their civil rights, people who’d been treated as different. Fighting for other oppressed people began to give me strength. I became grateful for knowing what it was like to be different. I was also informed by the Jewish ethic, tikkun olam, even though those words were never uttered in our house, as far as I can remember. But once I came to understand that concept, I understood the Jewish imperative for social justice had influenced me.