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Anna Provitola '11 wearing a patient escorting apron outside the Planned Parenthood building.
Anna Provitola '11 wearing a patient escorting apron outside the Planned Parenthood building.

Promoting Reproductive Rights

Standing outside of Planned Parenthood early on a Saturday morning, Anna Provitola witnessed an entire Catholic church's worth of people—about 60-80 protestors total—descend upon the building, holding rosaries and carrying giant crucifixes. While the majority of the group stood quietly and recited prayers, a few protestors ran up to people walking into the clinic and shoved anti-abortion materials into their hands, including plastic key chains in the shape of fetuses.

"I was really quite surprised and disgusted by some of the pushy tactics employed," says Provitola, who is volunteering this summer at the Planned Parenthood in Philadelphia, thanks to funding from the Center for Peace and Global Citizenship.

Provitola, a comparative literature major with a concentration in Gender and Sexuality Studies, has been doing political research and office work for the external affairs department, compiling publicity materials, and doing outreach work at local events. She has also been doing patient escorting (being a positive Planned Parenthood presence outside the building when there are protestors) and clinic advocacy (speaking to patients in the waiting room about political issues).

During a conference call with another branch of Planned Parenthood, Provitola learned how the organization communicates with and interacts with the Pennsylvania legislature. The phone call addressed the Healthy Youth Act, a comprehensive sex education bill that most likely would have passed but failed due to government inactivity. While the failure frustrated Provitola, it also made her realize how powerful organized activism can be, since the act almost passed.

Provitola has learned how important it is to try to engage people and to go into projects with an optimistic mindset. "Whether it's trying to get someone from the Philadelphia Inquirer on the phone or speaking to a client about the importance of comprehensive sex education, going into it with patience and a positive attitude is bound to produce results," she says.

She hopes to keep learning about state government and to become increasingly comfortable doing community outreach. She is looking forward to attending the Planned Parenthood Youth Organizing Summit in Washington, D.C. with a number of other activists, including several Haverford students.

Provitola has always been interested the work of non-profits, particularly in the areas of health care access and reproductive rights. While for the moment she is planning on pursuing a career in teaching, she would also be interested in working at Planned Parenthood or a related Philadelphia non-profit in the future. "I feel that the organizing and communication skills I'm learning working in a diverse environment will be invaluable to me no matter where I am," she says.

--Heather Harden '11

The ramp from Magill Library with Ryan Gym and Sharpless Hall in the background.

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