About Serena Freewomyn

Serena Freewomyn is an alumnus of Arizona State University’s Women & Gender Studies Program. In addition to volunteering with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, Serena volunteers with Project Linus Tucson, where she makes and delivers blankets to children who are in the hospital or being removed from abusive households. When she's not busy making quilts or jewelry, Serena writes creative nonfiction and enjoys coffee, chocolate, and macaroons.

Happy Birthday to Emily Lyons, a Woman of Valor

Photo: Daily Kos

Today is the birthday of Emily Lyons, a nurse who was brutally injured when the clinic she worked at was bombed by an anti-abortion zealot named Eric Robert Rudolph. The homemade bomb was full of nails and shrapnel. Lyons lost one of her eyes and had multiple injuries all over her body. She had to have several surgeries, and was forced into early retirement.

Lyons was the director of nursing at the New Woman All Women Clinic in Birmingham, Alabama. The bomb exploded at 7:30 a.m. on January 29, 1998, just as Lyons was opening the clinic for the day. Robert D. Sanderson, on off-duty police officer who was a part-time security guard at the New Woman All Women Clinic, died in the explosion. The clinic had previously been a target of anti-abortion protesters, and other women’s health care clinics in the U.S. had been bombed, but this bombing was the first time someone had died as a result.

The New York Times interviewed people who lived near the clinic to find out how they felt.

Maegan Walker, an 18-year-old freshman at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, called it “an awakening” to the threat the clinic workers live with. “They say abortion is murder,” Miss Walker said. “What do they think they did to that police officer?”

Before the bombing, Lyons considered herself to be a quiet person. However, the incident motivated her to become an outspoken advocate because “it flipped a switch in my mind and things just had to be told.” Lyons says:

To hide in fear, to be silent, to be consumed by anger and hate, or to not enjoy my life, would be a victory for my attacker. It is a victory I chose not to give him. Every time I smile is a reminder that he failed, and I enjoy constant reminders.

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Meet Our Candidates: Katie Hobbs for State Senator, LD 24

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 28, 2012. With so many recent legislative challenges to reproductive health care access, both nationally and statewide, the importance of this election year can’t be overstated. To help voters, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive health and freedom. Along with those endorsements, we are running a series called “Meet Our Candidates,” spotlighting each Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona-endorsed candidate. To vote in the primaries, you must register to vote by July 30 — and can even register online. Make your voice heard in 2012!

Katie Hobbs is currently a representative for Legislative District 15 in Phoenix, and a candidate for state senator in Arizona’s new LD 24. Hobbs established herself as a leader during her first term in the state legislature. She has been very vocal about women’s health care issues and sex education. She is a lifelong resident of Phoenix, and we’re very proud to endorse her. What follows is an exclusive interview conducted in July 2012.


“Making women’s reproductive health care accessible, affordable, and safe should be a top priority.”


Tell us a little about your background.

I’m a social worker — I have a master’s degree in social work. I’ve spent 20 years working with homelessness, mental health, and domestic violence. I’m also a native Arizonan, wife, and mother, and I’m raising my family here in central Phoenix. I don’t want Arizona to be the state that is constantly ridiculed in the national media. I am proud to be an Arizonan, and I want my children to be proud that they grew up here.

What women’s health care issues do you think should be addressed in the legislature?

We have done some good things for women’s health care. This past year, we passed a bill that will help more women diagnosed with breast cancer have access to treatment. Unfortunately, you can’t separate reproductive health care from women’s health and that’s just what the legislature has tried to do. They have passed legislation (which I fought against!) that severely compromises women’s health by restricting access to family planning, cancer screenings, preventive care, and safe and legal abortion. Continue reading

Dr. Taylor Explains Why She Stands With Planned Parenthood

Dr. DeShawn Taylor is the medical director of Planned Parenthood Arizona. Dr. Taylor has been part of the Planned Parenthood family for seven years. I caught up with Dr. Taylor to ask her about her role at Planned Parenthood Arizona and her inspiration for becoming a reproductive-health provider.

When did you know you wanted to be a doctor?

In elementary school I knew I wanted to be a doctor or a teacher. By the time I got to junior high, I decided to go into medicine.


The first generation of post-Roe abortion providers “had a sense of urgency, because they knew that women needed safe abortions. They have seen women die as a result of botched abortions.”


What was your motivation for going into reproductive health?

Actually, I wanted to be a neurosurgeon for the longest time. During my sophomore year of college I read a book called “Gifted Hands” that was about an inspiring neurosurgeon. But my character doesn’t fit the role of a neurosurgeon. I don’t have a God complex, and neurosurgeons thrive on saving lives.

