Prizm News / April 1, 2019 / By Bob Vitale

Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio CEO Kersha Deibel. (Photo by Lauren di Matteo)

Kersha Deibel started with the organization as a college volunteer in Cincinnati.


By Bob Vitale

Like many of us, Kersha Deibel left Ohio to see the world. Like many of us, she’s returned.

The 32-year-old queer New Philadelphia native and University of Cincinnati graduate was hired in February as the new president and CEO of Planned Parenthood’s Southwest Ohio operations, which include seven centers in Cincinnati, Dayton, Hamilton, Springfield and Springdale.

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She most recently served as director of constituency organizing for the national Planned Parenthood organization in Washington, D.C.

But Deibel is doing more than returning to her home state with her Ohio-born fiancée. She’s also returning to run the very same programs that helped her as a college student.

Your own experience with Planned Parenthood must have been profound. You’ve spent your career with the organization.

In my freshman year at the University of Cincinnati, my stepmother picked me up to take me to Planned Parenthood on Auburn Avenue for birth control.

Being from New Philadelphia, we didn’t have access to Planned Parenthood. I think the closest one was in Akron at the time. I didn’t know who this organization was.

But I went into the health center and got care that was so nonjudgmental. It was the first time that I was being talked to as an adult. It was the first time that I was able to talk about sex.

I knew this was the kind of the world I wanted to be in. I was getting my undergrad in social work at the time. I said—kind of a blanket statemen—“I want to help people.” This was the area that I wanted to
help people in.

Why does Planned Parenthood inspire such loyalty from its patients and supporters?

As a patient myself, this was a place that I felt safe. When I was in D.C. and working with young people who were coming out for the first time, they needed a place that they could come and feel safe.

This is just a place where people of all communities can come to get the care they need.

What type of plans do you come in with?

Organizations in our spaces are kind of playing defense right now… I really come in with three plans. One, I want to make sure that we are providing the best quality, nonjudgmental care that meets the gold standard. We are seen as a leader and an expert in this industry, and other organizations and partners are really looking to us to lead the way when it comes to reproductive health for all communities.

Of course, we have to protect the organization. As we get attacked, whether it’s at the federal level or the state level, it is our job to make sure that these doors stay open.

And then, expand. What more can we be doing? What more can we be doing for the LGBT community? What more can we be doing for Latinx folks, or black folks who are here in this region?

How do we make sure that everybody, when they walk inside those doors, feels safe and wanted and they just feel like this is home?

Have Planned Parenthood and the LGBTQ community been connected for a long time?

Planned Parenthood—not just Planned Parenthood, but every healthcare provider—automatically serves LGBT folks, right? No matter what organization you’re looking at, LGBT folks are coming to you.

As a queer black woman, I know Planned Parenthood has always been here for me. I think ever since our doors have been open, we were a place where you could come and get the care that you need.

Even if you aren’t planning on getting pregnant, this is still a place you can come for STI testing or cancer screenings, pap smears, birth control should you need it.

We just started PEP and PrEP (HIV prevention regimens), too. Much more to come!

Bob Vitale is the editor of Prizm. You can email him at bobvitale@prizmnews.com.

FIND OUT MORE

Planned Parenthood of Southwest Ohio is online at plannedparenthood.org/planned-parenthood-southwestohio. You can follow the organization on Twitter @PPSWO.

Bob Vitale
A Toledo native and graduate of Toledo Public Schools, Bob has worked as a local government and politics reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, as a Washington correspondent for Thomson Newspapers and as editor-in-chief for Outlook Ohio. He has a bachelor's degree in journalism and political science from Ball State University and a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield.