President's Updates prior to 2011

Summer 2010
 
Dear Friend of Planned Parenthood,
 
One of the great things about living out in the country is that when you go to vote you are likely to know the person who checks your registration – and she may even know your family. When I voted a few weeks ago, the poll worker asked me whether my son is registered to vote. I dutifully took a registration form home for him to fill out so that he can be ready to vote this November.
 
In the days that followed, I thought a lot about what a powerful message this was: you are an adult and we trust you to help make decisions about the direction of the community.
 
This August marks the 90th anniversary of women’s right to vote – one step on the path to full acknowledgement that women, too, can be trusted as decision-makers.
 
As Elizabeth Cady Stanton said in 1848:
But to have drunkards, idiots, horse-racing, rum-selling rowdies …and silly boys fully recognized, while we ourselves are thrust out from all the rights that belong to citizens, it is too grossly insulting to the dignity of woman to be longer quietly submitted to.
 
It’s hard to believe that here we are, 90 years later, still arguing about whether women should be allowed to make their own decisions about their bodies and their lives.
 
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Forty years after women got the right to vote, another milestone was reached – the approval of the birth control pill in 1960. For centuries women relied on just about anything and everything to delay or prevent pregnancy – from eating pomegranate seeds and papaya to drinking lead and mercury or even imbibing a potion of dried beaver testicles brewed in a strong alcohol solution.
Today 100 million women around the world are on the pill. The Alan Guttmacher Institute reports that the average American woman wants to have two children and spends approximately 5 years conceiving and having them – and another 30 years trying to prevent pregnancy!
 
So – for women – what could be more basic preventive health care than birth control?

Yet, this question is now a critical topic of debate as the newly signed health care law begins to go into effect.
Today, even if a woman has insurance and even if her insurance covers birth control, she often faces hefty co-pays ranging from $20 to $50 per month for birth control pills to several hundred dollars for an IUD.
When health care reform passed it included “The Women’s Health Amendment” which requires new insurance plans to provide women’s preventive health care with no co-pays. The question now is, will birth control be considered essential preventive care – and therefore made more affordable?
Half of all pregnancies in the US are unplanned. We have the highest teen pregnancy rate in the industrialized world. Nearly one-quarter of all pregnancies end in abortion. There is no denying the importance of family planning in preventing social, economic, and medical costs associated with unintended pregnancies.

This is not just a theoretical discussion – it’s a day-to-day reality for millions of
women.
 
A recent report by the Alan Guttmacher Institute says that there were 17.4 million women in need of publicly funded contraceptive services in 2008. Four in 10 low income women of reproductive age have no insurance coverage at all. Today a poor woman is almost four times as likely to experience an unintended pregnancy as a higher income woman.
It is time to make birth control not just a medical reality – it’s time to make it a practical reality for all women. 

Only then will we achieve our core mission: reducing unintended pregnancies and giving women the ability to raise healthy, happy families. That’s what Planned Parenthood is all about!
 
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Like many businesses – for-profit and not-for-profit, PPCNC faced financial challenges this year. We froze salaries, instituted a hiring freeze, and, for the first time ever, we were forced to make lay offs. 

Despite the challenges, in many ways this was one of our most successful years ever –completion of our expansion campaign, the opening of our new health center in Fayetteville, expansion of education programs into new areas, a new focus on digital media, and more patients served than ever.
Our annual report will be published in the next few months with more detail, but I do want to give you a snapshot of some of our accomplishments over the past 12 months

o 10,000 women and men received medical services. This includes family planning services (including vasectomy), abortion services, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.
 
o More than 1300 women and men received medical services at our new Fayetteville health center.

o Thanks to a generous national donor, we were able to provide financial assistance to almost 2000 low income women who did not have insurance coverage for abortion services – a total of more than $350,000.

o 98 teen peer educators were trained in Cumberland, Durham, Orange, Robeson, and Sampson Counties. The ripple effect as this diverse group of informed young share what they know with others cannot be calculated – although we know that almost 3000 of their friends and peers have been touched by the work of the peer educators.

o We successfully fought back efforts in Wake County to remove abortion coverage from county employee insurance coverage.

o We made great strides in new technologies and media –more than 80,000 visits to our website (www.plannedparenthood.org/centralnc); 1300 Facebook fans (www.facebook.com/PPCNC); a new blog, Choice2.0 (plannedpcnc.org/blog ).Almost 30,000 people responded to our on-line ads by clicking through to our webpage. We produced six YouTube videos, including a virtual tour of our Fayetteville health center (www.youtube.com/user/PPCentralNC ). Patients can now request an appointment, order prescription refills, download forms, and pay their bills on line. And we piloted our new “Pill Pixy®” service that allows
patients to sign up for a daily text message to their cell phone reminding them to take their birth control pill, return to the health center for a Depo Provera injection, or change their contraceptive patch or ring.

o Despite the continuing economic woes, we actually exceeded our fundraising goal. Thanks to the support of people like you, we raised more than $500,000!
 
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One source of great pride for me is the quality and commitment of our staff. Those of us who work at Planned Parenthood have unusual jobs. We talk about sex and politics every day. We deal with anti-choice violence. We have the opportunity to work with other staff members, donors, and volunteers who agree with us on our most passionately held beliefs. And we know that we make a difference every single day. These are some of the
people we’ve helped:
o A woman who drove from Charlotte to get family planning services. She drove two hours in a borrowed car with her three children because she had heard that our staff speaks Spanish.
 
o A couple who came to us for an abortion after genetic testing showed that the fetus had a condition called triploidy and could not live. “We never thought this would happen, but we are a strong couple and will make it through this.”
o A mother who wanted to know how to talk with her 12 year old son about puberty and HIV.
o One of our peer educators, now in college, who wants to help organize a prochoice group on her campus.
o A woman in her mid-twenties who was in the process of leaving an abusive relationship when she found out she was pregnant. She has three children under age 10, recently lost her job, and was living with a friend.
I tell people that the reason I work at Planned Parenthood is that I truly believe that the work we do is life changing, even life-saving. Because you are a Planned Parenthood supporter, I know you share my commitment. I hope you also share my pride in this work – without your help it would not be possible.
As always, thank you.

