By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
After serving as CEO of Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma (PPCO) for nearly two decades, Anita Fream has stepped down.
In June, PPCO Director of External Affairs, Keri Parks sent out an email that said, “We have recently announced that our CEO of seventeen years, Anita Fream, will retire at the end of this month. We are sad to see her go, but grateful for the legacy she leaves behind.”
Fream came to PPCO following 18 years with the University of Oklahoma, where she served as a faculty member, as professional staff, and finally as program director of the Southwest Prevention Center, a federal grant-funded program serving a 10-state region.
In 1997, a friend suggested that Fream apply for the position of PPCO’s chief executive officer.
Fream recalls, “I was really pretty hesitant that I could make such a drastic change in my professional life, but I never looked back. It was one of the best personal and professional decisions I’ve ever made.”
During her tenure, Fream has tirelessly led the organization during a constant barrage of anti abortion legislation from Oklahoma’s conservative leadership.
Some notable challenges include the ‘personhood’ bill, the Hobby Lobby contraceptive lawsuit, the ban of drug mifepristone, or RU-486 referred to also as the morning after pill, and a law that required women to undergo a narrated ultrasound exam before obtaining an abortion to name a few.
“The landscape for reproductive freedom in Oklahoma is deeply troubling, but it would be far more dire without the exceptional advocacy of Anita Fream,” said ACLU of Oklahoma Executive Director Ryan Kiesel. “Her work has no doubt saved the lives of countless Oklahoma women.
“I have confidence that we will one day live in a state that recognizes that women, not politicians, should make decisions about women’s bodies and consciences,” Kiesel continued. “When we do, it should be known that Anita played a significant role in getting us there. Personally and on behalf of the ACLU of Oklahoma, we offer our sincere thanks and gratitude for her service and wish her the very best.”
Planned Parenthood is one of the nation’s leading providers of quality, affordable health care for women, men, and young people, and the nation’s largest provider of sex education.
“What an honor it has been to work with you over the years as a part of the PPCO family,” Fream wrote in an announcement to PPCO supporters “While leaving—even for a dreamed of retirement—is hard, it helps to know that PPCO and its many supporters will go on.
“We’ve been providing the best in reproductive health care, honest education, and fearless advocacy for 78 years, and we plan to keep doing so for many, many years to come,” Fream added.
Under Fream’s leadership PPCO’s many accomplishments include a 28 percent increase in medical clients served annually and the development of a sustainable education department that serves approximately 25,000 people yearly.
PPCO ranks in the nation’s top 10 percent in its most recent accreditation review. Now in its eighth year, PPCO has implemented a successful teen pregnancy prevention media campaign encouraging thousands of sexually active teens to protect themselves with accurate medical information and contraception.
“As we move forward, we hope anyone who’s so inclined will consider PPCO’s future and all the important tasks that remain to be completed,” stated a note sent out via email from the PPCO staff,
“There will always be Oklahomans who need quality medical care. There will always be children, teens, and families who need medically accurate information about sexuality and human development,” the note continued “And goodness knows, there will always be another state legislative session to deal with. In this time of transition we especially appreciate your contributions and words of encouragement.”
Fream will continue to teach at OU after her retirement, and hopes “always to be counted among PPCO’s fondest supporters.”
Jackie Johnson, PPCO Director of Patient Services will assume the role of interim CEO.
On Saturday, September 19, PPCO’s 2015 CHOICES Gala will feature former Democratic Texas Senator Wendy Davis as keynote speaker. Davis became a nationally recognized champion of women’s rights when she spoke for 11 hours straight on the Texas Senate floor against an anti-abortion bill.
To learn more about Planned Parenthood or to make a donation, visit www.ppcok.org.or call 405-528-2157.