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.
Planned 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! Continue reading →
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 →
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 →
One of the points that really resonated with me is that Catholics believe that their individual conscience should be the ultimate guide to what is right, and what is wrong. If someone’s conscience tells them that something is morally right, they should follow their intuition, even if it contradicts a teaching from the Vatican.
I grew up in the Mormon Church. Mormons share a similar belief that everyone will be judged for their own lives and not be held accountable for something someone else does. Mormons also believe in personal revelation from God. I personally believe that if a woman prays about the decision to obtain an abortion and she feels that it is the right decision, no one is in a position to call her decision into question – not even her bishop.
Another thing that stood out for me was that even the Pope doesn’t know when life begins, or when the body receives a soul. If the Pope is the right hand of God and he doesn’t even know the answer to this question, I doubt that the debate will ever be settled. Continue reading →
How could we discuss Women’s History Month on a Planned Parenthood blog and not bring up the history of The Pill?
Oral contraception was first approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1960. The FDA approval of the birth control pill enabled a radical shift in the United States – the proof being that over 12 million women currently use The Pill as their preferred method of birth control. The New York Times has advocated that birth control should be available for over-the-counter distribution. Loretta Lynn even wrote a song about how awesome The Pill is. All of this is for the pure and simple reason that birth control gives women control over their reproductive destiny. It enables them to determine when, and if, they become pregnant. And it has increased women’s access to both higher education and the paid labor force. Continue reading →
Thanks to everyone who attended the Roe v. Wade Happy Hour on Friday, January 21st. We had a great turnout at the Javalina Cantina on Friday, including State Senator Linda Lopez. Senator Lopez addressed the crowd, telling us that we face a difficult environment in the state legislature for women’s health. But now is not the time to retreat; now is the time to mobilize to protect women’s health.
You can stand up for women’s health by signing up for Women’s Health Lobby Day. We will be meeting with our state representatives and addressing pending legislation that will impact women’s health in the state of Arizona. This is a great opportunity to learn how our state government works, as well as to meet other pro-choice advocates from around the state.
Follow us on Twitter to stay up to date on the latest action alerts. And if you haven’t already signed up to volunteer with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, send us an e-mail to find out when the next volunteer training will be. We’d love to have you join our fabulous Community Action Team.
Thanks again to everyone for celebrating Roe with us on Friday. We can’t wait to see you at Women’s Health Lobby Day, and other events in the future!
Several years ago I attended a speech by actress Kathleen Turner, who was a national spokesperson for Planned Parenthood Federation of America at the time. Turner told the college audience about how she had relied on Planned Parenthood’s health care services when she was a student, and she encouraged all of us to take advantage of the services offered there, too. But, she told us, when we were in a position to give back to Planned Parenthood, we had an obligation to do so.
I volunteer at Planned Parenthood to fulfill that obligation. For more than ten years, I have depended on Planned Parenthood to provide affordable health care. When I haven’t been able to afford a Pap smear, I have been able to count on Planned Parenthood to help me out. When I needed information about pro-choice ballot issues or electoral candidates, I turned to Planned Parenthood to give me reliable information. No matter what, I know that I can count on Planned Parenthood to be there for me. Which is why I have made up my mind to be there for them. Continue reading →