Best wishes,
Janet Colm
President & CEO

P.S. Here’s a note from one of our patients: “From the doctor to the nurses and support people, all the way to the people who greeted me at the front desk, thank you all from the bottom of my heart. You are doing a true service to the world and I hope when you lay your head to rest each night, you realize how incredible you are.
Your support means so much to our work. Thank you again for your help!

May 2010

Dear Friend of Planned Parenthood,

I’ve just returned from the national Planned Parenthood annual conference where I was elected chair of our national CEO group – the Affiliate Chief Executive’s Council (known by those of us who love Planned Parenthood acronyms as ACEC).  This is a big honor and it is a big job – and I thought about it seriously before I agreed to serve. 

One factor I thought about was the impact on my family life.  One evening over dinner I talked to my husband and 17 year old son about it, asking, “If I do this, will you support me?” 

My son asked warily, “What do you mean by support?” 

“I guess I mean that when I’m having a hard time, will you listen to me?  And will you do more housework?”

Without skipping a beat, my son responded, “Dad will do the housework.  I’ll let you talk to me.” 

When you live with a teenager, sometimes it does feel special if they’ll let you talk to them – and even more special when they actually listen! 

 

z z z

As a parent, I know first-hand how hard it can be to know how and when to talk to young people about sex.  I know the feeling that I haven’t said enough . . . or that I’ve said too much.  And, despite the fact that I’ve worked for Planned Parenthood for more than 25 years, I also know how it feels when you’re asked a question you’re not ready for or don’t know how to answer.

Even if you are not a parent, it is frightening to read the statistics: 

1 in 2 sexually active young people will get a sexually transmitted disease before they are 25.  Most of them will not know it.

There are approximately 19 million cases of new sexually transmitted diseases that occur every year in the U.S.  Most will go undiagnosed. 

STDs often have no symptoms, so many who are infected don't even know it.  Lack of information, misconceptions and social stigma keep many people from getting tested.  Others may mistakenly believe they have been tested as part of general health care. 

At PPCNC we are now using urine-based tests for chlamydia and gonorrhea, two of the most common STDs – making it easier than ever to be tested.  Rapid HIV tests can provide results in as fast as 20 minutes with a swab inside the mouth.

This spring we are partnering with Planned Parenthood health centers across the country, along with MTV, the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the GYT: Get Yourself Talking/Get Yourself Tested Campaign.

The GYT campaign seeks to create a social movement around getting tested. Through our presence on MTV Networks, the involvement of music and celebrity talent, and special promotions, GYT aims to remove the taboos surrounding STD testing.

We also want to open up the conversation – especially between young people and their partners.  Our message is simple:

By talking about sex – including what you feel ready to do, or not to do –you are showing you care about each other.  It's YOUR Sex Life after all.  Own it! And, if even talking about sex with your partner sounds too overwhelming, then you might want to ask yourself, “Am I really ready to have sex with this person?”

 

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I was not the only one honored at our national meeting.  PPCNC, along with our sister affiliate headquartered in Raleigh, received the Affiliate Excellence Award for the outstanding work we’ve done since 2001 to restore good sex education in our state.  As you probably know, our efforts culminated last summer with the passage of the Healthy Youth Act (HYA), restoring comprehensive sex education to our public schools.

Vice President of Public Affairs Paige Johnson heads up our political work.  Paige worked closely with her colleague, Melissa Reid, VP of Public Affairs for the Raleigh affiliate, and a coalition of 30 other organizations to develop a statewide strategy.  We shared resources in a targeted field campaign.  We met with editorial boards, conducted online advocacy campaigns, phone banked, sent mailers and e-mail activations, canvassed, and circulated petitions.  We met with elected officials and lobbied in the legislature.  Hundreds of volunteers and thousands of activists helped.

As a result, a record number of legislators, both Democrats and Republicans, signed on as sponsors of the HYA.  And, for the first time in a generation, young people in our schools will receive good sex education!

The challenge now is to make sure the HYA is really implemented – and implemented well – across the state.  Our educators are already beginning to work at the local level to review curricula, clarify the law, and help develop teacher training. 

             z z z

Research shows that young people need much more than a one-hour class on birth control methods if sex education is to be truly effective.  That’s why we developed our peer education programs.  We train young people on a wide variety of issues facing their peers – everything from birth control to eating disorders.  The peer educators are then prepared to answer questions, make referrals, and offer friendly advice.  We have trained almost 800 peer educators throughout our service area since the program started.  They, in turn, have touched the lives of literally thousands more. 

In Cumberland County we’ve received a four-year grant from the NC Department of Health and Human Services for an exciting expansion of the peer education program we have run there for almost seven years.  Cumberland Connects represents a new partnership between PPCNC and the Cumberland County Health Department to provide a comprehensive pregnancy prevention initiative. 

Beginning this summer, we will not only provide training for peer educators – we will expand our work with parents and support the Health Department’s efforts to reach young men with family planning services.  We will hire a male outreach worker who will also work part-time in the Health Department’s family planning clinic. 

We know that parents are the primary sex educators for their children – even when they don’t say a word.  In Cumberland County parents have been eager to gain skills to help “get themselves talking.”  Our peer educator alumni group hosted a parent workshop, providing a forum for parents to practice talking about these issues.  The response from parents – including one grandmother who is raising three grandchildren – was overwhelmingly positive.

We want to build on this success.  We are collaborating with the Health Department to present “Parents Matter” to groups of parents throughout the community.  “Parents Matter” is an evidence-based curriculum that has been shown to increase parents’ skills and comfort in talking to their pre-teens about STD’s and teen pregnancy prevention.

 

z z z

We believe that young people can learn to make healthy decisions, develop meaningful relationships, and express affection, love, and intimacy in ways that are consistent with their personal values.  Every young person deserves the best information and support we as adults can provide them at this pivotal time. 

