Planned Parenthood of Metropolitan Washington, DC, Inc. (PPMW) held its annual 2023 Impact Award Gala at Waldorf Astoria Washington, DC. Hosted by Tonya Lewis Lee, a director, author, and advocate for women and infant health, this year’s gala featured an award ceremony, as well as the Fund Our Future Auction in which all of the proceeds have gone to the Abortion Access Fund.
PPMW, through its Abortion Access fund, remains a stronghold for those who have nowhere else to turn, especially for those in the South and states west of Virginia where abortion access has been significantly reduced or banned. The purpose of this fund, launched in 2022, is to subsidize some or all of the costs for any patient seeking an abortion. This is said to be particularly helpful to patients traveling 50 miles or more to be treated in the DMV. These costs cover medical services, procedures, counseling, food, lodges, and more.
Originally from Baltimore, Maryland, Howard alumna Brittany House, who now lives in Washington D.C., is a volunteer patient advocate and abortion storyteller at Planned Parenthood Metropolitan Washington, D.C.. She graduated from Howard University in 2012 with a Bachelor of Science in biology and a minor in chemistry.
Her decision to become a patient advocate stemmed from her dream of being involved in reproductive health justice in her freshman year of college, but, House said “balancing this desire with academic work and activities in student organizations proved daunting.” In 2016, after the results of the presidential election, House felt herself questioning whether her rights and protections were going to be threatened. This led her to start the ambassador’s program at the local Planned Parenthood as a means of getting active and making a difference.
“It was really a full circle moment,” House said, “And I really feel blessed just because, like I said, it had been a dream of mine, and I had kind of set it to the backside. And so it always reminds me that a delay isn’t a denial.”
After winning the PPMW Catalyst Award, House expressed that it validates what she is trying to do in the world, which is to create change. The meaning of catalyst is a change agent, and it is her goal to create reproductive justice for all women, especially black and brown women. Receiving this award is important to her because it means that she is staying true to her purpose and passion in life, which is to evoke change among women.
When asked how attending Howard University prepared her for advocacy and speaking on reproductive justice and women’s health, Brittany reflected on the words of former HUSA President Nicholas Owens.
“Starting your freshman year in Howard, you’re going to be in DC and you’re going to be making a bunch of moves and changes, but what do you want your legacy to be? How do you want to leave your mark?”
LaShanna Young, a guest at the event commented, “I was so impressed with Brittany and the way she owns her truth about the choices she made. I believe that her honesty and forthrightness will inspire others to walk in their own truth. She’s helping to erase the stigma and shame.”
For those interested in becoming involved in the fight for reproductive justice and women’s health, Brittany advises that they never be afraid to use their own voices. In her award acceptance speech, she quoted Marianne Williamson, “As we let our light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
House reaffirms that abortion is healthcare. Her second nugget of wisdom is to understand that the fight for women’s health and reproductive justice requires passion, and it can be tiring because there are politicians making the legislation over women’s bodies, who aren’t women. Lastly, she says that “a delay isn’t a denial”.
“I have hope that Roe v. Wade will be codified on a federal level and that more women will have access to healthcare,” she added.
This year’s award recipients also included GRAMMY Award-nominated songwriter and performer Maggie Rogers who won the Disruptor Award, Congressman Jamie Raskin who won the Ally Award, Maryland State Senator Ariana B. Kelly who won the Champion of Reproductive Health Award.
PPMW has been pushing through the current political climate through rallies and getting allies. House highlights the importance of the organization’s Abortion Access Fund by reflecting on her own story. When she had her medicinal abortion, she was fortunate enough to take the metro to the clinic, get a consultation, collect the needed medication, and then return to the comfort of her home. “If this was diabetic care, you don’t have people impeding on diabetic care, you don’t have people impeding on cancer care, right? So why is it that when it’s a women’s issue and women taking autonomy over their body, is it an issue?”
Copy edited by Alana Matthew