CHAPEL HILL – Katie Early, Ipas Director of Development, has been awarded Planned Parenthood’s lifetime achievement award.

Early was honored with the Margaret Sanger Award at the Planned Parenthood Action Fund of Central North Carolina’s annual Champions of Choice breakfast Thursday.

She first joined Ipas, which is an international organization based in Chapel Hill that advocates for women’s reproductive rights, in 1980.

“I am lucky to be there,” Early said. “I have amazing friends and colleagues who work every day to make sure that women have the ability to exercise their rights and make sure that their health is what it needs to be so that they can live the fullest lives that they can.”

After a stint in the Peace Corps, Early returned to Ipas in 1985 to serve as Executive Director and CEO. During that time, she instituted Ipas’s research, policy, and communications initiatives. This helped to establish the organization as an international leader in women’s reproductive health and rights.

Early led the way to inform the public about the impact of unsafe abortions, and she championed access to safe, legal abortion care.

“I have lived in the developing world several times in my life and have seen firsthand what it means to not have access to fundamental rights and services. I think we see that same condition here at home often. It has been an opportunity to make sure that I could support others in their quest for good health.”

Throughout her career, Early has remained committed to caring for the community.

As president of the SECU Family House at UNC Hospitals, she oversaw the completion of a 40-room facility to provide a home-away-from-home for families of patients receiving critical care at UNC hospitals.

“Through an experience in my own life with critical illness of a family member, I saw what the need was to support people who are having a really difficult time in their own lives,” she said.

Early’s own family had to move across the country so that her first husband could receive specialized treatment for a rare form of cancer.