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.

Affirming the Autonomy of Indigenous Women

November is National American Indian Heritage Month. As we celebrate the positive sides of Indigenous Nations’ histories, we must acknowledge that the U.S. government has both robbed Native Americans of their land and, through the policies of the Indian Health Service division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, made it difficult for Indigenous people to access quality health care.

Indian Health Service (IHS) was established in 1955 with the stated goal of improving the health care of Native Americans living on reservations. However, Indigenous women who came into IHS clinics for something as common as vaccinations were often sterilized without their consent. During the 1960s and 1970s, 25 to 50 percent of women who visited IHS clinics (approximately 3,406 women) were sterilized without their knowledge. Methods of sterilization included partial or full hysterectomies, and tubal ligations.


Bodily autonomy is about having the power to decide for oneself whether and when to bear children.


The IHS had a clear objective: population control (aka “genocide”). Census data collected during the 1970s showed that Native Americans had birthrates that were much higher than white communities. According to census data, the average American Indian woman had 3.79 children, while white women had 1.79 children. The 1980 census revealed that the average birthrate for white women was 2.14, while the birthrate for Indigenous women was 1.99. You don’t have to be a math whiz to see that this is a drastic contrast.

Myla Vicenti Carpio, a professor of American Indian studies at Arizona State University, explains: Continue reading

101 Years Ago Today: Sanger’s First Clinic Opens its Doors

Clinic at 46 Amboy Street

“The poor, century-behind-the-times public officials of this country might as well forget their moss-grown statutes and accept birth control as an established fact. My new national plan makes it as inevitable as night and day.” – Margaret Sanger, October 22, 1916

Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood, said these words a full century ago, denouncing lawmakers who wished to throw obstacles between women and access to contraception. Her vision for the future was one in which reliable birth control was widely available without controversy. It is frustrating and outright embarrassing that we are still fighting for the right of women to control their own bodies, especially when it comes to reproductive health care.

Different methods of birth control have been used since the ninth century. However, birth control as we know it today was not easily accessible in the United States until the early 1900s.

Sanger helped popularize the term “birth control” because she felt that women had the right to control their own bodies and determine when, and if, they would have children. Sanger opened her first birth control clinic in Brownsville, Brooklyn, on October 16, 1916 — 101 years ago today. She and her sister, Ethel Byrne, had spent time researching reproductive health care access in the Netherlands, which inspired them to start their own clinic in the United States. They spent time talking to residents in Brooklyn to ensure that the community would be comfortable having a birth control clinic in their neighborhood. Continue reading

TRAP Laws: Slowly Chipping Away at Abortion Access

Repeal TRAP laws nowThis week marks the third anniversary of the decision in Planned Parenthood Southeast, Inc. v. Strange, a lawsuit that challenged HB 57. This bill, passed by Alabama’s state legislature, required every physician who performs an abortion at a clinic to have staff privileges at a local hospital. Planned Parenthood clinics in Birmingham and Mobile, as well as providers at Reproductive Health Services in Montgomery, would have been unable to obtain hospital staff privileges for various reasons, including a hospital board’s opposition to abortion, requirements that doctors admit between 12 and 48 patients a year to retain staff privileges, and stipulations that the physicians live within a certain radius of the hospital. (Ridiculous, right?)

Luckily, on August 4, 2014, a federal court blocked the requirement that abortion providers obtain admitting privileges at local hospitals — a victory for reproductive rights, but just one small battle in the larger war against abortion access in the United States.


We will not let our state laws be templates for other anti-choice legislation.


Bills like HB 57 are called Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers laws. TRAP laws selectively focus on medical facilities that provide abortions to make it more difficult for reproductive health care providers to offer abortion services to their patients. In a nutshell, TRAP laws segregate abortion from regular medical procedures, discourage doctors from providing abortion services because of the tedious requirements to do so, and dramatically increase the cost of obtaining an abortion.

Many state legislatures pass these restrictions by arguing that abortion is a risky medical procedure. However, according to the Guttmacher Institute, “abortion is one of the safest surgical procedures for women in the United States. Fewer than 0.05% of women obtaining abortions experience a complication.” Continue reading

Meet Our Candidates: Kevin Patterson for Phoenix City Council District 6

The Arizona primary election will be held on August 29, 2017. Reproductive health care access has been under attack, both nationally and statewide, but Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed candidates who have shown strong commitment to reproductive justice. In order to vote in the primary election, you must be registered to vote by July 31. Early voting begins on August 2. Make your voice heard in 2017!

Kevin PattersonKevin Patterson is running for a seat on the Phoenix City Council — specifically for District 6. Mr. Patterson is the director of talent management and leadership development for Banner Health, the largest employer in Phoenix. Mr. Patterson has spent his life advocating for marginalized constituencies and building consensus for common-sense solutions to some of our state’s problems. Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona has endorsed Mr. Patterson because of his strong support for reproductive health care.


“Health care is a human right.”


On July 3, I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Patterson about his positions on health care advocacy, as well as his support of the LGBTQ community.

What motivated you to run for Phoenix City Council?

I am running for Phoenix City Council because I want my kids to grow up in a city where they feel safe, are provided opportunities to thrive, and [are] respected for their diversity. The national rhetoric right now is so divisive and combative that it makes me nervous to think about the type of world they will grow up in if more consensus-building policies aren’t put in place. I believe that change happens at home and in our communities on the local level. For our neighborhoods, I would like to create opportunities for responsible economic growth, safe neighborhoods, efficient public resources. Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

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