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Erica Pettigrew

Erica Pettigrew - 2016 Nominee
Position: Physician/Lawyer
Organization: Oregon Health & Science University and Professional Student Coalition for Reproductive Justice
Erica is a devoted family planning advocate and provider. Always forward-thinking and collaborative, she built an interdisciplinary alliance that organizes leaders in law and healthcare to train future generations of reproductive justice advocates. – Jessica Johnson, MD, MPH at Oregon Health & Science University
Describe your contributions to and achievements in family planning.

I am quite a nerd when it comes to family planning! I decided to pursue both medical school & law school in order to become the most effective reproductive health physician I could be. I am excited to bridge these two perspectives and to that end I founded a national organization (Professional Student Coalition for Reproductive Justice) which promotes interdisciplinary approaches to issues including family planning. I was also a part of the founding board of the Carolina Abortion Fund. I am now finishing up my family medicine and preventive medicine residency training in Oregon, and this summer I will be heading back to North Carolina to practice primary care medicine (including family planning) and work as an advocate for increasing access to reproductive health care through policy.

What sparked your passion for family planning?

When I was in high school in Georgia abstinence-only sex ed is the main curriculum taught in public school due to gov't policy decisions. In college I became a peer safer sex educator & through that work I began to see how detrimental these policies are - students were starting college without even basic info about sexual health. That experience inspired me to become a physician who provides accurate repro health info to individual patients as well as at the population level. Knowledge is power!

What is the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your family planning efforts, and what have you done to overcome it?

So many of these obstacles end up make me more determined to do this work. I think one of the toughest struggles is seeing how women are forced to experience a literal gauntlet of screaming protesters outside of clinics simply to access family planning services. Speaking out as a physician about the necessity of access to reproductive health is one way to combat these fear tactics & support women, so I have been building my public speaking & writing skills to be an even more effective advocate.

What is your (country/region/city)’s biggest challenge in family planning, and how can it be addressed?

Even though the US Constitution protects against a outright ban on reproductive health services including birth control and abortion, states have become very creative in efforts to chip away the availability of these services. Laws are passed under the guise of promoting women's safety, but in actuality they make access to family planning services cumbersome or even impossible. Physicians have a moral duty to speak out publicly against this harmful trend of the government legislating medicine.

What do you want to accomplish in the next 5 years?

I am so excited to (finally) be wrapping up my residency training! I am looking forward to moving back home to the South to be a primary care doctor (including family planning) and continue advocating for reproductive health/rights/justice on a policy and public health level. Five years from now I hope to continue putting all of my backgrounds (medicine, law, public health) to work as a physician leader in promoting access to high quality reproductive health in the southern US.

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