'Care no matter what': Planned Parenthood York stands firm amid abortion opposition

Tina Locurto
York Dispatch

As a young college student, Samantha Bobila recalls seeking women's care services — but she initially didn't know where to turn.

In the pre-internet era, word of mouth was the best — and often only — way to learn of those tools in her community. For Bobila, that manifested in her local Planned Parenthood clinic. 

"I had to ask my girlfriend, 'Hey, do you know where I can just talk to a doctor that isn't going to shame me or make me feel bad about my relationship or my body?'" Bobila said. "I was so welcomed there — and I was treated with respect."

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Little did Bobila know she would later serve as the chief external affairs officer for Planned Parenthood Keystone. Now living during a time in which she fears abortion rights could be overturned, based upon a leaked Supreme Court draft opinion, Bobila is as committed as ever to ensuring care is provided to her patients.

"For those of us working at Planned Parenthood and for those of us working in the reproductive rights movement, we have been anticipating this moment for a very long time,"  Bobila said. "Anti-abortion laws have been percolating across the nation for many years."

Bobila is no stranger to abortion opposition here in York County.

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At Planned Parenthood York, groups set up outside the clinic's doors multiple times a week, causing "major disruptions" to staff, volunteers and patients, she said. 

On occasion, a large van parks outside the York clinic and advertises itself as an ultrasound service. 

"These groups target our clinics. They park themselves here outside of our York clinic, and they will harass patients who walk in," Bobila said. "They will try to get them to do ultrasounds in their van. ... But these aren't actual, legitimate clinics. They're not providing any real medical care."

Samantha Bobila, Chief External Affairs Officer at Planned Parenthood Keystone in a Planned Parenthood office in York, Pa on Tuesday, May 10, 2022.

In 2017, pro-life groups offered counseling and sonogram services outside an abortion clinic in Waco, Texas. The group set up shop outside the clinic in hopes of intercepting women before they entered the clinic, according to a report by KWTX.

"These groups will harass anybody that comes into our center," Bobila said. "So you could be here for an abortion or you could be here just to pick up some birth control. And I think that there's something so wrong with experiencing that level of harassment when you're just coming in and out of the health center."

In response to the leaked U.S. Supreme Court draft threatening to overturn Roe v. Wade, Bobila will be joined by hundreds of Planned Parenthood staff and volunteers for a Saturday march in Harrisburg.

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"This rally in Harrisburg is meant to send a very clear and powerful message to the Supreme Court — but also to anti-abortion groups," Bobila said, "that these bans and restrictions cause the most harm to people who are already medically underserved."

Planned Parenthood York serves more than 3,000 women annually. Many of them come from underrepresented communities, Bobila said.

And while Planned Parenthood York does provide abortion services twice a week, the clinic also offers a full range of sexual and reproductive care services, and non-judgmental sex education, Bobila added.

"One of our mottos is 'care no matter what' and I believe we — our staff — live that out every day, every time they're talking to a patient or meeting with a patient," she added.

— Reach Tina Locurto at tlocurto@yorkdispatch.com or on Twitter at @tina_locurto. 

A turck with pro-life stickers outside the Planned Parenthood in York, Pa on Tuesday, May 10, 2022.