In the Texas State Capitol Dome or Statehouse Building

Whole Woman’s Health Testifies Against TX HB 1648

House Committee on State Affairs

Joint Testimony in Opposition to HB 1648

On Behalf of Trust Respect Access Coalition

Submitted by Whole Woman’s Health

April 29, 2015

Chairman Cook and members of the State Affairs Committee,

My name is Fatimah Gifford, I am the Director of Public Relations for Whole Woman’s Health, and I am here today to testify on behalf of the Trust Respect Access coalition, a group of diverse organizations working to support policies that restore trust in Texans to make their own reproductive health care decisions, respect for health care professionals, and access to safe, timely abortion care. We are testifying today in opposition to HB 1648

While HB 1648 may have the intention to bring the very serious matter of coercion to the surface, this bill not only perpetuates the widely debunked and dangerous myths about abortion, it also makes inaccurate assumptions about the decision making process women undergo when facing an unplanned pregnancy as well as the professional guidelines providers adhere to when offering this medical care. Additionally, this bill contains unnecessary provisions that dramatically contribute to abortion stigma before and after a woman’s abortion procedure.

Under the guise of anti-coercion and the protection of human trafficking victims, Representative White presents this bill as a response to outdated studies that lack proven scientific data.

The studies often used to substantiate this legislation have been presented without any clear citation to a peer-reviewed scientific analysis, and furthermore, the scientific community has discredited these studies’ findings. Studies that contain inaccurate data should not inform the practice of medicine, nor should they be the basis of legislation. Misinformation does not promote women’s health or safety.

Provisions that require several large posters to be posted in medical facilities and require physicians and health center staff to deliver redundant verbal notices are not only unnecessary but will create an environment hostile to a woman making this very private and personal decision. Texas women should be trusted to make the best decisions for themselves or their family. Women already receive numerous state mandated materials about their options and must sign multiple state mandated documents to verify medical consent prior to the procedure. 

Various findings in peer-reviewed studies on abortion outcomes, including the American Psychological Association, have concluded that the abortion procedure itself does not cause harm to women, but instead it is laws that stigmatize women and attempt to shame them.

HB 1648 offers solutions to non-existent problems. Abortion providers regularly screen each patient for coercion, human trafficking, domestic violence, and other concerns as part of our thorough counseling and screening process. Abortion care providers and the domestic violence community have proudly worked together for decades to ensure the rights and physical autonomy of women and we have an impeccable record of service.

Abortion care providers foster a judgment-free, safe and compassionate space for our patients and their families to discuss their decisions privately and confidentially. With current procedures in place, each patient routinely undergoes a one-on-one counseling visit prior to their procedure, wherein they consent to their abortion and proclaim if they are making their decision free of coercion or force. If at any time during a woman’s visit, she states that she does not want the procedure, abortion providers will not perform the abortion. Regardless of a woman’s decision to have an abortion, providers equip them with the proper resources and referrals needed. And in cases of domestic violence, abortion providers already utilize and refer women to professional resources in an expeditious manner. 

For these reasons, we respectfully urge this committee to oppose HB 1648. Thank you for your time and for allowing me to share these remarks.

Respectfully,

Fatimah Gifford

Director of Public Relations, Whole Woman’s Health

On behalf of the Trust Respect Access Coalition

PURPLE PHONE

Whole Woman’s Health: Proud to offer safe, compassionate abortion care

For the average person, abortion can be a ‘taboo’ or ‘fringe’ issue. It can be confusing, understandably considering the medically unsupported anti-choice laws being enacted, the state-funded centers that routinely lie to pregnant women, and the inaccurate information physicians are legally bound to give patients.

Regardless, real, human people need abortions every day for a myriad of deeply personal reasons. All of us at Whole Woman’s Health feel strongly about creating a space where our patients are treated with the kindness they deserve and where their medical care is uncompromised.