We know that the real answer to teen pregnancy is prevention – not laws that endanger them.  The best way to protect our young people is to begin talking about responsible, appropriate sexual behavior from the time they are young, fostering an atmosphere that assures them they can come to us.

That is what it means to really care about young people!

Best wishes,

Janet Colm

President and CEO

P.S.  Thanks to your support, we are making a real difference in the lives of the young people of our state – whether it’s a high school student with questions about his body, a young activist who wants to change the policies at her college, or a mother who wants help talking with her daughter.  Your contribution makes a difference!



February 2010

 

Dear Friend of Planned Parenthood,

It’s hard to believe that 2009 is history.  What a year that was! 

In the last 12 months we finished our $5.8 million expansion campaign.  We started providing peer education programs in Spanish to young people in both Sampson and Robeson Counties.  We opened the doors of our new state-of-the art health center in Fayetteville.  We kicked off an exciting new digital initiative – including everything from Choice 2.0 (our new PPCNC blog) to on-line bill paying.  And, last but not least, we – and our coalition partners – were successful in getting sex education restored to our schools for the first time in a generation.

And we continue to change lives every day.  Earlier today, I looked through the journals in our health center – where women write their thoughts after their visit – and once again I was reminded how honored I am to work at Planned Parenthood:

"I never thought I would have an abortion but now I have a completely different understanding of this issue and I am a better person for it."

Did you know that one in four American women has been a Planned Parenthood patient?  And now we are changing even more lives throughout central North Carolina – from Northampton County along the Virginia border to Robeson County in the southern-most part of the state.

           z z z

The people who really change lives are the other 50 people who work at Planned Parenthood.  While each and every one of our employees works hard every day, I want to tell you about three of them who have really gone above and beyond this year. 

Paige Johnson, our Vice President of Public Affairs, has worked tirelessly in the legislature for eight years and also oversees the electoral work we do through the Action Fund, the political arm of PPCNC.  She is smart, strategic, and totally committed to women and young people.  One of her greatest assets is her belief in the power of relationships – whether it’s with legislators, coalition partners, or activists.   

Joyce Mitchell-Antoine is our Chief Development Officer.  She gracefully and strategically has led our fundraising for 12 years – including raising more than $1 million after the economy collapsed last fall.  She too understands the power of relationships and has helped us move from just asking for money to truly engaging our donors and volunteers as partners in achieving our vision. 

Karen Bley, our Chief Operating Officer, has been at PPCNC for 25 years.  She spent months looking for the perfect site in Fayetteville, oversaw the design and construction of the new health center, and led the start-up of medical services.  Her perseverance, creativity, and attention to detail took a grungy old fast food restaurant and turned it into a beautiful, welcoming – and green – Planned Parenthood health center.

"To the staff at PP:  you are incredible.  You gave me the strength and peace of mind to take care of myself.  You are doing a true service to the world.   I hope when you go to bed each night you realize how incredible you are."

                              z z z

And yet, I have to say that this is one of the most challenging times we have faced in my years at PPCNC. 

As you can imagine, all across the country, Planned Parenthood affiliates are seeing increases in the number of low-income clients - uninsured people who cannot afford the full cost of their care. 

"I’m here only because I’m raising my other two children on my own.  I'm behind on my house, car, and all the other bills.  I’m in a place where I’m about to lose everything."

Meanwhile, funding is limited as never before.  State and local governments are being forced to reduce support, even for health care.  Foundations are limiting the size of their grants and have stopped multi-year grants; some who have supported us for years have told us not to apply this year.  Our individual donors have seen their incomes drop.  I don’t think we have ever had such a challenging time financially.  We have made cuts and tightened up in many areas, including reducing staff hours and benefits.

Many of our donors are making special efforts to help us deal with the economic challenges.  When I asked one donor for a large increase right before the holidays, his response was, "It makes sense for me to do more now since I'm doing so much better than most people are."  Another donor said she could not give as much as I asked for, but started making a monthly pledge so that she can give more than she could with one check.  Others have given part of their gift now and hope to give more in a couple of months.

Even if you cannot give at all right now, I hope that you will stay in touch – we are where we are today because of the support - including the moral support - of friends like you!

         z z z

I'm happy to say that our staff has responded to these challenges with creativity and flexibility and a strong commitment to excellence.

Surgical Services Manager, Kara Millet, realized that many of our patients were having difficulty paying for abortion services and, in some cases, going to other providers who charge less and do not provide the individual care and quality on which we pride ourselves.  With Kara's encouragement, we reduced the charge for in-clinic abortions at PPCNC.  One month later more women are coming to PPCNC for abortion care, receiving the high quality, compassionate care every woman deserves.

"I had an abortion before but the staff at that place was not as friendly.  I mean they talk to you about what they had to talk to you about, but that's it.  These nice people at PP were so professional and yet so personal.  Even the receptionist was nice, which was really surprising.  The doctor talked me through each step, asked questions as well as listened to mine.  Thank you!"

Similarly, our Fayetteville health center, education, and advocacy staff, along with Mitchell Price, VP of Marketing & Digital Initiatives, worked together to commemorate World AIDS Day.  As a way to draw attention to HIV and AIDS and to introduce our new health center to the community, we decided to provide a day of free HIV testing in Fayetteville. 

We mobilized every resource available - the health center staff, peer educators and their parents, volunteers, members of our Fayetteville State University campus group, the local paper and radio stations, community supporters and partners.  The result was that more than 80 people came for free HIV testing in one day - a powerful reminder about the need for Planned Parenthood in Fayetteville.  Special thanks to Fayetteville Health Center Manager Amy McLoughlin and her staff, Community Organizer Jessica Ackley, and Monika Thigpen, Community Affairs Manager for making this effort so successful.

            z z z

What can I say about our frustration with health reform?   Nobody understands the importance of making health care affordable and accessible better than Planned Parenthood.  We know that in the best of times, women of childbearing age spend 68% more for health care than men.  We know that roughly 16.7 million women are uninsured.  And we know that all this is exacerbated in tough economic times.

