I completed my BA in Social Work at Vassar College and immediately accepted a position with Planned Parenthood of Pittsburgh. My initial responsibilities were in office management, although I quickly advanced to an administrative role as program director and clinical coordinator. I devoted every spare moment to promoting our programs and services in the community. We offered complete women's health services, including reduced-price gynecological exams, pregnancy testing, birth control counseling and programs to prevent and treat sexually transmitted diseases. I also personally championed a sexual education curriculum that promoted contraception, AIDS awareness and sexual abuse prevention. For many years our services were heralded in the community and our attorney served in strictly an advisory capacity. Things would soon change.
In the late 1990's, the political tide shifted regarding women's rights and we frequently found ourselves the target of right-wing attacks. For many years we were the only facility in Beaver County that provided first trimester pregnancy terminations.
The local Republican party and their many Christian supporters resented our commitment to performing services that they personally opposed. Religious protestors began picketing the clinic, accosting our patients with religious propaganda and threatening their lives. They blocked all the entrances to our building, making it difficult for patients to enter and exit. We received bomb threats and had our windows broken by demonstrators. This was my first experience with women's rights being violated and I felt compelled to take a stand.
I volunteered for a Democratic congressional campaign, where I briefed the candidate on abortion rights and sexuality issues in health care reform. I used my visible position in Planned Parenthood to lobby at the state level against parental notification laws for minors who received abortions. I coordinated grassroots lobbying efforts on pending legislation that would make violent acts committed by the clinic's...