We are human rights defenders, protecting the right to safe abortion with dignity by listening to our patients’ stories, honoring their feelings and intentions, and providing sound medical care. We get that the little things matter and it’s why we offer services using a holistic care model.

ho·lis·tic (hōˈlistik)This care model is behind many of the big and small things we do surrounding our patient care:

  • It’s the reason we perform one-on-one counseling with each patient
  • It’s why we screen for financial aid over the phone instead of waiting for our patients to show up in-person
  • It’s why we rigorously follow state and national medical requirements, and why we ask the important question: ‘What matters most to you today?

We value the well-being of each person we see and care deeply about how they will remember their abortion experience in years to come. Our holistic care model is what sets us apart from other providers, and it shines through our Whole Woman’s Health family in the words and integrity of our Founder, Amy Hagstrom Miller:

For me, abortion care is a calling.

Abortion involves all the big things in life – sex, death, life, religion, family, money. Providing abortion gives me the opportunity to have heart-to-heart conversations about these things every single day. I get to sit with a woman as she examines what she believes – as she looks at what matters most to her. What are her intentions? What are her dreams? 

Sitting with a woman as she examines her abortion decision provides me an opportunity to plant seeds that will change the world. I can invite a woman to look at her life differently than she may have before she came to my clinic. I have a moment to affirm that she is good, to affirm that she is moral and kind, and to affirm that she is not selfish. I can witness her dreams and her desires and affirm that she is put on this Earth to see them out and to act on her own gifts, not just to receive the lot that has been dealt to her. I have an opportunity to shine some light on her situation and turn on a light bulb or two in her thinking – especially about what is possible, what she is capable of, etc.

Whole Woman’s Health clinics offer an Oasis from the stigma and shame surrounding abortion in our culture, from the voices and the judgments of others that often make it difficult to sit quietly and contemplate a big decision.

The opportunity to invite women to accept themselves and to live out their dreams is a byproduct of abortion care to some people, but to me it IS abortion care. I can make a contribution that matters – I can truly change the world one woman at a time, simply by sitting next to a woman, listening to her story, witnessing her experience and gently nudging her to be all that she can be.

This changes the world. And this is why I provide abortions.

Our clinics in Texas, New Mexico, Maryland, and Minnesota all operate under the same high level of care. Every person on our team understands that it’s not only about the services we provide, but more importantly it’s about how we provide those services. Here are just some of the things our patients have said about their time in our clinics:

“The staff explained everything in great detail.”

“You made me feel comforted throughout the entire process.”

“You helped me with everything I needed.”

“Everyone from my first phone call to the end was very nice and comforting.”

“Everyone was friendly and informative.”

“Love the positivity.”

“Staff here are very compassionate and understanding.”

“The doctor was very informative and nice, couldn’t ask for a better provider to make me feel comfortable in this kind of situation.”

If you have questions about abortion and reproductive care, or would like to learn more about our holistic approach, please don’t hesitate to call us at (877) 835-1090 or visit us online here.

"We know that women are the right and moral decision makers for the most fundamental of choices - whether or not to give birth and whether or not to parent.

From the Whole Woman’s Health Patient Journal

I thought I was in love, I was actually, just in love alone. This was by far one of the hardest and must hurtful decisions I’ve had to make in my entire life. Though I feel horrible and as I try not to hate myself I know that I made a wise decision.

“Do not let a man or materialistic things define how much you are worth.”

All sins are equal, ask for forgiveness and move on because God will see you through.

Love yourself, love those around you.

IMG_4824

Whole Woman’s Health at the NLIRH 20th Anniversary Gala!

Last night Whole Woman’s Health attended the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health’s 20th Anniversary Gala in Washington DC! We have always been a huge fan of the work they do mobilizing and elevating the Latina community across the U.S., and have had the pleasure of working with them in the past on events like the Women’s Human Rights Hearing for Nuestro Texas in March.