And yet, as our national president Cecile Richards put it, "We have no choice" but to oppose both the House and the Senate bills.  They both include limitations on abortion that we simply cannot accept.  

Under the Senate bill people who choose a health plan that includes abortion care are required to write two separate premium checks, one for abortion care and one for everything else. The House bill has even tighter language - effectively prohibiting any coverage of abortion in the new "exchange," or marketplace.

Regardless of how you feel about this issue - even some of our strongest supporters believe that health reform is so important that a compromise on abortion is acceptable - the fact is that it now appears that abortion will be the only medical procedure that is "carved out” of health reform - further marginalizing and stigmatizing it. 

What we do know is that women will still need abortion care.  And PPCNC will be there for them.

"People around us were so critical – but not Planned Parenthood.  They understand everyone has different reasons for their decisions and were so supportive."

             z z z

I could go on, but let me close by thanking you again for your support – and for helping us make a difference in the lives of thousands of North Carolinians every year.  There is a lot of work still to do. 

Sincerely,

Janet Colm

President & CEO

P.S.  Many of you have given generously over the past few months.  It is no exaggeration to say that your continued support is more important than ever.  Thank you!


November 2009


Dear Friend of Planned Parenthood,

Because you are a Planned Parenthood supporter, you know that the need for our services increases when people are out of work.  It’s during times like these that our affordable health care services become even more important.  Your support has allowed us to do so much good in recent years — but there’s still work to do. Only with your help can we continue to meet the growing needs of our community — our clients are counting on us — and on you!

z z z

Years ago our national organization undertook a study to identify the most crucial skills for a Planned Parenthood CEO.  Number 7 on the list was “dealing with ambiguity.”  Given the challenges we face, I often think it should be higher on the list.

Dealing with ambiguity is about coping with change, being comfortable when things are up in the air, handling risk and uncertainty.

 

For me, it’s the political realm that is most challenging.  Months ago I was at a national Planned Parenthood meeting and one of the speakers predicted:  “We are going to have to decide how far we will compromise on abortion in order to achieve health reform.”  And her words have come true.

As a health care provider, Planned Parenthood is in a unique position.  Every day we talk with women who have trouble paying for contraception, tests for sexually transmitted diseases, pap smears.  And every day we talk with pregnant women who cannot afford to have a baby but who have no money for an abortion.

On my more optimistic days, I thought that the health care debate might mean        that access to abortion was expanded.  Maybe we could finally repeal the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal funds from being used for abortion services except in cases of rape, incest, or to save the life of the woman.

 

Instead, for too many people, the health care debate has come down to one thing: abortion.  Anti-choice lawmakers want to do more than keep uninsured women from gaining access to comprehensive health.  Their goal is to force all plans –including private plans that individuals pay for on their own – to deny coverage for abortion.

Anti-choice activists have seized on health reform as an opportunity to undermine a woman’s right to choose – while others have seized on abortion as a way to derail health reform.  Health care reform is about increasing access to quality, affordable health care.  It should not be a platform for resolving issues like abortion. 

Planned Parenthood’s highest priority is that women have access to preventive and primary care like breast exams, birth control, and STD tests and treatment.  And patients must have access to the community providers they know and trust by requiring all plans to contract with safety net providers.

That’s why we supported the Capps amendment about abortion coverage in health reform.  This is a carefully crafted compromise that assures that access to abortion is not mandated or prohibited – and that women will not lose health care benefits they have had for decades.  It also addresses concerns that no federal funds will be used for abortion.  As Laurie Rubiner, our national vice president for public policy said, “We have to make some pragmatic choices about what we think is best overall to make sure women have the best access to care.”

 

z z z

At Planned Parenthood it’s about respecting every woman’s right to make her own decisions, even when we might disagree with her choice.  It’s figuring out how to warn patients about upcoming protests without unnecessarily frightening them.  It’s understanding the push-pull that parents feel about wanting their children to have honest information about sex and not wanting them to be sexually active.  Still, considering that one-third of American women will have an abortion by age 45, it’s hard to count this as a victory.

Balancing our belief in prevention with our commitment to a woman’s right to choose is sometimes difficult.  Other times, it is not.

As you probably know, we have just opened our third health center – in Fayetteville.  Originally we planned to provide only family planning services in Fayetteville.  But early on we heard from people in the community that there was a need for the high quality, respectful abortion services that are a hallmark of Planned Parenthood. 

When we looked at the data for Cumberland County, this is what we found:  16 teenagers get pregnant every week.  More than 1500 women have abortions every year.  There are 17,000 low-income women who need subsidized family planning services and who are not being served by the health department.  And Fayetteville was the largest city in North Carolina without a Planned Parenthood health center.  That’s why we made the decision to offer both family planning and abortion services.

Actually, our commitment to family planning and abortion is not really an either-or situation.  At the core, Planned Parenthood believes in a world in which everyone is able to make life’s most profound choices – about sexuality, about relationships, and about whether and when to become a parent.  And that covers family planning and abortion.

   z z z

Beyond a philosophical belief that everyone should be able to make their own informed decisions about their reproductive and sexual lives, there is no question that legalized abortion resulted in significant health benefits – physical, emotional, and social.

You know many of these benefits.  The risk of dying from an abortion decreased dramatically after abortion was legalized.  Couples at risk of having children with severe and often fatal genetic disorders have been able to conceive because of the availability of amniocentesis and safe, legal abortion.  The legalization of abortion has improved the average living conditions of children.  Mothers with wanted children have lower levels of depression and better quality relationships with their children.

And, I believe, at the individual level abortion can be a life changing event – a maturing experience.  For many young women it is their first experience with successfully coping with a major personal crisis – the first time they have made a decision that cannot be changed.

Abortion, like contraception, pregnancy, childbearing, and child rearing, is a fundamental part of the average American woman’s life.  She will spend five years trying to become pregnant, being pregnant, and nursing.  And she will spend roughly 30 years trying to avoid becoming pregnant!  Birth control use is “virtually universal” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Yet, half of all pregnancies are unintended and one-half of those end in abortion. 

