Category: Uncategorized

Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can Choose = Success!

Last night’s event out of New York, Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can Choose, was hilarious, well-planned, and was viewed by over 40,000 people at one time on the Ustream channel. The event was hosted by Lizz Winstead and Sarah Silverman and featured many star-studded guests including Heather Busby, Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, and Jessica Luther, a blogger based out of Austin that helped spur the movement that happened at the Capitol this summer and beyond. As of today, we’ve raised over $54,000!

Here are some of our favorite things that happened from the night, including #vagnapkin and #orangeisthenewvag:

When Sarah Silverman shoved a napkin down her pants and then auctioned it off:

Or when the cast of Orange is the New Black auctioned off their call sheet from an episode they filmed earlier that day:

Last night, #TexasWomenForever was one of the top trends on Twitter.

And a woman who was chronicled in New York Magazine for her story on abortion gave a moving speech:

Throughout the night, a person in a giant vulva costume would come up on stage and give an update on how much money was raised as well as a quote from an anti-choice person trying to take over the #TexasWomenForever hashtag on Twitter:

Even Wendy Davis had something to say about the event:

Mario Batali  promised to match up to $5,000 in support of the event:

At the end of the night, Lizz and Sarah announced V to Shining V, a campaign to expose the anti-choice movement’s efforts to subvert women’s access to abortion care throughout the nation.

We are completely grateful for all of the work that’s been done from these fine folks and we can’t even begin to express how important they are in our fight to reclaim Texas. It’s events like these that keep us going (both mentally and financially). The women of Texas, especially, thank you the most.

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Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can Choose – TONIGHT!

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Tonight! Join us for Clear Eyes, Full Hearts, Can Choose, an online telethon fundraiser hosted by Lizz Winstead and Sarah Silverman. You can view this fundraiser from anywhere in the world by watching it on the Ustream channel provided by Lady Parts Justice. There are various watch parties happening across the country, but if you’re in Austin and want to attend the watch party with all of the beneficiaries, we are having one at The North Door to watch it on the big screen!

Here’s who will be in attendance at the fundraiser, from the event page: 

Amy SchumerEmily Mortimer, Natasha Lyonne, Yael Stone,Jessica PimentelLea DeLaria, Dascha Polanco, Jemima KirkeKathy Najimy, Tennessee Thomas, Ambrosia Parsley, Holly Miranda John FugelsangAlysia Reiner, Zoe Kazan, Comedian/Writer/Musician/Man-About-Town Dave HillDean Obeidallah of The Muslims Are ComingLynne ProcopeJoan WalshSally Kohn, Anthea Butler, Phoebe Robinson, Sarah Sophie Flicker, Syreeta McFadden of Feministing.comAngela McCluskey music, Alexa Chung and Sarah Slamen & Jessica Luther

We also have amazing surprises from sponsor organizations like Babeland Nyc, (two words: giant vulva), and the number of organizations and businesses supporting this cause will blow your mind and lift you up! 

#TexasWomenForever, y’all. This has been an incredibly difficult last few months, but it’s the outpouring of encouragement and support like this that keeps us moving forward. 

.5 Days Left: One Provision of HB 2 has been Ruled Unconstitutional, State Already Appeals the Ruling.

From our Press Release:

COURT DECISION PROTECTS ABORTION ACCESS FOR MOST WOMEN IN TEXAS, BUT UPHOLDS RESTRICTIONS ON MEDICATION ABORTION

 

Ruling blocks provision that would have made safe, legal abortion non-existent for one in three Texas women

AUSTIN, TX 10/28/2013 - After a three day trial, a federal court today permanently struck down one provision of a recently enacted, deeply unpopular law – a measure that would have made safe and legal abortion services for one-third of women in Texas virtually impossible to access.

While U.S. District Court Judge Lee Yeakel blocked implementation of a requirement that all abortion providers obtain admitting privileges at a local hospital, today’s ruling has allowed another harmful measure to take effect on October 29 – one that severely restricts the use of medication abortion, a safe and effective method to end an early pregnancy.