The gala was fabulous! We were surrounded by so many of the reproductive justice movement’s shining lights and watched as many of our SHEroes were honored for and spoke about the importance of this work, including Dolores Huerta, the Honorable Lucy Flores from Nevada, and NLIRH Executive Director Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas!

Scroll down for more photos and quotes from the event!

Watching a video from our Whole Woman's Health of McAllen clinic during the Nuestro Texas 'A Women's Human Rights Hearing' events last March in the Rio Grande Valley.

Watching a video from our Whole Woman’s Health of McAllen clinic during the Nuestro Texas ‘A Women’s Human Rights Hearing’ events in the Rio Grande Valley.

“Reproductive justice is a struggle for dignity.”

– Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, Executive Director, NLIRH

NLIRH Executive Director Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas

“Even when we lose, we win. We are mas ponderosas!” NLIRH Executive Director Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas

“Every woman has the right to determine how many children she has for herself.”

“We really have to grow our movement. We know that state after state are passing laws. We really have got to be organizers.”

-Dolores Huerta, President, The Dolores Huerta Foundation

Dolores Huerta speaking at the NLIRH 20th Anniversary Gala

Dolores Huerta speaking at the NLIRH 20th Anniversary Gala

WWH Founder & CEO Amy Hagstrom Miller with one of our biggest SHEroes Dolores Huerta at the #NLIRH20 Gala! 😍😍😍

A photo posted by Whole Woman's Health (@wholewomans) on

#NLIRH20

Blog Graphic

Questions and Answers with Nurse Maria

There are many things we love about our Twin Cities clinic. It’s just blocks from the light rail, has some amazing views of Downtown Minneapolis, houses our EmpowerLine, and has a certain Nurse Practitioner Maria providing gynecology care every Tuesday and Thursday.

We, WholeWomansHealth.wordpress.com the person, like to talk with Maria regularly about her experience with reproductive health and this time we’ve decided to record the conversation:

What is a Nurse Practitioner? Why go to a Nurse Practitioner?

NPs can be licensed independently in the state of Minnesota. You don’t have to be associated with a physician or a clinical practice. I can have my own patients, prescribe medications when necessary and really build a relationships with the patients that I see.

What inspired you to pursue women’s healthcare?

I wanted to educate and empower women about their bodies!

What’s your opinion on how gynecology has evolved over the years?

We used to hold women hostage, so to speak. Practices would require women to come in and get breast exams, pelvic exams, pap smears and more every year in order to access contraception. It was a prerequisite to birth control. Now the trend in reproductive medicine is to remove barriers and look at evidence supporting healthcare and contraception. Now we don’t do pap smears until the woman is 21 and we do them every three years, and we’ve been able to see other improvements with the HPV vaccine and long acting birth control.

So, what’s the point of a pap smear if it’s not required regularly and you don’t need one until the age of 21?

It’s the screening test for cervical cancer (HPV). Most sexually active women are exposed to the virus and previously if a woman would display abnormal cell changes the provider would lob off (not the formal medical term) a part of the cervix through a LEEP procedure. Of course we still perform LEEPs, but not so readily as in the past. We used to be quick to choose the surgical option rather than waiting and allowing the body to naturally heal itself. Now it’s a nice combination of both.

To follow that, why get an annual exam, or a Well Woman’s Exam, if a pap isn’t necessary?

It’s an opportunity to touch base and share any concerns with a health care provider. It’s an opportunity to explore the family medical history and screen for risk behaviors, as well as look for preventative or motivational treatment options to help the patient pivot and change directions.

People tend to operate thinking that how they feel now is how they will feel in 20 years, when that’s not necessarily true. Without treatment or intervention a risk factor for untreated hypertension (high blood pressure) now could turn into kidney problems down the line. Or undiagnosed or untreated diabetes could turn into loss of vision or loss of kidneys down the road. So yes, we’re looking at your reproductive health, but that’s just a part of your whole health.