 

z z z

This is what we tell our abortion patients:  Abortion is a common life event similar to having a baby, getting a divorce, getting married, losing a loved one.  We know that women have abortions because they care about themselves, their families, and their future families.

Women’s decisions about family planning, pregnancy, and abortion are, of course, colored by their circumstances.  And current economic realities have made these decisions even more difficult than usual.  A recent Guttmacher Institute report provides concrete evidence that the recession is changing contraceptive use and childbearing decisions.

Provisional figures from the National Center for Health Statistics indicate that the number of births in the US fell by nearly 2% in 2008.  The Guttmacher survey of 947 American women provides more information about the underlying reasons for this decline.

More than half of the women surveyed reported being worse off financially than they were a year ago.  Nearly half said they want to delay pregnancy or limit the number of children they have because of the economy.

The economy has done more than change women’s desire to delay pregnancy.  It also has impacted their health care.  Almost a third of women say they are being more careful about birth control; many are considering using sterilization or long-acting methods like IUD’s. 

Others report they are having a difficult time paying for contraceptive care:  8 percent report that they sometimes do not use birth control in order to save money; and 18% of pill users say they skipped pills, delayed getting a prescription filled, or went off the pill for at least a month in order to save money.

This report confirms what we see in our clinics every day.  We know firsthand that too many women simply can’t afford birth control and too few families have adequate health insurance.  With the economic downturn, our services are more important than ever.  As one woman wrote:

 

 

Your support of Planned Parenthood is also more important than ever.

As one of America’s leading providers of contraception and other reproductive health care, Planned Parenthood will continue to stand up for the health of women and their families.

There’s no ambiguity there!

 

Best wishes,

Janet Colm

President & CEO

 

P.S.Your gift will directly support services for a woman in your community who is taking responsibility for her reproductive health — it will help her overcome the barriers she faces. On her behalf, please accept my thanks.


 


 

 August 2009

Dear Friend of Planned Parenthood,

Usually I end my Updates with a “thank you.”  This time, I’m going to start with one. 

Thank you so much – for your encouragement, your financial support, your responses to our calls for action.  In all my years with Planned Parenthood, I have never been as proud as I am of what we have accomplished in the last two months.

Our Opening Doors, Changing Lives campaign was a success.  We met the Kresge Foundation challenge – raising $776,000 since December – and earned their gift of $300,000 to complete our $5.8 million campaign. 

Construction of the new Fayetteville health center is complete – by the time you read this, we will be open for business.  And this community – the largest metropolitan area in North Carolina without a Planned Parenthood – will join the almost 900 other Planned Parenthood health centers in the country.

What’s more, after years and years of work, we now have age-appropriate, comprehensive sex education back in our public schools – finally teachers will be allowed to do more than shake their fingers at their students and tell them “just  say no.” 

And none of this would have been possible without your help.  Thank you again!

                                   

#####

Thanks, PP for keeping my choices available.  Today I now have hope again for my life.  I could not have had another baby, this would have been devastating for my family.  I truly thank the staff here for holding my hand and being that supportive person I needed right now.  I will always choose to support freedom of choice for myself, my daughters and all women.  Thank you.  (From a patient, July 2009)

 

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We kicked off the Opening Doors, Changing Lives campaign in 2005.  Our goal was to raise $5.8 million to support expansion of all our services.  In addition to opening our third health center, in Fayetteville, the campaign provided funds to help us move into a new Durham facility and to increase our education programming.  And, it provided a major investment - $1 million – to support our advocacy program.

The results have been stunning – but nowhere more so than in advocacy.  In 2004, PPAN, our email alert system, was brand new.  We had fewer than 3000 email activists – and not even 200 lived outside the Triangle.  Today we have more than 14,000 activists, including almost 6000 outside the Triangle. 

I remember the first time we tried our hand at identifying pro-choice supporters. We made hundreds of call to women we identified from North Carolina's voter files.  At that point all we knew was their party affiliation, gender and age suggested they might be pro-choice. I participated in these calls and remember how painful the process was when our hunches didn’t prove to be correct.

Today we use the latest civic-engagement tool, Catalyst, to create an enhanced list with up-to-date contact information. Through our national office, we have use pro-choice model, which means we know the likelihood of a voter being pro-choice. This allows us to do micro-targeting. This means PPCNC can pull an enhanced list from Catalyst of likely pro-choice voters from any legislative district in the state.

We did this repeatedly during our fight for passage of the Healthy Youth Act, often calling women in some of NC’s most conservative districts --places where we'd never done pro-choice ID work before!  And, thanks to Catalyst, much more often than not, the women we called were pro-choice!

In 2004, we claimed it as a victory when we defeated 14 anti-choice bills in the NC Legislature. 

                      Today, we claim a true victory:  age-appropriate, medically accurate sex education has been restored to our schools
                      for the first time since 1994!


This is not our victory alone – we worked with a powerful, well-organized coalition of activists who know and trust each other.  We have come so far from the days when our “coalition” work was more about jockeying for press coverage than about effective advocacy.  The strength of this coalition, combined with the power of our shared lists, our relationships with legislators, and thousands of grassroots activists made all the difference. 

The coalition – including our sister affiliate based in Raleigh, NARAL-Pro-Choice NC, the Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Campaign of NC, Equality NC, and the ACLU - worked tirelessly to restore sex education in our schools.  We did not always agree on strategy, but we always disagreed respectfully.  And we can all share the pride in our accomplishment.

Oh yes -  we also defeated all 13 anti-choice bills that were introduced in the NC Legislature!

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I just wanted to say thank you for the services.  I have NEVER been to a restaurant, clothing store, doctor’s office, no place where I have been treated as well as I have been treated today.  I just want to say thank you!!!!  (From a patient, February 2009)

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This morning I was in Fayetteville to join our new staff for a security training.  The building looks better every time I see it.  The building was serene today – but I know that soon it will be bustling.  The need for our services in Fayetteville is tremendous – there are 17,000 women who need subsidized family planning services who are not being served by public health clinics!

