Men in the Movement: Carl Lovell

Kim Lovell, Guest Contributor

My father, Carl Lovell, is a tireless champion for women’s reproductive health and rights. He is responsible for instilling within me the passion and drive to spend my life working for health access, human rights, and sustainability – all of which are goals he has pursued for more than 35 years as a family practice physician and global citizen.

When I was 10 years old, I started helping my dad keep track of the family finances. I was his designated key puncher. As we sat side by side at our family's computer, he read off numbers and I typed them into Excel. We tracked the charitable donations our family had made to be sure we were "tithing" appropriately – 10% of the family income.

It was during these afternoons that my father explained to me where our money went and why. He told me why he and my mom made donations to Planned Parenthood and explained their belief that access to voluntary family planning was the closest thing to a developmental "silver bullet" that we have in this world. He explained the ramifications of contraceptive access – how, combined with girls’ education, these services allow women to work outside of the home, take on more responsibility in their households and communities, have healthier children, and manage resources more effectively.

For my 17th birthday, my parents took me to Washington, DC to attend the March for Women’s Lives, where we rallied in solidarity with hundreds of thousands of people for greater access to reproductive health care for women and families everywhere. It was at this march that I realized how instrumental it was for people like my father – a physician in a small, conservative Midwestern town – to speak up and defend the right for all people to make their own decisions about child bearing.

My dad’s fierce commitment to social justice, health access, and personal autonomy has been instrumental in improving women’s lives, locally and globally. At home, he and my mother work daily to make sure the girls and women that come into their office understand their bodies and their sexuality, have healthy pregnancies and births, receive screenings for cervical and breast cancer, and are referred to a safe, competent medical facility should they chose to end an unwanted pregnancy. He gently explains the importance of this access to those whose religious beliefs or upbringing have persuaded them otherwise. I’ve watched him change the hearts and minds of friends, family, and community members with his patient dialogue and unwavering conviction to this cause.

Globally, my dad’s leadership and commitment to charitable giving has helped organizations like International Planned Parenthood Federation deliver health services to women in all corners of the globe and address the unmet need for family planning experienced by 215 million worldwide.

Today, thanks in large part to my father, I work at the nexus of family planning access, environmental sustainability, social justice, and climate change. He stands as a constant inspiration and proof that change comes slowly, but is possible when individuals stand up for the rights of people everywhere to make their own decisions about health and family size.

Kim Lovell is the Program Director for the Sierra Club Global Population and Environment Program.

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