“We are very relieved that Judge Yeakel blocked implementation of the admitting privileges requirement and that we do not need to close our facilities in McAllen, Fort Worth and San Antonio,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, CEO, Founder and President of Whole Woman’s Health. “This decision will keep thousands of women safe and allows our Whole Woman’s Health clinics to continue to provide compassionate, professional care to women in our communities. The staff and physicians working with Whole Woman’s Health have been on edge for weeks, and most especially today; our patients have been calling and asking over and over if they will be able to be seen tomorrow. We are thankful for the Judge’s ruling and relieved to be able to continue care for the women who need us most.” 

Hagstrom Miller continues, “We are disappointed that Judge Yeakel did not also block the severe restrictions on medication abortion. Nearly 40% of the women we serve at Whole Woman’s Health choose medication abortion and now Texas is preventing these women from the advances in medical practice that other women across the United States will be able to access. These restrictions are not based on sound medical practice.”

The dangerous and unconstitutional provisions blocked today were part of a package of legislation signed by Governor Rick Perry on July 18 following a series of special legislative sessions, but opposed by 80 percent of Texas voters, according to a poll by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research. Medical experts in Texas and across the country, including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Texas Medical Association, and Texas Hospital Association, also publicly opposed provisions in the law because they provide no medical benefit to women and will actually jeopardize women’s health and safety.

[end press release]

We are so excited about Judge Yeakel’s ruling today, even though it only blocks one provision of House Bill 2. Yeakel has made a decision that requiring doctors who provide abortion services to get hospital admitting privileges is unconstitutional and poses a massive burden on us, the plaintiffs. In his ruling, he also said that we did not provide enough proof of burden to have an injunction against the outdated FDA protocols for administering a medical abortion, though he did add an exception that made the alternate FDA protocol used by most physicians permissible if it was “necessary for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.” You can read his opinion here. Although we wish it were true, the multiple media reports earlier today that all of HB 2 had been struck down are unfortunately not true.

While today is definitely cause for happiness, we have been told by the Center for Reproductive Rights that the state has already appealed Judge Yeakel’s ruling, setting the course for us to head to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.

Onward and upward. #FightBackTX

1 Day Left: What Goes into Effect Tomorrow No Matter What?

Today is the day, folks.

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By 12pm, we should have an answer from Judge Yeakel on whether or not we have an injunction for one or both of the provisions of House Bill 2 that we sued the state over. Click here for a review on those provisions.

There are two provisions that aren’t included in Planned Parenthood v Abbott, and one of them goes into effect tomorrow regardless of the judge’s ruling: the 20 Week Ban on Abortion in Texas. We thought we would give you a description on precisely what that means for a woman seeking abortion care in Texas who’s past the 20 week mark in gestational age. 

The 20 Week Ban is two-pronged due to a hidden provision within it that requires us to provide the name of a hospital within 30 miles of our clinics to all of our patients. This is in case the patient ends up having serious complications after she receives our care even though, contrary to what our opponents in this case consistently maintain, abortion is one of the safest procedures in medicine. The reality is that there is less than a 1% complication rate with abortions; we have been enabled to complete these procedures in regular clinic settings because there are no incisions and the risk of infection is minimal. 

The 20 Week Ban does affect us greatly as we spent the last week changing all of our reporting forms and training all of our staff so that we could be compliant with this law, but the wording of the law is strange. The ban’s language says that it is “restricting elective abortions at or later than 20 weeks post-fertilization”, which means that we will be able to provide services to women who are 21 weeks and 6 days since her last menstrual period or 19 weeks and 6 days gestational age.

There are also two exceptions to this regulation:

·         “severe fetal indication”

·         “To avert the woman’s death or a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function”

Unfortunately, the state did not provide exceptions for rape or incest. 

We have always been proponents of encouraging women to be at the center of their own healthcare decisions. When they are potentially faced with a situation in which a pregnancy may have to be terminated past the 21.6 LMP marker, it’s unfortunate that they will not be afforded the option to do so. This creates an unnecessary barrier. Remember that reducing access and creating barriers for abortion doesn’t eliminate the need; women will still need to terminate a pregnancy for one personal reason or another.

