Kate Walsh Talks (Planned) Parenthood
Remember the Grey's Anatomy episode in which a woman's IUD gets caught in her husband's penis piercing, and Dr. Addison Shepherd says, "Make sure you use a backup form of birth control while your IUD is out"?
Well, this TV doctor isn't just advocating for safer sex on tv. Check out this interview with Grey's Anatomy star Kate Walsh, who recently sat down with Planned Parenthood:
Kate Walsh isn't a doctor in real life, but she plays one on TV: she's Dr. Addison Shepherd on ABC's acclaimed drama Grey's Anatomy.
Planned Parenthood caught up with the PPFA Board of Advocates (BOA) member, who has also starred in Kicking and Screaming, Under the Tuscan Sun, and After the Sunset. In an exclusive interview (click here for the source), Kate talks about acting, activism, and sex in America.
Planned Parenthood (PPFA): Has your role as a gynecological surgeon inspired you to think more deeply about reproductive health issues?
Kate Walsh: I've always felt personally indebted to Planned Parenthood and very passionate about reproductive rights for women. It's something that you constantly have to fight and advocate for. I think the biggest thing about playing the character I play is that it's a great opportunity to make a contribution.
PPFA: Are there any reproductive health issues you'd like to see Addison face on the job?
Kate Walsh: I would love to see more storylines centered around sexually transmitted diseases. I do get to talk about contraception. There was that episode ("Oh, the Guilt") where this woman's IUD gets caught in her husband's penis piercing, and my character gets to say, "Make sure you use a backup form of birth control while your IUD is out." So it's out there, but it's not spoken about with neon lights and a big horn and whistles.
PPFA: A lot of young women and men in America learn about sex from television shows like Grey's Anatomy. Do you think television has a responsibility to educate viewers about safer sex?
Kate Walsh: I think that the writers take it really seriously. There was an episode in the first season when there was a syphilis outbreak. The chief of surgery gave a lecture on how to put a condom on a banana because people were obviously sleeping with each other at Seattle Grace, and they weren't using protection. I can't believe that it's purely coincidental that our writing staff is half women and the show is created by a woman and that we have these issues come up.
Kate Walsh: I'm an advocate for sex education. We're a largely repressed, very confused culture sexually. It's such an emotional and psychological issue. It's one thing to go out and talk about practicing safer sex, but there's also getting at it on a much deeper social and psychological level. Why don't people want to talk about this? Let's figure out ways that people can. If we can address that, we can have more effective communication.
PPFA: What kind of sex education did you receive in school?
Kate Walsh: I remember there was maybe one movie. I do remember as a child wondering how it worked. The message that I got was whatever you do, don't get pregnant. That was really it. Use birth control. There was no discussion, and underneath that there was a deep level of shame: You really shouldn't be having sex at all but if you do, just don't get pregnant. My personal experience is that sex education is a very mixed bag with a lot of mixed messages, both culturally and at the family level. We have a culture that says you can't show sexual thrusting on primetime television, but hey, here's some porn that we'd love for you to buy in your hotel room. It's strange.
PPFA: What was your relationship with Planned Parenthood before you became a BOA member?
Kate Walsh: Planned Parenthood is where I got birth control pills when I was a teenager and throughout the years. I didn't have health insurance for most of my 20s while I was struggling as an actor, and I would never see a doctor except to get my annual Pap and checkup and get birth control. Planned Parenthood was affordable, accessible, safe, and reliable - I went in Tucson, Chicago, and New York City. Now I'm at an exciting time in my life where I'm able to be a role model on sexual health for women and men.
PPFA: What do you hope to accomplish by speaking out about safer sex?
Kate Walsh: Preventing unwanted pregnancies and STDs is important to me, but I'm also really interested in the psychology behind that. When I was a teenager in the early '80s I volunteered at a hospital, and that was when the AIDS epidemic had first come out. There was a quarantine ward, and I was deeply affected by that. Up until then no one really talked about protection. It wasn't ingrained in me to use condoms, it was really just about birth control. It wasn't about STDs at all. So it was a big psychological shift for me in my late teens and early 20s to get comfortable with using condoms. Sex is deeply emotional, psychological, and spiritual, but that shouldn't eclipse the fact that it's still a physical act and it needs to be dealt with in a physical and medical way. That needs to be first and foremost. That's the thing that I think is important. Have it be a given: if you're going to have sex, use a condom. You can be in the moment and use a condom.
PPFA: Why do you feel that it's important to be a public face for Planned Parenthood?
Kate Walsh: I think what Planned Parenthood is doing is amazing. There needs to be a place for women to go to get safe, responsible, up-to-date medical care. If people are going to listen to me and think about getting an annual cervical exam because I'm on Grey's Anatomy, then that's great.