Recognition for Those Who Work in an Invisible World

The first gala dinner at a Planned Parenthood Annual Conference I attended was back in the mid 1980s. At that time I was board president of the small affiliate in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

confetti in the air

This year I will be at the gala again, and for the first time in all the intervening years I have been attending, Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma will be recognized with one of the annual awards.
It made me stop and think about the small group of dedicated men and women who run a full time clinic that does everything from disease testing to annual physicals, from colposcopy (look it up) to vasectomies as well as the all-important family planning. The affiliate is probably the typical operation for Planned Parenthood, especially in states that have a large rural population.

The boards I worked with were just as dedicated, raising funds in a community where the mission was not a high priority, and managing, with the help of good CEOs, to hang on to serving a decidedly underserved population.

The affiliate doesn’t own a building.They rent in a shopping center that was beginning to be a bit seedy when I was in high school sixty years ago. The plate glass windows in the front have reflecting foil on them. Protesters and passers-by cannot see in, but I worried even as a new board member that the glass wasn’t bullet proof. PPCO has had its threats. It has had its run-in with state government which at one time hauled off the examining tables!

The exam rooms are Spartan but cheerfully painted. There are pictures on the walls and toys for the children to play with in the waiting area.  The executive offices are an adequate rabbit warren in half of the building. The staff has a small break space close to the lab.

It is an affiliate which does not do abortions.

Although there are lovely facilities for Planned Parenthood in many communities with attendant abortion facilities, my bet is that the ambiance of what one sees at PPCO is more typical of Planned Parenthood, especially since we operate a huge number of clinics that do nothing but family planning and exams, many located close to college campuses and satellite clinics in areas far from the main office of many affiliates.

The view between your knees of a bright wall and a cheery poster may not be the grandeur of the local hospital, but it’s salvation for thousands of grateful women. They are the ones who have kept Planned Parenthood relevant since Margaret Sanger first had a transformational idea.