At Whole Woman’s Health we take pride in our service model in which we consistently and continuously provide exemplary service to all women, no matter their circumstances. We serve a diverse group of populations within our communities, and even though HB2 happened to us, we will not stop being that voice for women in addition to providing compassionate, safe abortion care.

We have notified all of our staff that we won’t stop fighting HB2, and that this 20 week ban won’t stop Whole Woman’s Health from providing the stellar service that we have been committed to providing our Texas Communities for the past 10 years. Therefore, we began preparation early on by educating our patients on what the law means and how to apply it to their current situations. Some women would contact us not knowing what the legal status on abortion is, with some even thinking that abortion is completely illegal in Texas. It is our responsibility to make sure that all women in Texas know that abortion is still legal, and Whole Woman’s Health will continue to provide these services to those women while still complying with some laws and fighting other ones.

5 Days Left: The First Lawsuit Against HB2 is Done.

As you may know, we spent the past two-and-a-half days in federal court fighting two provisions of House Bill 2.

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WWH Founder and CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller speaks to reporters after Day 3 of Planned Parenthood v Abbott. The lawsuit is expected to reach the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans and eventually the Supreme Court of the United States.

Before we go into talking about how the trial went, here’s some information on the two specific provisions that we are helping sue the state over:

 A provision to require physicians providing abortion services to obtain hospital admitting privileges. 

  • Arguably the most pressing of the HB 2 restrictions is its requiring of any physician providing abortion services to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. The provision, which isn’t required of any other medical provider, could cause at least one-third of the state’s licensed health centers providing safe, legal abortions to close in approximately a month from now. Cities like Lubbock, Fort Worth, Waco, McAllen, Harlingen, and Killeen would have access eliminated due to 13 of the 36 clinics in Texas having to close their doors. This has nothing to do with the training, expertise, or standards of the physicians involved but has everything to do with the difficulty of getting admitting privileges from a hospital due to moral or political objections to abortion.

A provision that would change the dosage and administering of a medication abortion.

  • The lawsuit will specifically request an injunction on HB 2′s requirements that doctors now prescribe abortion-inducing drugs according to an outdated Food and Drug Administration label. Doctors have not followed this protocol for 13 years as research has since found that current ways in which the drug is administered are safer, more effective, and use less of the medication when a woman chooses to use the pill method to end a pregnancy. The old FDA label requires both three times the dosage of the current prescription and would also allow the drug to be administered not at a place where she chooses to miscarry, but only in a licensed abortion facility. Under the new requirements, a woman would have to drive back-and-forth to the clinic for each pill, increasing the chances that she would miscarry while commuting to and from one of her appointments.

Keep in mind that there are two other provisions for HB2 that are not included in this lawsuit: the 20 week ban on abortion that goes into effect this Tuesday and the requirement that we meet the standards of an Ambulatory Surgical Center at all of our clinics, which goes into effect September of 2014. Regardless of the outcome of the lawsuit we are involved in, these two provisions will happen no matter what. What we want from the trial is an indefinite injunction against the two provisions, meaning that the judge would rule both of them unconstitutional and stop them from becoming law. He may rule both provisions unconstitutional, or he may rule that only the medication abortion provision or only the hospital admitting privileges provision are unconstitutional. Either way, we will have an answer by noon on Monday, October 28th. If the judge doesn’t issue an injunction at all, we will have to comply with these provisions beginning Tuesday, October 29th. All parties expect this lawsuit to make it to the Federal 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, and possibly the Supreme Court in Washington DC. If the judge rules in our favor, the state will appeal it to the 5th circuit; if the judge rules in the state’s favor, then we will appeal it to the 5th circuit.

During the trial this week, we were lucky enough to be the sole voice online for both Whole Woman’s Health and the Center for Reproductive Rights. On our Twitter page, we gave a play-by-play of the proceedings, giving a good snapshot of what happened in a somewhat closed courtroom that didn’t allow any use of cell phones or Internet connections. Two of the live witnesses were WWH CEO and Founder Amy Hagstrom Miller and Andrea Ferrigno, our Corporate Vice President. The other three witnesses were Dr. Fine of Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast, Dr. Carnell from Baylor University Hospital, and Dr. Joe Potter, a demographer and professor from TxPEP Research at UT Austin. Dr. Potter provided the most statistical information on what will happen to reproductive healthcare in Texas should House Bill 2 become law, and as a result was the target of most of the attacks form the state’s lawyers during the cross examination of witnesses.

