By Darla Shelden
City Sentinel Reporter
The CHOICES 2016 gala fundraiser was recently held at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City to benefit Planned Parenthood Great Plains (PPGP). About 400 guests attended the annual art sale, auction, awards and dinner program.
Proceeds from the event go directly to support costs for patients of Planned Parenthood in central Oklahoma. The event organizing team included Emma Rolls, Dr. Titi Fitzsimmons, Marilyn Artus, and Dr. Philip J. Rettig.
CHOICES 2016 guest speaker was reproductive justice advocate Dr. Willie Parker, a board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist who provides abortion care to women in the south.
“Dr. Parker embodies the dedication, compassion and commitment it takes to work in reproductive health care and rights,” said PPGP President and CEO Lauren McQuade. “PPGP was honored to have Dr. Parker share his inspiring story with our community of supporters and advocates.”
In 2009, Parker stopped practicing obstetrics and began traveling across the south to “ensure that women are able to receive the care they need.”
Parker was inspired by a sermon by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. that challenged him to reconsider the role of the Good Samaritan. “My concern about women who lacked access to abortion became more important to me than worrying about what might happen to me for providing the services,” he said.
In an opinion piece for the New York Times titled, “Why I Provide Abortions,” he stated, “I want for women what I want for myself: a life of dignity, health, self-determination and the opportunity to excel and contribute. We know that when women have access to abortion, contraception and medically accurate sex education, they thrive.”
Discussing women’s right to “choose,” Dr. Parker’s presentation was serious, but peppered with humor and humanity, highlighting his desire to help women who cannot access proper health care services – even risking his life to correct that problem.
University of Central Oklahoma professor Kurt Hochenauer wrote in his blog, Okie Funk, “Parker, who is African American, debunked the myth Saturday evening of what fanatic protestors call ‘black genocide’ when it comes to abortion. Parker noted, “The bottom line is that on a percentage basis minority women do have more abortions than white women, but there are huge socio-economic factors involved, including lack of access to birth control and affordable medical care.”
Parker referred to politicians who draft policy that affect women’s health, but who aren’t informed by medical evidence, as “gynoticians,” a hybrid word combining gynecologist and politicians.
“The gynoticians need to cease and desist from practicing medicine without a license.”
Parker added, “Of all the things that you are doing with regard to reproductive health, by advocating, donating and participating – the most important thing that you can do on behalf of women is to participate in the political process by voting in this election.
“Because it will shape the context of women’s lives in terms of being able to access reproductive heath care and all of the other things that will determine the quality of their lives.”
The CHOICES art sale showcased works by 34 artists including featured artists Holly Wilson, Suzanne Mears, Paul Medina, and Sue Moss Sullivan. Guests also bid on more than 100 silent auction items.
A portion of the artist’s proceeds go to support PPGP’s health services.
The CHOICE 2016 Awards Ceremony recognized several individuals for their support Including: Marilyn Artus – The Sally Mock Friend of Planned Parenthood Award; Vicki and David Hunt – The Margaret Sanger Legacy Award; Linda Scoggins – The Rod Frates Choice Award; Roger Strong – The 2016 Volunteer of the Year Award; and Dana Stone, M.D., Phil Rettig, M.D., Ken Stein, and Theresa Williams – the Board Service Award.
The Outstanding Staff Service Award honored the work of the entire PPGP staff.
Planned Parenthood services include HIV testing and counseling, routine gynecological care; breasts exams; birth control, STI (sexually transmitted infection) diagnosis and treatment, fertility awareness instruction; hormone replacement therapy; and community education programs.
Last spring Planned Parenthood of Central Oklahoma (PPCO) merged with Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri (PPKM) to form Planned Parenthood Great Plains (PPGP).
This month the organization further expanded into Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma, making PPGP a four state regional health care provider. The group’s combined twelve health centers are headquartered in Kansas City.
“With this expansion, PPGP will be able to better serve its patients by adding primary and pediatric care to its list of comprehensive health services,” McQuade said.
“Becoming a regional provider will enable our clinicians to collaborate closely and continue offering the most cutting edge treatments for our patients.”
In related news, the Kansas-based Trust Women South Wind Women’s Center recently opened a new facility in south Oklahoma City — the first new abortion provider in the state in 40 years, reported Sean Murphy of the Associated Press.
Six licensed physicians will provide abortions, OB-GYN care, family planning, adoption and emergency contraception, Murphy added.
McQuade also announced that the PPGP clinic on 23rd Street in Oklahoma City will undergo a complete renovation.
PPGP Board Member, Dana Stone said, “PPGP’s generous donors, the talented artists who donated their pieces, and Dr. Willie Parker who traveled to Oklahoma City to share his inspiring story of commitment to abortion access, ensure that our patients can access the highest quality reproductive and sexual health care that PPGP offers everyday.”
For more information, visit www.facebook.com/PPGreatPlains.