We rented a bus in mid-July and took our entire staff – educators, health care assistants, call center representatives, clinicians, human resources, finance, administration, and development staff – everyone – down to Fayetteville to see the new health center.  It was a wonderful day! 

There wasn’t a stick of furniture in the building and there were people washing windows, using jack hammers, installing vent covers, watering the new crepe myrtle trees.  The mood of our staff was jubilant.  It’s so easy for us to get bogged down in the day to day, the problems, the legislative battles, the worries about money.  It was just wonderful to be together – 65 of us! – celebrating this tremendous accomplishment.  After years of planning and fundraising, construction was virtually complete (you know how building projects go!) and we were just days away from the first Planned Parenthood patient in Fayetteville!

Over and over that day I heard people talk about how much it means to work at Planned Parenthood.  Over and over I heard our new Fayetteville staff talk about how supportive and friendly people were.  I am so proud of our staff – they are committed, energetic, funny, warm, talented and generous people.   Every day they contribute to making lives better.  And, in the last days of the campaign, they – like so many of you --  dug deep and contributed a total of $45,000 to the campaign.

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            Hi my name is D---.  I am 15 years of age.  Just lost my mother, diagnosed with genital warts and gonorrhea.  BE CAREFUL!  The guy that you love always doesn’t mean well.  I thought I would share the rest of my life with him but look I’m here getting a abortion and he’s nowhere to be found!  I miss you mom!  I did this for you.  (From a patient, May 2009)

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The best jobs are the ones where you keep learning.  And I have to say, our Opening Doors campaign taught me a lot – not the least of which is how to ask for money even when your knees are knocking! 

But the true lessons for me were not about asking for money – they were about partnership, about the power of supporting something you believe in, and about the tremendous generosity of our donors.  I know that people get tired of being “hit up” for money.  But over and over I talked with donors who truly believe they are partners in our work – people who were happy to give because they knew that it would make a difference in someone else’s life. 

We received the Kresge Challenge in December – in order to receive their gift of $300,000, we had to raise $776,000 by June 30.  And we did it with three days to spare!

Despite the recession, despite our fears for the future, we were able to raise $776,000 in six months – including just over $273,000 in the month of June alone.  This is not really about the money we raised, but about your commitment to our shared vision of changing lives for women, men, and young people throughout central North Carolina.

                                                                         #####

My life is all over the place now and this was just not the right time.  I have two beautiful boys, but my husband left me and then I find this out.  I have back trouble, financial troubles, and depression.  The staff has been wonderful.  They made me feel welcome and such a smooth process.  Thank you so much for the support from Planned Parenthood.  (From a patient, February 2009)

 

Best wishes and thank you again!

Janet Colm

President & CEO

P.S.   Over the past five years, you have helped us to move into our new home in Durham.  To expand our education programs throughout central North Carolina .  You have made us a political force in our state.  And, thanks to you, we have now opened our third health center – in Fayetteville.   I hope you share our pride!

 


 

 

May 2009

Dear Friend of Planned Parenthood,

Talk about dreams coming true! 

We are on track to opening the doors to our Fayetteville health center this summer!  For those of you who are not familiar with Fayetteville – it is in Cumberland County and is the home of Fort Bragg, the largest military base in the country.  There is tremendous need for Planned Parenthood there.  More than 16 teen girls get pregnantevery week.  There are more than 17,000 women who need subsidized family planning services who are not being served by public health agencies.  Our health center will provide affordable, high quality reproductive health care, including family planning, abortion, and contraception.

Funds for this project are part of our $5.8 million “Opening Doors, Changing Lives” expansion fundraising campaign.  In addition to the Fayettevillehealth center, the campaign includes several other components – including relocating the Durham health center to better serve that community and expanding our education and advocacy programs throughout our 25 county service region. 

So far, we have raised more than $5 million.  And now the Kresge Foundation has made a challenge grant towards the new health center.  We have until June 30 to raise the final $368,000 and earn a gift of $300,000 to complete the campaign! 

 

#####

PPCNC is not immune to the challenges facing our country - donors who’ve had to withdraw pledges, government contracts that have been cut, increasing numbers of patients who need help paying for their care.  Like most businesses, we’re tightening our belts – reducing staff travel and training, freezing management salaries, negotiating new agreements with vendors.   Unfortunately, the combination of the economic crisis and the impact of our Opening Doors campaign means that our annual fund is stretched thin. 

If you’ve already given, thank you!  If you haven’t – or if you can give again - I hope that you’ll think about two gifts this spring.  Along with a gift to the annual fund, please consider a special gift to help us meet the Kresge Challenge for our Fayetteville health center.  We can count 3-5 year pledges towards the challenge so, if you can, please help with a multi-year gift or pledge.  Thank you!

to give: www.plannedparenthood.org/presidentsupdate

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Do you send email instead of writing letters?  Make your own airline reservations on line?   
Maybe you use Twitter or watch videos on YouTube.  
Our board took a huge step forward when it approved a new digital initiative as a primary goal of our new strategic plan.  Clearly digital technologies and media are changing the way we interact with each other, redefining what we mean by "community", and changing the ways people identify and engage with the issues they care about.  Thanks in part to a recent grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, we are using these powerful new tools to develop innovative ways to meet our mission in the 21st century.
In April we “went live” with a new medical management system.  The new system, funded through the Opening Doors campaign, will make the lives of our staff easier and, more importantly, it will help us serve our patients better.  The system will allow patients to actually schedule their appointments online – making it even easier for people to receive the services they need at Planned Parenthood.  This is also a big step towards a national Planned Parenthood system – so that a Planned Parenthood patient can be seen anywhere in the country – and her medical record will be right there with her.
Also this spring, we are participating in a major “redesign” of our national website.  The site (http://www.plannedparenthood.org/) gets 1 million hits every month – including 5000 for PPCNC.  The vast majority of visitors are looking for Planned Parenthood health services – there is an easy-to-use clinic locator function where you can just type in your zip code and find the health center nearest you.  Other visitors want to make donations, look for jobs or volunteer opportunities, or get information about reproductive health.
I’m very excited about a new suite of tools coming to the website this spring.  As the mother of a teenager, I know how much time young people spend on-line answering quizzes (like those we used to answer in Seventeen and Glamour magazine).  How likeable are you? Which super-hero are you most like?  Should you dump your boyfriend?
The new tools - Planned Parenthood All Access - don’t just help you figure out how likeable you are – they help you assess your risk of sexually transmitted infections and identify the best form of birth control for you.  We plan to take this one step further soon, when we’ll add live chat with a trained Planned Parenthood educator who can answer questions and make referrals – anonymously and in the comfort of your own home.
Even better – we are entering into exciting new partnerships with some of the largest national teen- and health-oriented websites.    They will feature All Access on their websites – allowing millions of visitors to their sites to find the clinic closest to them, assess their risk, find the best method of birth control, and “talk” with a Planned Parenthood educator.

