Meet JSPAN Board Member Audrey Ann Ross

Author: 
Edward Hoffman

- Tell me about AccessMatters, your employer.

AccessMatters works to transform access to sexual reproductive health.  We are a non-profit based in Philadelphia.  We have a network of health care providers and health centers that reach the five-county region.  We also do work with Camden as well as provide training, program evaluation and consulting services nationwide.

- And what is your position in this organization?

I work as the communications and community engagement manager.  I am responsible for the public relations piece, as well as streamlining communication both externally and internally within the organization.  Also, I’m in charge of advocacy and policy work, so we work closely with other like-minded organizations to advance policies, legislation, regulations that help to increase access to sexual reproductive health.

- How long has this organization been in existence?

We’ve been around since 1972.  We were actually called Family Planning Council until June 2014.  We began around the inception of Title X Family Planning Program [of the Public Health Service Act], providing funding for preventive health services to men, women, and teens, and we have in the past 40+ years evolved the scope of our services to include HIV prevention and care through the “Ryan White” funding stream and LGBT health and teen pregnancy prevention.  We felt that Family Planning Council didn’t fully capture everything we do, so we changed our name to AccessMatters about a year and a half ago.

- What is your Jewish background?

I was raised in an interfaith family, and I grew up Jewish.  I was named and I had my bat mitzvah and was confirmed at Temple Rodef Shalom in McLean, Va.  My dad was raised Jewish and my mom grew up Catholic and decided not to practice her religion, so we’ve always had a Jewish home, and I believe I was the first female to be a bat mitzvah in my family. 

I think what has stuck with me is the social justice component of Judaism – tikkun olam.  I spoke about that in my bat mitzvah speech, and I have certainly incorporated that into what I do every day in my work with non-profits in increasing access to services and my work previously with Ed Schwartz at the Institute for the Study of Civic Values: increasing access to city services and working with block captains and preventing violence.  So it is certainly something that I hold dear to my heart.

- Are there particular progressive causes that interest you?

That’s a great segue.  I am certainly very active in the reproductive rights arena.  I came to Philadelphia originally to work on gun violence prevention, through the Million Mom March and the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and then also worked on quality of life issues.  I actually studied environmental issues and political science in college, so I have been interested in environmental matters as well.   But my main issues have been reproductive health and rights and violence prevention.

-         When you are not thinking about JSPAN, what other interests do you have?

I recently got married, so certainly spending time with my husband, and we recently also got a black Lab pup in July – named Aine.  And I grew up as an only child, so family is really important to me, and spending time with them is very important – both my parents and my extended family.

- What book is on your night table right now?

As the daughter of a librarian, I am always reading more than one book.  The primary one on my nightstand right now is 97 Orchard: An Edible History of Five Immigrant Families in One New York Tenement.

- Thank you.