Paula Thornton-Greear | Courtesy photo
Planned Parenthood of Michigan (PPMI) has chosen a new CEO, Paula Thornton-Greear, a year and a half after the nonprofit health care organization’s former president announced she would step down.
Thornton-Greear, who grew up in Southeast Michigan and is a graduate of Michigan State University, is joining the Michigan affiliate after working for the Planned Parenthood of Illinois as the chief external affairs and reputation management officer.
“I love, admire and respect the tremendous work that PPMI has been doing over the years. So for me, it was a natural move to come back to Michigan,” Thornton-Greear told the Advance during an interview Thursday. “And what an honor it is to be tapped to lead this affiliate.”
In January 2021, former PPMI CEO Lori Carpentier announced that she was stepping down from the role to “add fresh voices to the conversation and new leadership to guide Planned Parenthood to its better, more inclusive future.”
Thornton-Greear said she hopes to “carry forward the trajectory that was forged by” Carpentier.
“When I look to the future and to the vision of PPMI, my commitment is that we will continue and elevate working with all stakeholders collaboratively, productively and with humility. And we need to continue to be innovative in order to protect and enhance that access to remove burdens and challenges that exist for far too many Michiganders,” said Thornton-Greear, who is Black.
Thornton-Greear is leaving nearby Illinois, a blue state where access to abortion will continue to be protected even if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that enshrined the right to abortion in the U.S. Constitution.
In Michigan, the future of abortion access is less clear. The state has a 1931 felony abortion ban on the books, but it is currently unenforceable after Court of Claims Judge Elizabeth Gleicher granted a preliminary injunction in a suit brought by Planned Parenthood against Michigan’s 1931 ban.
Thornton-Greear said the injunction “sets a path forward” to enshrining abortion rights in the state Constitution.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has been a longtime champion of abortion rights in Michigan and has a lawsuit of her own in the state Supreme Court that aims to recognize the right to an abortion under the state Constitution and to strike down the state’s 1931 abortion ban law.
The lawsuits are not the only attempts to secure abortion rights in a possible post-Roe Michigan. There is also the Reproductive Freedom For All ballot initiative, which aims to secure Michigan’s right to safe and legal abortions and other reproductive health measures in the state Constitution.
However, there has been pushback from the GOP-led Legislature, which has rolled out a number of abortion restrictions in recent years and has failed to take up any legislation put forth by Democrats to protect abortion rights in the state. All of the GOP gubernatorial candidates running to unseat Whitmer in November oppose abortion rights.
Thornton-Greear noted that if abortion is protected in Michigan, the state could see an influx of pregnant people traveling from out of state to get abortions, especially from states like Indiana, Wisconsin and Ohio.
“We are preparing every single day to ensure that we are prepared for the surge of out of state patients who … may be forced to travel because they’re unable to get that essential health care that they need and deserve close to home,” Thornton-Greear said. “As I start this position, it will be my top priority to work with the team to advance those preparations even further.”
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