The testimony during the trial made it a proud day for Whole Woman’s Health. Whether it was the plaintiff side (our side) or the defendant’s side (the state of Texas), WWH was represented well with Amy and Andrea’s knowledge on our company, our policies, and our compassionate care for our patients. No matter what the state’s lawyers threw at them, and they threw A LOT at them, both of them stood their ground and gave the proper information to the court to show that this law is completely unconstitutional. Some of the best parts were herehere  and here. Amy showed true composure when the state lawyer that was questioning her suggested that we raise our prices as well as offer our physicians more pay to fix all of our problems. After suggesting this, Amy said, “I considered raising my prices but I don’t think that’s ethical or of service to women. Money has never been an obstacle to find physicians full-time; it’s always been because of the harassment they might receive from the anti-choice movement.” The lawyer also tried to allege that Senator Wendy Davis was the person whose Fort Worth district is where WWH of Fort Worth is located, but Amy corrected him and explained that WWH of Fort Worth is actually in the district of Senator Jane Nelsen, an anti-choice legislator.

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WWH Founder and CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller speaks to reporters after day 2 of Planned Parenthood v Abbott. The lawsuit is taking to provisions of House Bill 2 to court, one requiring physicians who provide abortions to obtain hospital admitting privileges, the other requiring abortion clinics to follow outdated FDA protocols when administering the abortion pill to patients.

In a moment that summed up the particularly emotional and personal consequences of House Bill 2 should it go into effect this Tuesday, Andrea showed how much she truly cares about our patients when she was asked about how this law will affect our McAllen clinic: “I’m very concerned in general, but the tears come because of McAllen. I’m just really concerned about what women are going to do when they can’t access safe services.” Andrea also told the court that she has been looking for hospital admitting privileges for our physicians since June in anticipation that House Bill 2 would be passed. Even though she has given herself more time than House Bill 2 said we would need in order to obtain privileges, it’s absolutely not enough.

So, what’s next? Judge Yeakel admitted at the end of the proceedings that he understands Tuesday, October 29th is not far away. We are prepared for either outcome of this trial, and you will be the first to know what our next plan is.

Continue the fight.

18 Days Left: Tell the DSHS to Stop Regulations on Women’s Health.

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After Governor Perry signed the omnibus anti-abortion bill House Bill 2 into law, a timeline was put in place for when the law would go into effect. The first three provisions of the bill, the part requiring doctors who provide abortion care to have hospital admitting privileges, the 20-week ban, and the way in which the abortion pill is administered to patients as well as its FDA regulated dosage, are set to be implemented on October 29th. The other part of the bill, which goes into effect next year, requires all clinics, whether new or pre-existing, to build their facilities up to ambulatory surgical center standards. That’s where the Department of State Health Services (DSHS) comes in. 

The role that DSHS plays in the implementation of HB 2 is interpreting the laws language into actual standards in which clinics will have to comply with the law. This means that any public comment that you submit will help the DSHS decide on how to adopt revisions to HB 2 that could help women’s access to healthcare in Texas stay open. 

Until October 25th, you can submit public comments here. Use the sample letter and add in your own personal message in the middle section. Tell the DSHS that an ambulatory surgical center is an unnecessary building requirement for clinics that already provide some of the safest procedures known to medicine. 

29 Days Left: Continue the Fight.

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From ACLU of Texas’ Facebook page.

On Friday, we announced a joint federal lawsuit against the state of Texas to combat House Bill 2, an extremely restrictive law that passed in the state legislature this summer.

