ACLU chapter to present program on reproductive rights

April 4 discussion to feature president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest Florida, as well as the West Florida regional director of the ACLU of Florida

Barbara Zdravecky. Contributed photo

On April 4, the Sarasota Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida will continue its monthly discussion series, Ask the ACLU, with the topic, How to Defend a Woman’s Reproductive Rights.

The forum, which will take place from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Sarasota (3975 Fruitville Road), is free and open to all members of the community.

Discussion will focus on state and national legislation “that is continually chipping away at women’s reproductive rights; the ACLU’s current lawsuit filed in Florida against the 24-hour waiting period for an abortion; and what you can do to help in the battle to preserve reproductive access and rights,” a news release points out.

The panelists will be Barbara Zdravecky, “who has served as the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida for more than 22 years, overseeing the launch of abortion services in Sarasota in 1998 and mergers that have stretched the affiliate’s boundaries from Orlando through Naples; and Joyce Hamilton Henry, the West Florida regional director of the ACLU of Florida since 2008,” the release adds. Henry has worked with local, state and national organizations to address a range of civil liberties and civil rights issues, the release notes.

“The ACLU strongly believes that the decision about having a baby or having an abortion is a deeply personal, private decision best left to women, their families, and their doctors,” the release continues. In the 1920s, the organization defended Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger’s right to inform the public about birth control, and it successfully appealed the obscenity conviction of one of Planned Parenthood’s founders, sex educator Mary Ware Dennett, the release points out. In the 1940s, the ACLU opposed bans on the sale and use of birth control devices and information. “In 1974, the ACLU launched its Reproductive Freedom Project, which has fought to further the ACLU’s longstanding commitment to privacy rights and women’s equality by coordinating the nation’s most extensive program of litigation, advocacy, and public education on behalf of reproductive freedom,” the release explains.

Joyce Hamilton Henry. Image from LinkedIn

“The ACLU recognizes that personal privacy and reproductive rights are among our most important constitutional liberties,” said Pete Tannen, president of the Sarasota Chapter of the ACLU of Florida, in the release. “In recent years, states have enacted restrictions on abortion at a shocking pace. Extremist politicians continue to work to shut down women’s health centers, cut off access to affordable birth control and find new and shocking ways to shame women who have abortions,” he added in the release. “We would like community members to leave our program armed with knowledge of what they can do to help preserve reproductive rights for women and families in our community and across the country.”

The Sarasota Chapter of the ACLU of Florida launched the Ask the ACLU discussion series in response to concerns over a slate of policies proposed by President Donald Trump during the presidential campaign, the release points out. The ACLU has stated that, if enacted, those policies would violate the constitutional rights of many people in America.

Future topics in the Sarasota series will be Protecting and Defending LGBT Rights (May 4) and Police, Community Relations, and Race-based Policing (June 1). All programs are non-partisan; the goal is to inform and empower, the release adds.