When I started to think about what else I would like to do, I knew I wanted to take care of women. I thought about practicing family medicine or becoming an ob/gyn. I decided that I had the ability to be a surgeon, so becoming an ob/gyn was a good fit for me. I also have a strong commitment to social justice, and I feel like it’s my duty to serve women. If a woman is pregnant and wants to keep the pregnancy, I will provide prenatal care and help her with her delivery. If a woman is pregnant and doesn’t want to be, I will give her an abortion. The woman is my patient, and that’s who I am here to serve. Continue reading

Do I Have a Yeast Infection?

Q: My crotch itches. Do I have a yeast infection?
A: Itching in your groin is one symptom of a yeast infection. So is burning and a white discharge. Sometimes a yeast infection can also cause pain during sexual intercourse. Let’s break it down a little bit more so that you get a better idea of whether you have a yeast infection or not.

Yeast infections can occur in any warm, moist part of your body, including the mouth, the vagina, the anus, the underarms, under the breasts, and under nail beds. However, vaginal yeast infections are the most common type, and many women will get a yeast infection at some point in their lives. According to WebMD:

Yeasts are found in the vagina of most women and can overgrow if the environment in the vagina changes. Antibiotic and steroid use is the most common reason for yeast overgrowth. But pregnancy, menstruation, sperm, diabetes, and birth control pills also can contribute to getting a yeast infection. Yeast infections are more common after menopause.

Since yeast infections are so common, how can they be prevented? Continue reading

A Tribute to an Amazing Leader, Patti Caldwell

patti caldwellPlanned Parenthood Arizona recently bid farewell to one of our most tireless leaders, Patti Caldwell, who served as the Executive Director of Planned Parenthood of Southern Arizona from 2000 – 2007. Patti left PPAZ this past Spring to become the Executive Director of New Beginnings for Women and Children. We honored Patti at this year’s Roe v. Wade Luncheon for her twenty-three years of service.

I took time to speak with Patti about her tenure at Planned Parenthood Arizona. And, I also asked others to speak about Patti’s contributions to the pro-choice movement. The responses were very inspiring.

When did you start working for Planned Parenthood, and what was your motivation for working here?
I started working for Planned Parenthood in August 1987. As a social worker, I was always interested in social justice issues and community involvement. After providing direct counseling and case management services for a number of years, I was ready to focus on a more “macro” level. I had always respected and appreciated the mission of Planned Parenthood. I had the opportunity serve on a community coalition about reducing teen pregnancy with the PP CEO, Ginger Yrun. She impressed me with her brilliance and thoughtfulness, and I thought, “I’d love to work with this woman.” I started as the Director of Education and Training, since attitudes and behaviors are so key to the choices people make. I had the opportunity to serve in many roles, as well as work with amazing people from all over the country. The work was always exciting and interesting, and I learned every day.

What are some of your most memorable experiences working for Planned Parenthood?
Oh, there are so many. Here are just a few:

  • Standing outside of the federal courthouse downtown as part of a 24-hour vigil prior to the initial hearing on a lawsuit to stop a parental consent for abortion law from going into effect (which we won, that time!). And, so many wonderful people driving by and calling out their support. And even more amazing, Marian Lupu seeing the coverage on the 10:00 p.m. news and getting in her car and driving downtown to give us refreshments! I was so touched by her actions!
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Funding Cuts Will Hurt Women Like Me

During the recent debates in Congress over federal funding for family planning services, Senator Jon Kyl told a bold faced lie when he claimed that abortion was 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does. Senator Kyl was called out by the media and Democratic members of the Senate, because most people know what Planned Parenthood actually “does”: Breast exams. Pap smears. Birth control. Continue reading

An Inspiring Legacy of Giving

Hester Fassel (in orange) with Planned Parenthood volunteers

Planned Parenthood Arizona recently dedicated the lobby of their administrative headquarters in Tucson in honor of two of their longtime supporters, Dr. Hester and Raymond Fassel. I was lucky enough to meet up with Hester to ask her about her relationship with Planned Parenthood. And I have to say, Hester Fassel is one inspiring lady!

Mrs. Fassel was born in a suburb of Chicago, but she grew up in Northern Indiana. Hester became a professor of zoology at Iowa State University, and her husband Ray was a publisher at ISU Press. The two of them relocated to Tucson in 1987, after abandoning their initial plan to retire in Spain. They picked Tucson because it had a similar geography and climate to Spain, and the transition from Iowa to Arizona was fairly seamless.

The Fassels’ relationship with Planned Parenthood started when they lived in Iowa. Hester served on the Board of Directors for Planned Parenthood, but the Fassels were also donors. Hester explains that she got involved with Planned Parenthood because “I feel very strongly about their work. I believe that every child should be wanted.” Continue reading