From CEO and President of Whole Woman’s Health, Amy Hagstrom Miller:

“We are filing a lawsuit today to stop the immense damage that this law will do to the healthcare system for women and families in Texas. The multiple requirements in HB2 create a perfect storm for thousands of women; blocking their access as well as taking away their right to safe medical care. This law is an injustice to women, men and families throughout Texas – from the urban areas along the I35 corridor, to the Valley, to East Texas, to West Texas. Many clinics have already closed and many more face closure if this law is not enjoined immediately.”

The lawsuit, Planned Parenthood v Abbott, is being filed by dozens of women’s healthcare providers in Texas with the Center for Reproductive Rights (representing Whole Woman’s Health), the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the American Civil Liberties Union. All parties are represented by Texas firm George Brothers Kincaid & Horton.

The litigation will specifically address two provisions of HB 2 that are the most immediate, far-reaching, and destructive for women’s health in Texas:

A provision to require physicians providing abortion services to obtain hospital admitting privileges. 

  • Arguably the most pressing of the HB 2 restrictions is its requiring of any physician providing abortion services to obtain admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of their clinic. The provision, which isn’t required of any other medical provider, could cause at least one-third of the state’s licensed health centers providing safe, legal abortions to close in approximately a month from now. Cities like Lubbock, Fort Worth, Waco, McAllen, Harlingen, and Killeen would have access eliminated due to 13 of the 36 clinics in Texas having to close their doors. This has nothing to do with the training, expertise, or standards of the physicians involved but has everything to do with the difficulty of getting admitting privileges from a hospital due to moral or political objections to abortion.

A provision that would change the dosage and administering of a medication abortion.

  • The lawsuit will specifically request an injunction on HB 2′s requirements that doctors now prescribe abortion-inducing drugs according to an outdated Food and Drug Administration label. Doctors have not followed this protocol for 13 years as research has since found that current ways in which the drug is administered are safer, more effective, and use less of the medication when a woman chooses to use the pill method to end a pregnancy. The old FDA label requires both three times the dosage of the current prescription and would also allow the drug to be administered not at a place where she chooses to miscarry, but only in a licensed abortion facility. Under the new requirements, a woman would have to drive back-and-forth to the clinic for each pill, increasing the chances that she would miscarry while commuting to and from one of her appointments.

Similar laws that require hospital admitting privileges have been passed in states like Alabama, Mississippi, North Dakota, and Wisconsin, all of them having had an injunction filed against them via a lawsuit similar to Planned Parenthood v Abbott. This is another indication that HB 2 is not an isolated law, but rather a repeat attempt by a larger national movement to restrict access across the US as a whole.

Research has already been done on the impact of HB 2 from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TXPEP), who found that of the women affected by HB 2, 80% of them will be living outside of the major metropolitan areas where the last remaining clinics that provide abortion will be. According to TXPEP’s findings, “nearly half of women seeking an abortion in Texas were unable to access their preferred birth control method in the months prior to their unintended pregnancy.”

The majority of Texans oppose HB 2 and any other abortion restrictions like it. Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research found that 80 percent of Texans did not want abortion to be on the call for the special session this summer: “of registered voters, 63 percent say the state has enough restrictions on abortion and 71 percent thinking that the Governor and legislature should be more focused on the economy and jobs. A majority opposes the sort of legislation passed by the state Senate and being considered by the state House during this legislative Special Session, believing that it imposes further restrictions on abortion. Overall, only 34 percent trust the Governor and the legislature to make decisions about women’s healthcare.”

HB 2 has another provision not included in Planned Parenthood v Abbott, which would require all abortion facilities in Texas to increase their building standards to Ambulatory Surgical Centers (ASC) by September 2014. Facilities that would attempt to meet the requirements would need more time and a lot more money in order to retrofit or build an ASC to operate within the law.

So, what can you do?

We recommend doing the most important thing, and that’s educating everyone you know about the weight of this lawsuit and the precedence it could set. The Department of State Health Services has opened up public commentary for a 30-day period that started last week on the new rules set in place by HB 2. Participate in events like this webinar at 2pm today, or go to film screenings about the importance of abortion like this Cinema East screening of After Tiller. Always remember that spreading knowledge and awareness is your best weapon in the fight against the stigma that surrounds reproductive healthcare.

