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Preterm 2020



Dear Friends,

In my 22 years as Executive Director at Preterm, I’ve been privileged to work with community members, an incredible staff, board members, and generous donors to ensure access to high-quality, empathetic abortion care. I’ve found so much courage, wisdom, creativity, and hope in these relationships. Now, it’s time for a new generation of leaders to emerge and chart the course for the future of Preterm and the movement for reproductive health, rights, and justice. In the summer of 2021, I will be retiring.

I have spent the last year creating a strong foundation for Preterm’s future that focuses on the holistic needs of our patients and our professional team. As a clinic, as a community, and as a country, we faced unprecedented challenges in 2020. The pandemic, the resulting economic crisis, and the country’s long-overdue reckoning with racial injustice—these crises have had unexpected impacts on Preterm’s patients and staff.
In 2020, we also welcomed four new directors who have provided invaluable leadership in these areas and across our work. In this report, you’ll meet Preterm’s full leadership team, who have navigated us through the challenges of 2020 and will lead Preterm’s work in 2021 and beyond.
I have every confidence that the board, the leadership team, our dedicated and talented staff, and all of you will ensure that Preterm remains a reliable healthcare provider, a strong advocate for our patients, and a trusted steward of community and individual donations. Preterm’s board has partnered with a trusted nonprofit executive search firm on a national search to find a new leader for the organization. Because of your kindness, loyalty, and generosity, Preterm is well-positioned to stay on the cutting edge of reproductive healthcare, decrease barriers to care, and advocate for our patients and community.


In Gratitude,

Chrisse France

Executive Director


Total sexual health visits (birth control, STD testing and treatment, Pap tests, and general GYN care)



Resident physicians and medical
students trained



Total clinic visits


Patients served
(abortion, birth control, emergency contraception, STD testing, and more)

Patient Service
By the Numbers

In fiscal year 2020, nearly 1,300 individuals, foundations, abortion funds, community groups, and businesses supported Preterm’s work through financial contributions. Combined with patient fees and investments, our budget was $4.9 million.


The level of support and
understanding for my choice
was beyond anything I have
ever experienced.

Preterm’s Accountability
to Anti-Racism

Black lives matter. Preterm unequivocally stands behind this statement and the inherent value of the lives of Black, Indigenous, and all people of color. While continuing to provide essential abortion and sexual health services amid the pandemic, in 2020 Preterm also turned our attention to the national outcry for racial justice.

Led by Deputy Director Vanessa Arenas, Preterm is doubling down on our commitment to anti-oppression and anti-racist work. Our goal is to ensure that we are accountable in our work to confront and undo organizational policies that have upheld structures of oppression. We are committed to balancing short term, meaningful action, and long term, institutional change, both as an employer and as a trusted healthcare provider.

Perseverance through the pandemic


In March 2020, the state of Ohio attempted to shut down Preterm and abortion clinics across the state, exploiting the emergency pandemic response to limit access to abortion care. As the elected officials responded to the pandemic, we knew that our most vulnerable patients would have even more challenges accessing critical reproductive healthcare, and community care would be key to preventing a secondary health crisis. Preterm challenged the state’s harmful attempt to shut us down in court—and we won.

Following guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and the National Abortion Federation, we instituted new safety precautions that are still in place today. Throughout it all, Preterm never shut its doors and we ensured that
essential abortion care remained accessible and that patients received the same high-quality care Preterm is known for.

Meet Our Leadership Team


Samara/ Director of Counseling

In her 19 years at Preterm, Samara Knox has counseled and
advocated for thousands of women considering abortion. Currently, as the Director of Counseling Services, she oversees orientation and continuing professional development for Preterm’s Patient Advocates. She has successfully developed a nationally-recognized training program for non-judgmental, patient-centered counseling. Samara is proud to have had an abortion herself and is personally and professionally committed to reproductive justice.


Cynthia/ Chief Financial Officer

Cynthia Palmer Szafraniec has been involved in abortion care and family planning for 40 years. She started her career at Preterm as a counselor in 1980, and became Finance Director, then Chief Financial Officer in 1987. Cynthia graduated from Marietta College. She is a 500-hour yoga instructor and loves living on the lake, a block from her two grown children.


Lesley/ Chief Development Officer

Lesley Hoover, CFRE, is passionate about helping donors
increase the impact of their philanthropy. She brings 19 years
of experience in fundraising and holds a Masters of Public Affairs in Nonprofit Management from Indiana University, Bloomington. Lesley was born and raised in Shaker Heights and is a mother of twins.


Laura/ Director of Nursing

Laura Ackerman, RN, started as a patient advocate at Preterm in 2004. Since earning her nursing degree, she has had extensive experience in labor and delivery, abortion care, and mental health nursing. As Director of Nursing, Laura brings a wide understanding of the conditions that bring people to choose abortion and a true dedication to reproductive justice. Laura lives in Cleveland in a community of women and helps to cultivate an urban farm in her free time.


Sri/ Director of Clinic Operations

Sri Devi Thakkilapati, PhD, is passionate about reproductive justice. She brings over 15 years of experience working in sexual and reproductive health in the United States and in India. She holds a doctorate in Sociology from Ohio State University and has published her research on race, class, and gender inequities in public health.


Vanessa/ Deputy Director

Vanessa Arenas, MPH, began her career as a counselor at an
independent abortion clinic. She has managed programs across the country, strengthening clinic systems and increasing access to sexual and reproductive health services. Vanessa grew up in Puerto Rico, she’s a mother of a 2-year-old and 4-year-old, and she is a huge Harry Potter fan (she’s a Ravenclaw).


Support Preterm's patients and the future of reproductive healthcare with a tax-deductible contribution.
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