I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Betty Cockrum, former CEO of Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky. Betty was a true champion of the reproductive freedom movement. At a time when the world is already suffering so much loss, Betty’s passing is a reminder of how important it is to support one another and live in the present.
While Betty was intensely strong, her confidence and calming energy embodied the unfailing compassion that she brought to the fight for reproductive rights. Her compassion and strength will continue to flow through this organization, and outward to the patients, families, and communities we serve in Indiana, for years to come. Betty’s tireless commitment to the people of Indiana will be commemorated at Planned Parenthood’s health center in Fort Wayne, IN, which will be dedicated as a memorial to Betty later this year.
Betty led Planned Parenthood’s work in Indiana for 15 years. Starting as CEO of Planned Parenthood of Greater Indiana in 2002 and going on to oversee work in both Indiana and Kentucky, following the 2013 merger that formed PPINK, until her retirement in 2017. Betty was a fierce advocate for reproductive rights and abortion access, taking every opportunity to educate and inform people about Planned Parenthood. She fought tirelessly to make emergency contraception available over the counter, ensuring people in Indiana and Kentucky could use Medicaid for reproductive health services. She advocated for comprehensive sex education, and the importance of preventive health care.
Betty was a proud Hoosier and she never shied away from public debate or private meetings with opponents of affordable, reproductive health care. She has gone toe-to-toe with anti-choice legislators in the statehouse, and battled extremists in Congress who wanted to eliminate access. She led PPINK through legal battles to protect abortion rights and brought heightened visibility to the importance and impact of reproductive health care.
During her tenure, Betty took pride in sending a monthly letter to then-Governor Mike Pence notifying him of the exact number and amount of donations Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky had received, that month, in his honor. Betty personally handwrote each of those letters, signing off each time, “We wish you well, and please respect the sovereignty of women.”
To those who knew and worked with Betty, I want to offer my deepest sympathies. Every person who knew Betty has a story about her. Sharing those stories can help ease the pain of this loss - hearing stories of what Betty meant to others in this movement has helped me immensely. If you have a story that you would like to share about Betty, please add it here – we'll be sharing the stories we receive with Betty’s family, and with the wider family of PPINK’s supporters.
We have all lost a significant figure in our community, and in the Planned Parenthood movement - a leader whose strength will be sorely missed, especially in these troubling times. Thank you, Betty, for being our champion – may your energy and passion live on through all of us!
Christine R. Charbonneau