If you want to know why lawsuits and courts are an important part of challenging legislation, watch this video from WhyCourtsMatter.org, a project by the Center for American Progress:

We will keep you posted with updates on the lawsuit, on the status of our company’s presence in Texas, and on what’s next in continuing the fight against anti-choice extremists.

#fightbacktx

33 Days Left: A Week of Ceremonies

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Yesterday we had an event at our Fort Worth clinic that was hosted by our Founder and CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller and by the Center for Reproductive Rights. The event was called #UniteTonight which is in conjunction with Draw the Line, a national movement to pressure the federal government into protecting people from assault on their reproductive healthcare. Everyone mingled inside of Whole Woman’s Health of Fort Worth and enjoyed drinks, food, and a live viewing of the national broadcast from other locations across the country. 

While some of the WWH staff were drawing the line in Fort Worth, others were at the Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity Awards, a fun, formal ceremony that honored pro-choice advocates that provided some of the largest impact during the special sessions in Texas this summer. The recipients of the awards were Representative Mary Gonzalez, Representative Dawnna Dukes, Representative Jessica Farrar, Community Outreach Rockstar Brittany Yelverton, Local Writer Jessica Luther, and Freelance Reporter/Senior Political Reporter at RH Reality Check Andrea Grimes. With a massive silent auction, the Lilith REAs also helped raise more money for the fund. With House Bill 2 about to go into its first stage of implementation, raising money for organizations like Lilith is more important than ever.

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Both events made us even more excited for what’s to come in Texas and reminded us that our movement is building faster than it ever has. We can’t wait for what’s next. 

41 Days Left: The Best of Austin Awards

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Photo credit: CollabnArt

Recently, the Austin Chronicle had its annual Best of Austin contest where readers and critics submit their favorite things about Austin, from best restroom and best composer to best laundromat and best legislative moment (Wendy Davis!). We were very excited that the coalition we are a part of, Stand with Texas Women, came in first for best grassroots movement. Here’s the synopsis:

The bumper sticker goes, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” Perhaps that’s why so many of those standing with Texas women didn’t mind being called an “unruly mob.” When the powers that be refused to listen to an outpouring of public testimony against the sweeping abortion restrictions bill, there was little left to do than to stop playing by the rules. Dixie Chick Natalie Maines, singing to the crowd at the movement’s largest rally, may have said it best. Whether behind the scenes or in front of the Capitol, the feminist army was “Not Ready to Make Nice.”

It’s invaluable knowing that, in the midst of all of our contingency planning and preparing for what’s ahead in HB2′s implementation, the movement lives on outside of the walls of the Capitol. That’s why this award goes out to all of those that wore orange this summer and spent hours upon hours blogging, tweeting, protesting, eating the food and drinks that were brought to us from local businesses, and stood on the front steps of the capitol on that late night when HB2 passed out of the Senate. You won this award. 

51 Days Left: There’s Nothing Like a Boost in Morale.

You may recall when we posted about one of our clinic doctors resigning in August, not even a month after HB2 had passed and we learned that we needed to have hospital admitting privileges by the end of October. That was obviously a terrible event and it was one of the main reasons that we wanted to share our journey with you on this blog, but it has also taught us that when one door closes, two more open. 

This week we’ve been approached by two physicians that used to work for us in the past but had since gone on to open up their own practices. Both of these physicians are highly-trained, professional, and want to come back to Whole Woman’s Health to help us keep our doors open in Texas. Obviously, we’re welcoming them with open arms. 

On Friday last week, we hosted an employee pot luck in our HQ in Austin to go over where our company is going at the moment and to hold a Q & A with our founder and CEO, Amy Hagstrom Miller. Employees were given the opportunity to ask questions about what was happening with our company and what Amy thought might happen in the future. She gave updates, speculation, and lifted a great deal off of all of our shoulders. We’ve come back to work this week with a renewed sense of drive to keep delivering the compassionate care to women that we always have.

Amy also gave us a word of advice at the end of the potluck: “No matter how bad things get, you’ve always got to remember to have a sense of humor. No matter what.”