Jackie Cornell is the new Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Action Fund of NJ and the Chief Government Relations Officer of Planned Parenthood of Northern, Central, and Southern NJ (PPNCSNJ).
Tell us about your new role with the Action Fund and your overall focus at PPNCSNJ.
I hold a dual role. As Chief Government Relations Officer for PPNCSNJ, which serves 18 of 21 New Jersey counties and operates 16 health centers, the work is tied to the policies, rules, and regulations connected to providing direct services to patients. That could be, for instance, rules and regulations for opening a new health center. My other role is Executive Director of Planned Parenthood Action Fund of New Jersey. In that role, I represent both Planned Parenthood affiliates that cover the entire state of New Jersey (PPNCSNJ and Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan New Jersey) and serve over 120,000 patients per year and growing. There I focus on the larger advocacy, lobbying, and political work that both affiliates need to operate effectively.
I should mention that I started my career at Planned Parenthood and spent 7 years with the organization. In many ways, this is returning home.
What do you see as the greatest hurdles for those in New Jersey accessing their choice of contraceptive care?
We’re fortunate with some recent wins in New Jersey on contraceptive care, including a law that the Quality Institute helped us with that requires insurers to cover 12 months of birth control. It gets to the root of access for many folks so they don’t have to go back to their doctor’s office and can get all their medications in one visit. We’re also pleased to be part of the Quality Institute’s Reproductive Health Access Project and the toolkit that was created.
Yet we also realize that for many communities of color and immigrant communities, there’s still disproportionate access for contraceptive care and health care. Our work is to make sure that everyone has access to the full range of reproductive health services they need. But unfortunately, it remains an uphill battle to address the needs of folks who are struggling and who are the most vulnerable.
How does health equity fit into Planned Parenthood’s strategies for providing reproductive health in the state?
Health equity is at the core of everything that we do. We see folks regardless of their immigration status, their insurance coverage, their employment status, their gender identity — and the full cadre of services that we provide is open to anyone regardless of their ability to pay.
We seek to fill the gaps in care that exist. And so many of our centers are in places where we know that individuals are disproportionately impacted by the layering of systemic inequities. We strive to meet our patients where they’re at.
How can our members best support or partner with Planned Parenthood to help New Jersey residents have the full range of reproductive health services?
One of the most important things that we can do is not further stigmatize reproductive health care as something separate and apart from a full range of health services that people need to live their best lives. Another important message is that we are always looking for partners, especially in places where we are building new facilities or preparing to have new facilities. We had a clinic closure in Atlantic City and now we have purchased a facility in Absecon, on the mainland across from Atlantic City. And we are moving our New Brunswick Health Center right down the road into Franklin Township in Somerset County.
And I think recognizing that with half the country now having either outright bans or a lot of hurdles to jump through for abortion services, we’re seeing individuals from around the country coming to places like New Jersey. Louisiana, Texas, and Ohio so far are where most of the people are coming from. And many individuals, including many in New Jersey, are taking it upon themselves to get long acting or permanent contraceptive methods because of the current political climate. Our funding needs to change to reflect that demand.
We like to ask a non-professional question. Can we ask about your favorite New Jersey musical artist and author?
My favorite New Jersey musical artist is most definitely Springsteen. And I love Junot Diaz. He was born in the Dominican Republic and immigrated to New Jersey as a young boy. He received his BA at Rutgers University. As a Rutgers alum, I’ll count him as our own.