STOPP turns 35 this year
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It was on January 27, 1985, that Planned Parenthood of Dutchess and Ulster counties (NY) announced in the Poughkeepsie Journal that it was having a fundraising campaign to renovate a building that had been donated to it. The announcement included the fact that it would do “surgical procedures” in the new building.

Members of the Dutchess County Right to Life became alarmed and made the decision, during the month of February, to start a new organization to focus specifically on Planned Parenthood. There was an organizational meeting in March and the first leaders of the new organization were Helen Westover, Dottie Madrigrano, Bob Cassara, and Jim Sedlak. The name STOPP was chosen and we were focused on the seven clinics run by PPDU in the two counties.

Our first physical picket of PPDU’s headquarters in Poughkeepsie was on May 15, 1985, and our first fight against the funding of PPDU by the Dutchess County legislature was in October 1985. We received our first national encouragement from Judie Brown at American Life League in the summer of 1985.

Over the years, the organization expanded to many communities within New York State and we began fighting Planned Parenthood sex education as well as its abortion business. In 1990, STOPP took on a national role and the local effort was renamed Mid-Hudson STOPP. 

With the assistance of Fr. Paul Marx of Human Life International, the effort expanded internationally and the organization was re-named STOPP International in 1994. It continued to operate as an independent entity until it merged into American Life League in 1998. For the last 22 years, it has grown in influence and successes as part of ALL.

Although there are hundreds of people with whom we have worked over the years, I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention those who worked in our offices, in addition to our founders: Michaeleen Sedlak (my wife); Terri Lynn Sedlak (my daughter); Ed Szymkowiak; Joey Kerlin; Marie Hahnenberg; David Bereit; Rita Diller; and Rob Gasper. 

God has blessed our efforts in many ways, including witnessing the prevention of Planned Parenthood opening over 1,000 clinics, the closing of over 350 clinics, and the decline of Planned Parenthood’s client base. We’ve also been blessed by seeing opposition to Planned Parenthood rise from a mere handful of groups in 1985 to just about every pro-life group in the nation. We’ve seen Congress take note and opposition to Planned Parenthood grow—from 2007, when Representative Mike Pence introduced the first amendment to a spending bill that specifically sought to stop money going to Planned Parenthood, by name, to 2017, when the United States Senate came to within a single vote of ending Planned Parenthood funding for a year.

There has been much progress in this fight and much more yet to be done. At the pleasure of God, we will continue to wage this battle until every Planned Parenthood facility in the country has no choice but to close its doors and get out of town.