Sari Stevens is stepping down as executive director after 15 years with Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates. As she says farewell, I’ve asked her to share some thoughts about reproductive health care in Pennsylvania.
We have more bipartisan reproductive health champions in the Legislature than ever before, we have four women elected to Congress, and I’m hopeful that the state Legislature will be a pro-choice, progressive majority soon.
We are fortunate to have a former clinic escort in Gov. Tom Wolf, pro-choice champions in Attorney General Josh Shapiro and Auditor General Eugene DePasquale, and a favorable state Supreme Court.
It really begs the question: with the Legislature on the cusp of a progressive majority in two or four years – and women providing landmark victories for pro-choice progressives across the country – will conservatives in the state Legislature continue the unpopular and politically dangerous assaults on reproductive health care that have defined the past 10 years in Harrisburg?
PPPA is leading the charge to protect Planned Parenthood and access to safe, legal abortion in Pennsylvania. We are the legislative, political, policy and organizing arm of Pennsylvania’s three Planned Parenthood affiliates, which include 28 health centers in the Commonwealth.
The mission of PPPA is to protect those health centers, our patients’ ability to access care at Planned Parenthood and more broadly, the reproductive rights of all Pennsylvanians. We do this by working to elect pro-choice lawmakers, rallying our supporters and advocates to fight oppressive abortion bans, and working with the media to educate the public about the reproductive rights landscape in Pennsylvania and what can be done to protect Planned Parenthood and access to safe, legal abortion.
Recently, I shared a Facebook post from a 50-something woman with no health insurance who went to Planned Parenthood for a breast exam and eventually learned she had breast cancer. She credited PP for the diagnosis and aftercare that saved her life.
She is not alone. We hear stories like this often, which is why we have so many supporters and advocates.
And yet, many people think that abortion is the only service we provide.
Maintaining access to safe, legal abortion is something that we constantly fight for to make sure that our patients can get the care they need.
It’s also worth noting that more than half of Planned Parenthood health centers in Pennsylvania are in rural and/or medically underserved areas; oftentimes, patients have nowhere else to turn for basic health care services.
Donations under $50 make up about half of the gifts that Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania Advocates receives, so donations of this size are incredibly important to our mission and our work. Every dollar donated to PPPA goes toward electing lawmakers who reflect the values of Pennsylvanians who overwhelmingly stand with Planned Parenthood and support access to safe, legal abortion.
On a personal note, what are you taking away from your 15 years on the job?
Leading PPPA through both overwhelming challenges and tremendous growth truly has been the honor of a lifetime.
PPPA is strong, is ready for the fights ahead, and I am leaving the organization in the very capable hands of my colleagues and volunteers.
NANCY ESHELMAN: columnist1@verizon.