Katrina Lipinsky is a midwifery student at the University of Pennsylvania and co-leader of RHAP’s Philadelphia Cluster.
When did you start organizing?
My undergraduate degree is in Public & Community Service, which is interesting because I went to a conservative Catholic institution. However, because of this – or perhaps in spite of this – I developed a foundational knowledge of working in teams and communities on advocacy issues. When I graduated, the 2012 election was in full swing and I decided to take a job as a field organizer on the Obama campaign in New Hampshire. This was grassroots, boots-on-the-ground work mobilizing communities. After the election, I worked for Organizing For Action (the nonprofit that grew out of the campaign) and organized volunteers to take action on the issue of gun violence. And then I decided to take a job in New York City with Community HealthCorps, a program of AmeriCorps, at the Institute for Family Health. I am inherently a political person; organizing has come relatively naturally to me.
Why reproductive health care?
I became interested in reproductive health care in college after taking a few health policy and women’s studies courses, and I completed birth doula training before graduating. Part of the reason I wanted to work on the Obama campaign is that I knew we had to re-elect a president who was supportive of reproductive health care. But I knew I wanted to return to working in health care. My AmeriCorps position focused on coordinating prenatal care for patients in a Centering Pregnancy program at the Institute for Family Health, and this is also how I got introduced to RHAP. I still think this is the best job I’ve ever had. I was able to work directly with primary care providers – including RHAP Medical Director Linda Prine – who were offering full-spectrum reproductive health care, all in their primary care offices. I was lucky to be working alongside medical students and residents in a teaching program; everyone was so open to supporting my learning and encouraging my curiosity. I would not feel nearly as confident now as a midwifery student in my clinical rotations had I not been given the opportunities and mentorship I received at IFH.
How are you continuing to organize while in school?
It was important for me to stay connected to the abortion access movement while I was in school. In 2018, I became one of the chapter leaders of Nurses for Sexual and Reproductive Health. I also started going to the RHAP Philadelphia Cluster meetings and I was elected to the Clinicians in Abortion Care (a project of NAF) advisory board. The day-to-day experience I was having in my nursing program wasn’t what was getting me up in the morning – it was all of the other work that I was getting involved in that kept me motivated while I was working on my nursing degree. I wanted to be better connected to the local community, and so I let the RHAP Cluster Leaders know I was willing to do anything they needed help with. And shortly thereafter I found myself co-leading the Cluster (along with Martha Simmons, MD)! I wouldn’t change anything about all of the time and commitment I spend on this work because it’s driving my energy towards finishing my degree and becoming a licensed CNM.
Organizing in Philly is very different than in New York. It’s a liberal city, but we are subject to Pennsylvania’s restrictive state-wide laws. It’s not like at the Institute for Family Health, where a person can get their abortion the same day they find out they are pregnant. Our patients do not have Medicaid coverage for their abortions, and they generally have to go through a one- to two-week process, at minimum. I saw all this firsthand during my clinical rotation at Philadelphia Women’s Center.
I love getting other people excited about contraception and abortion and destigmatizing and demystifying it all. I have a joke with one of my friends, a law student also involved in abortion work. When someone asks us, “Hey, do you want to get drinks?” there’s a good chance we already have plans doing something related to abortion activism. This work brings me joy! I love connecting people to each other and helping to foster community – it comes naturally to me and I know I’ll keep doing it.
Getting Penn students and the Philadelphia community connected to provider networks like RHAP and NAF is so critical. I want to introduce other clinicians to this work and make sure that they have the resources and information they need to provide the best care possible to patients and to find community support on an issue that can be so contentious. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am without having been brought into the community by the providers I worked with in New York. I wouldn’t have found my way into those spaces alone, so I appreciate the importance of being that connector for others. Wherever I end up after finishing my midwifery program, I know I will stay connected to the RHAP network. I will continue being a mentor for students – perhaps as a clinical preceptor – and I will continue leading workshops and encouraging folks to join our movement. I also want to mention that I think a lot about the fact that people who look like me are already in positions of leadership, and I would like to be part of bringing more black, indigenous, and people of color into organizing roles with decision-making power.
What is your dream future for abortion care?
I want people to be able to walk into any primary care clinic and receive their abortion from the clinician that they feel the most comfortable with – including from their midwife! I want to see a world where a patient coming in for an abortion can feel like any other patient coming in for any other type of health care, without any feelings of stigma. I want to see a world where abortion is free.