CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Planned Parenthood first established a presence in central North Carolina 25 years ago. In a little storefront in Hillsborough, N.C., a small but determined group of individuals went about changing the way family planning was approached.
Planned Parenthood national president Cecile Richards at PPCNC’s anniversary celebratin.
“It certainly wasn’t glamorous,” said Janet Colm, who has been president of Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina (PPCNC) since its days as a small clinic that dispensed only birth control and education. “But we knew there was a need in this community and we knew we could meet that need.”
As the organization has grown in the Triangle, so too has its mission and scope. As a result, over the years Planned Parenthood has taken brave stands for the LGBT community.
At the end of September, the group had a table at the NC Pride Festival in Durham. They distributed condoms and safer-sex information and collected petition signatures for a bill to change the state’s sex education curriculum to one that would serve all students, not just those planning to get married to someone of the opposite sex.
The comprehensive sex-ed bill was also supported by Equality NC, which partnered with Planned Parenthood as part of a coalition of groups pushing for the bill’s passage.
“Planned Parenthood has a strong history of supporting the LGBT community,” said Jennifer Ferris, the organization’s communications director. “It’s not just that issues of reproductive freedom often intersect, or are the same as, the issues faced by the LGBT community. Mainly, it’s the fact that men, women and teens who are LGBT or Q know they will always find a safe and supportive environment at Planned Parenthood.”
She continued, “Planned Parenthood believes that the free and joyous expression of one’s own sexuality is central to being fully human. That sexuality is an essential, lifelong aspect of being human and should be celebrated with respect, openness and mutuality.”
PPCNC now serves more than 10,000 people in two health centers located in Chapel Hill and Durham. Its peer education groups have taught hundreds of youth how to speak to and educate their friends on issues of healthy sexuality. Next year, PPCNC plans on opening a third center in Fayetteville.
On Oct. 22, Planned Parenthood’s national president, Cecile Richards, spoke at a ceremony and dinner celebrating the Triangle area’s accomplishments over the past quarter-century.
On a national level, Planned Parenthood’s involvement in LGBT activism has helped to construct key coalitions and alliances across sometimes varied political
ideologies. LGBT groups have also partnered with Planned Parenthood on specific legal
or advocacy projects.
In fact, the LGBT Community Center of New York City operates a national project called “Causes in Common.” The initiative’s goal is to create “a working alliance of LGBT liberation activists and reproductive rights activists.”
The Causes in Common initiative also notes that the decision in Lawrence v. Texas was, in part, based upon two previous rulings in reproductive rights cases and that “the freedom and legitimacy of sexual activity without reproduction as an outcome is as fundamental to the liberation of LGBT people as it is to heterosexual women and their male partners.”
Groups that have signed Causes in Common’s “Pledge of Commitment” include Planned Parenthood, the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Youth Advocacy Coalition.
info: Contact Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina at 919-929-5402 (toll-free at 1-866-942-7762), or visit www.plannedparenthood.org/centralnc.