Featured Speakers

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Debi Jackson, Keynote Speaker

In support of her transgender daughter, Debi Jackson has become a political activist for LGBT rights and acceptance. She travels the country as a public speaker, advocating on behalf of transgender youth. She shares her story to prove that conservative Southern families can be fully supportive of the LGBT community. She operates a website for parents of transgender and gender non-conforming children at trans-parenting.com and offers transgender competency training services to schools, medical offices and other businesses through her company Gender Inc.


Pamela Merritt

Pamela Merritt is co-founder and co-director of Reproaction, a new direct action group forming to increase access to abortion and advance reproductive justice. Merritt is a founding member of the Trust Black Women Partnership and on the board of NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri. She has been a featured contributor on National Public Radio, and her writing has been published in the Chicago Sun-Times, Guardian, and Rolling Stone. In 2008, her personal blog, AngryBlackBitch.com, was named one of the world’s 50 most powerful blogs by the Guardian.

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Laura McQuade, Planned Parenthood Great Plains President & CEO

Under Laura's leadership, Planned Parenthood Great Plains expanded into four states, including Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri, and Oklahoma. She led the charge to expand PPGP's health care services in 2016 to include transgender health care, Pre Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP), menopausal symptom management and added abortion services in Wichita, Kansas and Oklahoma City. Laura previously served as executive vice president and chief operating officer for the Center for Reproductive Rights, a global human rights organization, based in New York, using law to advance reproductive freedom as a fundamental human right that governments around the world have an obligation to protect, respect and fulfill.




Yael Abouhalkah, Writer

Yael T. Abouhalkah has lived in the Kansas City area most of the last 50 years. He attended Shawnee Mission West High School and the University of Kansas, gaining a degree in journalism. Yael worked two years at The Milwaukee Journal before starting at The Kansas City Star in late 1979 as an editor. In 1984, he joined The Star's Editorial Board where --  for the next 32 years -- he wrote extensively about Kansas City government,  the environment, energy, transportation and local political matters in the five-county area. He's now ready to enjoy a little retirement living with his wife, Beci, and their two dogs at the east Kansas City home. He has two children, Emily and Luke, both of whom live in the Kansas City area -- for now.