During a time of controversy in American medicine and the use of contraception, one man stood firm in his values and commitment to offering affordable reproductive health services to women of all ages.
Dr. Ronald Levine, a retired physician and current professor at the University of Louisville School of Medicine, first began serving the community, practicing obstetrics and gynecology in 1966. During his residency, he became passionate about the need for contraception and sexual health education, in turn, joining forces with Planned Parenthood, the largest provider of reproductive health services in the U.S.
Levine held several leadership positions in Planned Parenthood and served on its national medical committee, where he helped chart a ground-breaking course for the establishment of modern contraception techniques. He also served as the Medical Director for the Louisville Planned Parenthood health center, and on the Planned Parenthood of Kentucky Medical Advisory Committee.
For his excellence in service and commitment to assisting Planned Parenthood in achieving its mission, Dr. Levine will be honored with the Planned Parenthood of Kentucky (PPKY) Founder’s Award during the annual Birds & Bees Bash, held this year on Friday, Aug. 17, at the Seelbach Hotel.
The Birds & Bees Bash will feature a cocktail hour, dinner, music, raffle and short program. All proceeds support education and outreach programs at PPKY. For tickets, call 502.584.2471 or e-mail Taylor.Ewing@ppfa.org. For information on PPKY, visit www.plannedparenthood.org/kentucky.
How many years have you been involved with Planned Parenthood?
Almost 50 years.
When did you become involved?
I started when I was an OBGYN resident in 1964, I think it was.
What sparked your passion for advocating contraception and affordable reproductive health services for women?
One thing, of course, was women who we would see in the clinic who were pregnant for their fourth or fifth times and had no knowledge of contraception and no available contraception. … When you’re talking about abortion, we used to see, at least once a week, women with septic shock, (where) some people get infected from back-alley abortions. Abortion was illegal (at the time). It was very common to see people with these severe life threatening infections. … My idea was to prevent unwanted pregnancy, because of problems with abortion, and just unwanted pregnancies of teenagers and people with multiple pregnancies.
Was your decision to back contraception controversial at the time?
Birth control pills weren’t even available at the university, at what was then called Louisville General Hospital. Viola Keys, the executive director of Planned Parenthood, used to hand-carry birth control pills for us to use (because you couldn’t get them). … I did spend some time years later sending a blue ribbon committee to Jefferson County for setting up sex education programs in the schools.
How much progress have you seen in PPKY over the years?
First of all, when I first started (with) Planned Parenthood it was this little storefront clinic. … As more and more contraceptive devices became available, that had an impact, and Planned Parenthood just grew and teaching sexual health care became more available to people, and people became aware and there were more groups supporting Planned Parenthood.
Why should people come out to the Birds and Bees Bash?
(Planned Parenthood needs) as much financial help as they can get. … We just always assume young people know what’s going on with sexual health. They get a lot of misinformation and Planned Parenthood is an actual supply of needed information.
Planned Parenthood also kind of morphed along to do more of just healthcare for women: breast exams and pap smears, which helps prevent cancer. … There is no other group out there who does as much as Planned Parenthood for unwanted pregnancies and to prevent problems with venereal diseases. … It allows people who would not ordinarily go to a check up for a doctor … they come for contraception and end up getting good health care advice. And finances are extremely important for that.
What does receiving the Founder’s Award mean to you?
I was flabbergasted, and it’s certainly very humbling, and it’s a great feeling. You, know I guess one enjoys being recognized, and I never thought of being recognized. I just did something I thought was necessary and couldn’t help but be a part of it.