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The conviction of Dr. Kenneth Edelin in 1975, an obstetrician and gynecologist at Boston City Hospital, for performing a legal late-term abortion, made it poignantly clear the reproductive freedom battle was far from over. The national anti-choice climate, reflected in the elections of Presidents Reagan and Bush, was apparent in Massachusetts, where threats to reproductive freedom persisted.
The Women’s Bar Association and the National Lawyer’s Guild formed the Lawyer’s Referral Panel to provide pro bono services to help young girls in need of abortions maneuver the formidable 1974 parental/judicial consent approval laws, more legislation designed to limit access to abortion. "I saw a notice in the Women’s Bar Association newsletter," recalls attorney and former PPLM Board President Jamie Sabino, who organized lawyers to help teens with judicial bypass. "PPLM is an organization willing to put time, effort and money where its mouth is, even when it’s unpopular," she says.
PPLM’s new Legislative Alert Network mobilized citizens for grassroots lobbying on family planning, abortion, and public health matters. In ’78, the unique theatre-as-education project, Youth Expression Theatre, created skits on peer pressure, sexuality, and decision-making for schools, community groups and healthcare providers.
The Coalition for Choice, a group of many pro-choice organizational members, including PPLM, forged a unified, powerful voice and successfully defeated a 1986 antiabortion amendment under the forceful leadership of Nicki Nichols Gamble, PPLM’s Executive Director and Coalition Chair. The following year, 1987, PPLM opened the Planned Parenthood Clinic of Greater Boston on Beacon Street in Brookline, the first to be owned and operated by PPLM in the Boston area. Anti-choice demonstrators repeatedly harassed both patients and staff. "I tried to make sure our staff was taking care of themselves during these very difficult times before the first Buffer Zone," Gamble recalls. "It was so difficult that in order to be sure we could open the clinic on Saturday mornings, staff began sleeping there on Friday night."
Labeling the staff at PPLM "wonderful, smart, committed people who are highly-focused, mission-driven and devoted to the cause," former COO Piper Orton has nothing but praise, especially during this difficult time, for the organization and its staff. The difficulty of protecting patients and staff intensified, as the burgeoning movement for reproductive freedom experienced growing levels of violence against it.