By Charlie Deitch
Pittsburgh Current Editor
Update 5:09 p.m.: In the past five minutes, Emily Callen, executive director of, sent the following statement:
“In response to passionate and thoughtful feedback from our community of supporters in Pittsburgh, Planned Parenthood Pennsylvania PAC is endorsing both Adam Ravenstahl and Emily Kinkead in the primary contest in HD 20.
“Representative Ravenstahl has repeatedly stood with Planned Parenthood in opposition to numerous attacks on sexual health and reproductive freedom. Emily Kinkead has made her commitment to reproductive health, rights, and justice a centerpiece of her campaign.
“We look forward to working with either of these great candidates in Harrisburg. “
In response to the decision, Kinkead wrote: “I am encouraged that Planned Parenthood has course-corrected. This co-endorsement is unprecedented in their history and I think it speaks to unprecedented times. While I disagree with their continued endorsement of my opponent because I believe that he has utterly failed to acknowledge or make amends for the damage that he has done with his anti-choice votes and actions, this is a time to focus on real change and to move forward. I am proud that Planned Parenthood has presented to its supporters that District 20 has a choice. Our current situation has only more strikingly demonstrated that our system is broken. We need new voices and strong advocates to ensure that the changes we make now to protect and support each other last. To accomplish that, we need new leadership.”
Begin Original Story:
Although he’s won the Pa. House District 20 seat in every election since 2010, there’s been one constant for state Rep. Adam Ravenstahl—he’s done it without the endorsement of Planned Parenthood of Pennsylvania.
Until this year.
Earlier this week Ravenstahl, who had long identified himself as and voted as a pro-life legislator, received the endorsement for the first time from Planned Parenthood PA Advocates (the political arm of the organization. Nonprofit clinics like Planned Parenthood of Western Pa., are prohibited from doing electoral work, according to PPWP spokesperson Sara Dixon. Last fall, Ravenstahl began identifying as pro-choice. In September 2019, Ravenstahl told WESA: “I’ve been voting pro-choice for the past few years. I changed my mind.”
But not everyone is happy with the endorsement, especially here in Western Pennsylvania. One of those people is Ravenstahl’s challenger in the June 2 Primary, attorney Emily Kinkead.
“I’m shocked,” Kinkead told the Current this morning. “Shocked because I can’t believe someone saying I’m pro-choice erases a lifetime of anti-choice behavior. In his career, he’s had a chance to vote on legislation around this issue six times. Four of those times, he decided to vote anti-choice.
“You can’t erase all of your actions just by saying the magic words, ‘I am pro-choice.’ He voted pro-choice because that’s how party leadership told him to vote, that’s what he’s always done. He hasn’t been an advocate in any capacity for Planned Parenthood.”
“I was not that surprised to receive Planned Parenthood’s endorsement,” he said. “As a member of the Women’s Health Caucus, I have formed a solid and open relationship with Planned Parenthood and appreciate their advocacy. Elected officials are ultimately judged by the votes they make.”
“I think the notion that Planned Parenthood endorsed my candidacy “out of nowhere” and without merit is offensive to what Planned Parenthood fights for every single day.”
Ravenstahl said that his support from Planned Parenthood os because he “now [has] a record of voting Pro-Choice over the last several votes.” He said his change from pro-life to pro-choice began at the end of 2017. He said his mind was changed “ironically by the advocacy of Planned Parenthood.” He found the stories from advocates and doctors, “powerful.” He also says his district has shifted viewpoints in the past few years, and a state Rep. should change with it.
“Elected officials,” he said. “Are ultimately judged by the votes they make.”
Ravenstahl first voted pro-choice on a 2017 bill that would have banned abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. He also opposed a bill that would have stopped abortions if a fetus was diagnosed with Downs Syndrome last year. It is worth noting that in 2017 when faced with progressive challengers, many legislators who supported a similar bill the year previously changed their vote. In the past, Ravenstahl has received a 0% rating from Planned Parenthood. In 2014 and 2015, Ravenstahl received the endorsement of the anti-choice group, LifePAC.
Planned Parenthood of PA PAC, are you out of your minds? How could you endorse Adam Ravenstahl, a politcian with a long anti-choice record over Emily Kinkead, a supporter of reproductive rights and justice?
I will neither donate to nor support you until you rescind this action.
— Laura Horowitz (@12newmoons) March 31, 2020
Previously, Ravenstahl voted in favor of legislation that restricted using qualified health plans for abortion services. And in 2011, he voted in favor of a bill that severely limited abortion access in Pennsylvania, causing many clinics to close.
In the past, Planned Parenthood has endorsed Ravenstahl’s challengers, including Michael Devine and Tom Michalow.
“Planned Parenthood is constantly under attack, and when they do something like this, it undermines their credibility, and it hurts the mission,” Kinkead said.
Reportedly, many people locally, who support Planned Parenthood of Western Pa., were upset about the endorsement and complained to officials at the local office. One person angry with the endorsement complained and received an email response from Emily Callen, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Pa Advocates. In it, she supported the endorsement.
“PPPA’s endorsements are made primarily through the lens of legislative advocacy–our imperative is to build a majority that supports sexual health and reproductive freedom,” Callen wrote. “While Ravenstahl’s past record is mixed, since 2017 he has voted with our position 100% of the time and sought our endorsement. It hurts our ability to fight bad policies and advocate for good ones if we back away from candidates who have voted with us.
“The response to this endorsement has been heard loud and clear. We believe that this decision is the right one, but it has also brought to light the need to refine our endorsement process moving forward. We are committed to doing that work.”