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As we wrap up Black History Month, I want to recognize a Planned Parenthood Pasadena & San Gabriel Valley leader, Pearl McNeil whose efforts towards reproductive freedom and health equity still benefit our community to this day.

Pearl McNeil served as the Executive Director of PPPSGV from 1962 – 1965. She led the charge to bring access to birth control to the Pasadena community. Within two years of hormonal contraceptives receiving FDA approval, people in Pasadena could access the pill with revolutionary ease at libraries, churches, and shopping centers. This was largely, if not entirely, due to Mrs. McNeil, a true trailblazer. This level of access to birth control is unheard of, even today. 

Mrs. McNeil was an anthropologist, educator, and human rights advocate. Her husband, Rev. Dr. Jesse Jai McNeil, was a prominent pastor at Metropolitan Baptist Church in Altadena and active in the Civil Rights Movement. She enabled us to reach new patients, destigmatize birth control, and forge new partnerships, particularly among local churches and the Black community. In her three short years on staff, we opened five neighborhood clinics at churches and libraries. When her husband died in 1965, McNeil left our affiliate but continued to speak out on the theological argument for choice, as a community leader in Pasadena and a member of the Fuller Theological Seminary Board.

We must continue to celebrate the legacy of trailblazing Black women from our past and ensure these stories are engrained in our Planned Parenthood history. While there continue to be too many barriers that stand in the way of Black women and people getting access to quality, affordable, compassionate reproductive health care, we are committed to continuing our work with community leaders to expand education and access to services through events like the Young African American Women’s Conference, the Southern California Women’s Health Conference, and in our local schools.

 

Tags: Black History Month