What are some of the common themes you notice across the patients that you see? Common questions that people are concerned about when they come to visit with you?

I get a lot of questions about vaginal discharge. Many women are really concerned about it – is it too much, is there not enough, color, cycle, changes through the month, etc. There are many normal ranges that come with vaginal discharge that change through the month as you go through your cycle. The biggest red flags are if there’s an itch or odor or if you feel you’re at risk for an STI.

There’s also some misperceptions about how diet can impact your health. What you put into your body has a strong impact on your well being and will effect you over time, so I definitely like to spend time focusing on diet choices while discussing health histories.

Are there questions people should be asking when they get their annual check up that you notice aren’t being asked?

I see a lot of bias – people want to project themselves 20 years from now and often think that how they are now will be just how they are down the road, when that’s not really the case. What you do now has a definite impact on how your body will feel 10, 20 years from now.

If you’d like to schedule an appointment with Maria, please call our EmpowerLine at (877) 835-1090 or visit us online at www.wholewomanshealth.com

NM_Sono3

What Really Matters to Patients on the Day of Their Abortion

The reasons for having an abortion are as many as the women who have them. As holistic medical providers, we pride ourselves in our ability to meet our patients where they are at. This means understanding what their concerns are so we can provide attentive, personalized care.

One of the best ways we do this is through regular patient evaluations – asking the women and people we serve what they’re most concerned about, how we did at meeting those concerns, and places for improvement. We do this in all of our clinics to ensure that every patient receives the personalized treatment they deserve.

The following is just a sample of things our patients think about as they prepare for their abortion and dig into the question of “What mattered most to you today?” 

  • Being taken care of safely
  • Privacy
  • Service
  • Polite, courteous service
  • Side effects
  • Being treated fairly
  • Making everything clear and getting my needs met
  • Getting the procedure over with
  • Confidentiality
  • Getting it done
  • Feeling happy and comfortable
  • Privacy
  • Having everything run smoothly
  • Getting to the clinic on time
  • Feeling comfortable
  • I didn’t want to feel bad about what I was doing
  • How I was treated
  • Birth control
  • Time and privacy
  • Discretion and understanding
  • Answering all my questions
  • Not having to worry about an unwanted pregnancy any longer
  • The abortion
  • Being safe and well taken care of
  • Info on what to expect
  • Being comfortable
  • Info on the procedure, side effects, etc.
  • Feeling safe
  • Just support
  • Time
  • That my pain and fear of physical pain after the procedure would be taken seriously, and not ignored/blown off
  • Timeliness
  • That I’m not being judged for the decision that I am making
  • All that matters is for everything to go well
  • Not being judged
  • The procedure and safety
  • Privacy
  • People being kind
  • Understanding the procedure
  • Letting me know whatever I choose would be ok
  • Confidentiality
  • Not feeling rushed
  • Feeling safe
  • Having all my questions answered
  • Not being judged
  • Privacy
  • Privacy and safety
  • Comfort and friendliness
  • Getting the abortion
  • Feeling less ashamed of my decision
  • Getting information on contraception
  • Feeling comfortable and safe
  • Getting the procedure done safely
  • Information, support
  • Getting help and having someone to support me.
  • Compassion
  • Privacy and pain management
  • Emotional support, ease of process
  • Obtaining all the information I needed to make the best decision for myself
  • Feeling like I wasn’t alone
  • Having the confidence to walk into the clinic and going through with the abortion
  • Feeling like I was in a supportive environment..
  • That I felt comfortable. i was sooooo nervous….
  • Finding out how I would feel after
  • Confidential and compassionate care
  • That it got done
  • Making sure I could get the IV sedation, great my insurance pays for it
  • Feeling comfortable
  • Being able to talk to the counselor before the procedure
  • Kindness and being well taken care of
  • Detailed information about the method. Your staff explained everything I asked. Made me more comfortable in my decision.
  • Just by helping me…
  • Attitude, positivity