#####

 

Our “digital” efforts are going beyond new software and our national website.  We’re also building on the advocacy work we’ve been doing for the past ten years.  Thousands of you receive our email alerts with opportunities to take action to support choice. You’ll notice we’re utilizing more online tools than ever before - video, surveys, petitions.  You can “follow” our Vice President of Public Affairs (and chief lobbyist), Paige Johnson, on Twitter – and find out what she is doing right now in the legislature.  It’s easy to undo if you don’t want to continue, doesn’t cost anything, and you don’t get bombarded with emails – but you will get a glimpse of what a day is like in the life of our lobbyist.  Just go to http://www.twitter.com/, sign up, and ask to follow “PPCNC”. 
We’re exploring ways for our peer educators to provide information to teens with a “chat” function on our website.  We plan to experiment with discussion boards for people who think they might be the only pro-choice person in their community or for parents who are trying to figure out how to talk about sex with their children.  YouTube could be a valuable tool for training parents to talk with their local school boards.  We could even give prospective patients a “virtual” tour of the health center (we often hear from young people that our health centers are much nicer and less scary than they had anticipated.) 
You get the idea!  And, if you have others, please let us know.

 

#####

 

Of course, there is a downside to this new technology.  It’s also being used against us.  All you have to do is go to http://www.youtube.com/ and search for Planned Parenthood.  You’ll see video after video after video accusing Planned Parenthood of all kinds of things. 
Some are videos taken by a person calling herself “Lila Rose”.  This young woman calls or visits Planned Parenthood health centers, claiming to be a teenager who is pregnant by a much older boyfriend.  She secretly tapes the interactions using her cell phone.  Unfortunately, in a couple of instances, she has caught Planned Parenthood staffers who did not follow the law about reporting child abuse.   In other cases, the tapes were edited to suggest that laws were broken.
The truth is Planned Parenthood follows the law.  In those cases in which Planned Parenthood staffers did not follow the law, the affiliates involved (thankfully not PPCNC) took immediate action – including firing staff.  In fact, here at PPCNC we have reported several incidents of sexual abuse to local Social Services – including most recently a participant at one of our education programs who had been abused by a relative. 
There are other videos that claim that our founder, Margaret Sanger, was racist or that Planned Parenthood accepts racist donations, or that our goal is African American genocide.  Here again, Lila Rose has been at work.  Several months ago, she and a colleague, James O’Keefe, called Planned Parenthood offices and offered donations to pay for “black babies to be aborted.”  The conversations were taped and are also on YouTube.  Unfortunately, again, there were a few situations in which the staff member taking the call did not respond appropriately while other taped conversations were heavily edited.
I’m proud to say that when PPCNC received one of these calls, the response, in no uncertain terms, was that we would not accept such a donation and, if one was sent, the check would be destroyed.  Of course, that’s not the recording that’s on YouTube.
As for Margaret Sanger – a group of our board and staff members spent several months reviewing her writings and examining the claims that she was a racist.  It is true that she was involved – for a short time – with eugenicists who were focused on curbing untreatable ailments.  But, it’s a distortion to label her a racist.  In fact, she advocated for equal access to reproductive health care and was a vocal opponent of racial stereotyping. 
It’s simply unfounded to suggest that Planned Parenthood supports genocide in any way.  African Americans – in fact, minorities of many races - are more likely to be uninsured, to lack access to health care, and to experience unintended pregnancy than are whites.  Planned Parenthood works hard to address the disparities in health care and ensure equal access. 

 

#####

As a supporter of Planned Parenthood, you know the truth about our organization.  All kinds of people turn to us for compassionate care – one quarter of American women have been a Planned Parenthood patient at some point in their lives.
Thanks to your help we are moving forward.  In the months and years ahead, thousands of women and men will visit our health centers.  And even more activists, parents, peer educators, college students, clients, and donors will be able to come to us on the web and be engaged in ways that are meaningful to them, make sense in the 21st century, and advance our mission.
Best wishes and see you on YouTube!

 

Janet Colm
President & CEO

 

P.S.  Thanks again for your help.  We appreciate your help – in good times and in bad.

 




February 2009

 

 

 

Dear Friend of Planned Parenthood,

I am writing this letter just a week after the inauguration of our new president – the first pro-choice president of the century as one of our board members said!  Just a few days ago, President Obama signed an executive order overturning the global gag-rule, restoring US family planning funds to international organizations that serve millions of poor women across the world.

It really does feel like a new day.  Even the weather feels different today – it’s one of those January days that is warm and sunny.  You can see daffodils sprouting and little sprigs of green popping up, hinting at grass. 

 

z z z

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, though.  Sunday’s paper was full of story after story about the economy – people losing their jobs; people losing their health care after losing their jobs; is the stimulus package big enough; should we have more tax cuts; what about extending unemployment benefits …..

Here at Planned Parenthood, we don’t need to read the paper to know that the world has shifted under the feet of many people.  We can tell everyday by the increased numbers of patients seeking affordable health care at our health centers. 

