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College Swimmer Grabs an Oar for Reproductive Rights

As an undergraduate athlete, Maddie Bro became accustomed to long hours honing her craft in pursuit of a long term-goal with a dedicated team by her side. Her former coach on the University of Iowa Swimming & Diving Team used to tell her, “Learn to fall in love with the daily grind.” Maddie has taken that advice to heart. While her swimming days are behind her, she is now pursuing her passion for accessible reproductive care and education with Planned Parenthood of the Heartland in Eastern Iowa (PPHeartland).

“Grab an Oar” — Cecile Richards

Maddie’s involvement in politics and social justice began during her time as an undergraduate at the University of Iowa. In between her swim practices, Maddie took on a variety of responsibilities in the campus community. She interned for Bruce Braley’s Senate campaign and the Iowa Legislature in 2014, became a sexual assault prevention adviser to former UI President Sally Mason, and founded UI L.E.A.P., a student group that facilitates sexual assault prevention workshops for student-athletes and students in Greek Life. During the 2016 election, Maddie traveled with Hillary Clinton in Iowa and appeared in ads for her 2016 presidential campaign. After college, she found her home at PPHeartland.

“My role with PPHeartland sets my heart and soul on fire…Fighting for the first-class citizenship of women, girls, and transgender individuals is my life’s passion. I am honored to do this daily with PPHeartland.”

Maddie Bro, Planned Parenthood of the Heartland

When Passion Pays the Bills

“Do what you love, and going to work won’t feel like a chore.” For many, this feels unattainable. How does one convert passion into a full-time gig? According to Maddie, the best way to get your foot in the door is to volunteer.

“I first volunteered for PPHeartland as a college senior. Event planning and community activism for PPHeartland soon became my side hustle once I entered the working world. The director role I now hold opened about a year after I began volunteering. I was encouraged to apply, I did, and it worked! Accepting this role was a dream come true!”

Deciding how to divide your time between personal obligations, generating an income, and volunteering is the balancing act every budding activist must learn to master. To find that overlap between your passions and your career, you’re going to have to put in work. It takes time. It takes hustle. It’s not easy. But it will be worth it.

Learning to Love the Hustle

Swimming helped Maddie develop the discipline and commitment to devote herself completely to the causes she cares about most. Maddie gives this advice to those who want to make our society better:

“Important work doesn’t hold regular hours. Find one issue you love and commit whatever time you have to it. Your hard work will pay off. And you’ll meet some pretty rocking like-minded friends along the way.”

Find the issue that sets your soul on fire and chase it. Volunteer with groups on ActWorthy who are working to create change. As you make connections within those groups, watch for job openings. Start from the bottom and work your way up. Listen to others every day and do the most good you can.

Even as you’re fighting your fight, keep an eye on the risk of activist burnout. You have to help yourself before you can help someone else. Maddie avoids burnout through regular exercise:

“…a couple miles on the treadmill and lifting heavy weights is my ultimate form of self-care! Hitting a runner’s high is a fabulous form of meditation, helping to reset and clear my mind and body. Endorphins create such a refreshing feeling.”

As an activist, you have an obligation to take care of yourself because an activist’s fight is never over. Maddie is no exception. Her current focus:

“In 2017, Iowa Senate File 515 stripped PPHeartland of its federal funding. More specifically, the bill discontinued the federal Medicaid family planning network waiver, foregoing approximately $3 million in funding. This forced four PPHeartland health centers to close in Bettendorf, Burlington, Keokuk and Sioux City, collectively serving more than 14,600 individual patients in the last three years. This bill is a direct attack to a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions and creates barriers to care for Iowa women in rural communities. A poll published by the Des Moines Register on Feb. 9 shows that Iowans know reproductive rights are human rights: 71 percent of Iowa adults support restoring federal funding to PPHeartland for non-abortion services.”

Want to join Maddie in the fight to protect reproductive rights? Follow her on ActWorthy and take action today!

Planned Parenthood and ActWorthy

In a democracy, a movement is only as strong as the energy of its supporters. PPHeartland’s Born After Roe (B.A.R.) group inspires, educates and activates people born after Roe v. Wade to support Planned Parenthood of the Heartland through networking, community building and advocacy. As Maddie describes it:

“This grassroots support is an important step in the fight to regain federal dollars for our work. ActWorthy can help connect PPHeartland to the determined and hardworking volunteers the organization needs to strengthen our mission.”

ActWorthy’s mission is to make effective grassroots political action simple. We’re building the platform for democracy. Check out our public beta here. Our efforts are currently focused in Iowa and will expand to other areas in the near future.

Are you an activist doing amazing work in Iowa? We want to show it off! Email us at if you’d like to be profiled on ActWorthy’s social media. #WorthyWednesday



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Ross Katz

Ross Katz


Principal and Data Science Lead @ Data by day and yoga by night.