Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who argued the landmark Roe vs. Wade case in U.S. Supreme Court, gave an entertaining keynote address October 18 at Planned Parenthood Hudson Peconic’s annual Empower breakfast. The event honored Francine "Frankie" Stein, who led PPHP as President/CEO for 32 years.
Weddington, who represented “Jane Roe” as a 26-year-old lawyer in 1972, talked about the roles of Connie Cook and George Mitchell, assembly members who were key in legalizing abortion in New York, and recalled a time when you couldn’t tell someone where to get an abortion and students couldn’t get contraceptives unless they were within six weeks of getting married. She also said she did worry about who will next be appointed to the Supreme Court as well as the many restrictive laws being considered by state legislatures across the nation.
Stein became executive director of Planned Parenthood Westchester/Rockland in 1979 when the agency had an operating budget of only $600,000. In 1997, after playing an instrumental role in the merger with Suffolk County, she became the President/CEO of PPHP, created to serve the residents of Suffolk, Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties with a budget of $13 million. She is credited with adding abortion services to PPHP’s roster of care, creating PPHP’s advocacy arm (the Action Fund), and bringing together the different counties to expand services in the region.
Stein talked about how when she first arrived, Planned Parenthood just provided contraceptives and how women weren’t fully accepted as part of the Westchester business community. She noted how constructive thinking, a willingness to go public, and private contributions have made it possible to influence public policy and serve needy clients.
“The women’s movement is much stronger,” she said. “Planned Parenthood is understood as a force to be reckoned with.”
The Empower event, which attracted 285 attendees, included a “condom raffle” and silent auction. A highlight of the event was a service auction that raised $25,075 for staffing for a SmartWheels mobile education and testing van.
All funds raised will support PPHP medical services, education and advocacy programs in Westchester, Rockland and Putnam counties.