After roughly four decades as the face and leader of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, Karrie Galloway announced Friday that she is retiring.
She will stay on as the organization’s executive director and CEO until the end of the year, as a national search begins for her replacement.
Galloway’s departure comes at a pivotal moment, as Utah, and other states across the country, grapple with the fallout of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in June that overturned Roe v. Wade. A lawsuit filed by Planned Parenthood Association of Utah challenging Utah’s trigger law — which would ban most abortions in the Beehive State — is currently making its way through the courts. (Meanwhile, a ban on abortion after 18 weeks of pregnancy is in place.)
This is just the latest in a series of fights and efforts in Galloway’s career. She joined Planned Parenthood Association of Utah in 1981 as a community educator. Galloway got the job, she said, after attending a class held with the organization about “options in pregnancy.”
She took the class, she said, because growing up in the 1960s as the oldest child in “a good Catholic family” in Neenah, Wisconsin, Galloway “believed that families were important and the decision to have kids was important.”
She moved up to director of Planned Parenthood’s education program, and then became the association’s associate director, overseeing the clinical programs. In 1987, she became the leader of the entire organization. It’s never been boring, she said, in her roughly 40 years working with Planned Parenthood.
“Because I thrive on adventure, I just took each challenge as they came,” she said.
The Salt Lake Tribune spoke with Galloway this week about her retirement and hopes for the future. That interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Why are you retiring?
I’m 71. I first told the executive committee of our board last November that I had planned on 2022 being my last year.
I think we need new energy. This is a perfect time, with the unbelievable changes in reproductive health care and rights and justice in this community, to get new blood, a new approach, new leadership for the next phase.
I lived as an adult woman concerned about reproductive health and justice before Roe. So, I’ve seen both sides of this issue. One thing I know is that this post-Roe period will not be the same as it was before Roe. The women of the world, the people who get pregnant are not going to stand for someone else commandeering their bodily autonomy.
Science has changed. Coat hangers are not the post-Roe world. There is medication abortion, which can be self-managed. And women and people who get pregnant are going to change the story, and it’s going to change the politics, and eventually it’s going to change the relationship of power. Because it’s got to.
Did you expect Roe v. Wade would be overturned before you retired?
When I joined Planned Parenthood in the early ‘80s, Utah had just passed the law that minors couldn’t receive information about contraception or reproductive health care without parental consent. So, I have been part of the controversy over reproduction and power over people making their own decisions from the very beginning.
The idea that Roe could be struck down was always hanging over my life. Utah lawmakers, and others across the country, have spoken many times when they’ve passed legislation that they were setting it up to be taken to the Supreme Court.
Have you seen changes in attitudes or perceptions around reproductive health care and abortion in recent decades?
Definitely. Over the years, I think respect has grown for Planned Parenthood and our concerted effort to protect the reproductive health care options and decision making and choices for the people of Utah. Because we have never wavered. We have always fought legislation that tried to take the power away from people. And when the legislation has passed, we have worked to mitigate the effect on the people of Utah and to make sure they had options.
Each time Utah’s legislators have passed laws restricting abortion over the years, it’s happened for a different reason. There have been different people in the Legislature, who felt that their morals were better than everyone else’s, that their ideas were better than everyone else’s. But each time, Planned Parenthood worked to mitigate that law. We always follow the law in the letter and the spirit. But we made sure that people could still live their lives.
What motivates you in this work?
I have always brought it back to that I’m a gal of the ‘60s. And I came of age in fighting for women’s right to be full members of society. To be recognized for our creativity, for our intellect, for our drive. To be able to change the world and to hold power.
I also believed that family planning was an incredible public health issue, and that people should be able to plan their families and live fulfilled lives, and be able to have happy, respectful and safe sex.
What are your hopes for Planned Parenthood and Utah in the future?
I truly hope that this lawsuit [over Utah’s abortion trigger law] gets heard, and that the state of Utah comes to grip with reproductive health care and reproductive justice. Because it’s fine to have standards and rules to live by. I mean, I’m all for that.
But if the state of Utah wants to have rules about procreation, about forced pregnancy, they have got to come to grips with what responsibility they have for caring for those families that they have forced to carry pregnancies to term.
For instance, a bill proposed during the last legislative general session about Medicaid coverage during pregnancy and postpartum was never heard in committee. Similarly, another bill that’s been proposed the last three years and would have expanded Medicaid for family planning never passed.
What’s your advice for the new CEO?
They’ve got to be a brave soul, and they have to be willing to fully commit and take a few bumps and bruises along the way. But the rewards intrinsically, for me, have just been wonderful, knowing that what you’re doing makes your community stronger.
It’s not just a job that’s about advocacy. We’re running a health care business that serves thousands of Utahns a year. And health care is a pretty regulated industry. We are the stewards of not only insurance money, but public money to subsidize health care, and there are rules up the kazoo for that, that you have to really pay attention to. We also provide education and outreach. So, it’s a multifaceted job. It’s not just advocacy.
What are your plans after retirement?
I’m hoping to spend more time with my young grandchild. I have a large family, and as my brothers and sisters reach retirement age, too, it’d be nice to spend some leisurely time together, just hanging out.
To be perfectly honest, I haven’t spent a lot of time planning retirement. I hope to have time in 2023 to do that.