In the first six months of this fiscal year, we saw 34% more family planning patients and 31% more abortion patients than the same period a year ago.  I cannot say enough about the people who work in our health centers.  We get hundreds of letters and comments from patients – and almost without exception they are glowing:

 

You all have the greatest staff members I have ever seen at a health care center.  Every question was answered promptly.  I did not have to wait very long at all.  Everyone I talked to was excellent and very kiind.  This was my first experience coming here and I was treated very well.  Thank you very much.  Please let the staff know.

 

z z z

 

Many of you have asked how we are doing in this economic climate.  Certainly, PPCNC is not immune to the challenges facing our country - foundations unable to make grants right now, donors who’ve had to withdraw pledges, government contracts that have been cut, increasing numbers of patients who need help paying for their care. 

Fortunately, we also have a strong base of support.  When our national organization looks at the financial health of Planned Parenthood affiliates, we are proud that we are consistently in the top quarter of affiliates in virtually every measure.   That financial strength means that, at least for the time being, we have been able to avoid serious cutbacks.

However, we are tightening our belts – reducing staff travel and training, freezing management salaries, negotiating new agreements with vendors.  We hope that by taking these steps now, we can avoid more painful changes in the future – for our patients and our staff. 

We recognize that you – like others – may be feeling the impact of the economy.  Regardless of how passionately you feel about Planned Parenthood, you may want a different way to support our work right now.  Perhaps you can become one of our sustaining partners and make a smaller gift every month.  Or it may work better for you to make a pledge rather than an outright gift.

However you choose to give – even if all you can do right now is give your moral support – thank you!

 

z z z

 

As the new year and the new administration take hold, another big change is becoming a reality – it’s a new day for Planned Parenthood too.

Our Cumberland County health center is really taking shape!  Talk about dreams coming true - a couple of weeks ago, I walked around the new building.  It was wonderful to see this project – one that we’ve been working on for five years – actually becoming real.  The day I was there, they were going to start putting the shingles on.  If all goes well, we will be providing affordable family planning services, abortion services, and contraception in Fayettevillethis summer! 

There is tremendous need for Planned Parenthood in Cumberland County.  Of the seven largest counties in our state, CumberlandCountyis the only one that does not have a Planned Parenthood health center.  Of the seven largest counties in our state, Cumberland  has the highest teen pregnancy rate (more than 16 girls get pregnant every week.)

What’s more, 17,000 Cumberland County women are in need of subsidized family planning services – these are women who are not being served by the health department. Just to put these numbers in context, in Orangeand Durham Counties combined there are 9200 women in need of subsidized family planning services who are not being served by the local health departments or Planned Parenthood.

Funds for this project are part of our $5.8 million “Opening Doors, Changing Lives” expansion fundraising campaign.  In addition to the Fayettevillehealth center, the campaign includes several other components – including relocating the Durham health center to better serve that community and expanding our education and advocacy programs throughout our 25 county region. 

So far, we have raised almost $4.8 million.  I’m very happy to report that last month we received word that the Kresge Foundation has made a $300,000 challenge grant towards the new health center.  This means that we are just $726,000 away from meeting our campaign goal!  In the coming months you will here more about this excellent challenge opportunity and how you may be able to help.

 

z z z

 

There is more good news.  The Z. Smith Reynolds foundation has provided a grant to fund the first phase of an initiative that will help us use new technologies to drive all parts of our mission.  Over the past few years, we have developed a strong electronic alert system, the Planned Parenthood Action Network (PPAN) that now numbers more than 12,000 email activists.  Our peer educators and college chapters use social networking sites like facebook to stay in touch and to connect with PPCNC.  Our website, coordinated through our national organization links us with clients, activists, and donors. 

This project will help us to go further – including things like appointments on line, and on line “chat” with health care professionals.  Turning pro-choice activists into partners who connect with each other and with PPCNC both on- and off-line.  “Meeting” with parents and young people who “come to us” over the internet.  Engaging a new generation of donors, including giving them opportunities to connect with each other in addition to making financial contributions to PPCNC.  And, we will share what we learn with our coalition partners in the progressive community in our state.

z z z

 

Everywhere I go, people are talking about the odd mixture of hope and fear that we are all feeling.  President Obama’s inaugural speech summed it up well:

 

            “Homes have been lost, jobs shed, businesses shuttered.  Our health care is

            too costly, our schools fail too many, and each day brings further evidence

            that the ways we use energy strengthen our adversaries and threaten our planet.”

 

And yet, as he put it, “We gather because we have chosen hope over fear.”

That feeling of a “new day” goes beyond what our country and our organizations are experiencing.  People feel it on a personal level too – especially the people who come to us every day, many of them full of fear and looking for hope.

It’s hard to imagine – or perhaps remember – how terrifying it is to be pregnant when you don’t want to be.   For those of us who have choices, it’s hard to imagine what it is really like not to have choices. 

I will never forget the letter we got from one young woman who came to Planned Parenthood after having been raped.  She did not talk with anyone about her experience because she truly believed that it would destroy her family.  In her letter to us after her abortion, she wrote, “Thank you for giving me my life back.”

We can read the letter, but we will never really understand what that woman went through when she made her decision.  We will ever really understand what a difference Planned Parenthood made in her life – and in her family’s life.

Planned Parenthood gives people hope and new choices every day.   President Obama’s words reminded me of the Planned Parenthood promise we developed years ago – it’s eerie how closely it echoes President Obama’s words:

            Creating hope for humanity: The freedom to dream, to make choices,

            and to live in peace with our planet.

Thank you very much for all your support over the years.  I look forward to continuing to work with you in the days ahead to accomplish our mission.

Best wishes,

 

Janet Colm

President and CEO

 

P.S.  I am often told that PPCNC has the reputation of doing a great job with fundraising.  I believe that one reason we are successful is that we truly believe our donors are our partners.  As one person said, “You don’t seem to think of me as an ATM machine like so many other organizations do.”  I hope you think of PPCNC not just as a charity, but as your partner – an organization that helps you make the difference that you want to see in the world.  We appreciate your help – in good times and in bad.

 

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