This summer, the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts recruited and trained 10 interns to join the Planned Parenthood Advocacy and Campaign Team (PPACT). PPACT members gain firsthand knowledge of organizing and electoral work and help build PPAF’s power in Massachusetts to elect local pro-reproductive health candidates. Elizabeth Aldridge is a Tulane University student and one of our PPACT interns.
Q: What motivated you to intern at the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts this summer?
A: I’m studying public health at Tulane, and took a history of reproductive health class that got me really interested in reproductive rights and health care access. This past semester, I took two political science courses and became very invested in the current election. With my passions in public health and health policy, and the urgency needed to defend reproductive rights in the current political climate, I knew this internship would be a perfect fit!
Q: Can you tell us about your experience as a PPACT member and the campaigns and projects you’ve been a part of?
In a typical week, I’m with the other PPACT interns once a week at Planned Parenthood’s office, where we participate in a number of activities. From phone banking to supporter data entry to having thoughtful discussion and presentations from Planned Parenthood staff and other interns, I’ve gained practical advocacy and electoral experience and expanded my knowledge around reproductive health and rights.
Two days a week, I head to Winchester or Stoneham to volunteer on State Representative Mike Day’s campaign for reelection. For the campaign, I’ve gone door to door meeting with voters, have participated in data entry, and attended phone banks. I spend a lot of time with Representative Day himself, which has been awesome.
Twice, I’ve been able to go to the Massachusetts State House and drop off literature to educate state legislators about a bill to prevent shackling of incarcerated pregnant women and a bill to expand access to comprehensive sex education. I also marched in the Boston Pride Parade with the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund - loud and proud!
Q: How do you see local elections playing a role in protecting reproductive health and rights? Why is it important that we elect local reproductive health champions and allies to the Massachusetts State House?
A: Local elections play an extremely important role in protecting reproductive health and rights. If we want to achieve reproductive justice and health equity, we need champions in state houses across the country that are willing to stand up for these issues. For example, without someone like Representative Jim O’Day in office, a lead sponsor of the Healthy Youth Act, or Representative Mike Day, who co-sponsors the bill, it would be much more difficult to make progress on policy issues like sex education, confidential health care, and abortion access.
Q: Highlights from volunteering with the Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund this summer?
A: Meeting PPLM and PPAF President Dr. Jen Childs-Roshak was definitely a highlight for me. She’s had such an interesting career path with her background as a physician, and it was clear she is an inspiration not only to me but to all of the interns.
Another highlight was listening to a phone conference with Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country after the Supreme Court ruled in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt . I go to school in Louisiana and they have passed similar onerous abortion restrictions there, so after following the case for months, it was great being able to celebrate this huge reproductive rights victory with my fellow interns and the larger Planned Parenthood network.
What is one thing you want voters to remember when they head to the polls this fall?
I want voters to remember that, especially at the local and state level, their vote matters. So treat it like it does! Research all the candidates and find ones you think have legitimate, feasible policies that align with your values.
I think so many people, especially young people, may not be as engaged in state and local politics compared to the presidential race. So many policies that have a daily effect on our lives will be coming from the people you elect into these offices. That’s why it’s so important for everyone to be as engaged as possible and to be making informed choices.