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Amy Hagstrom Miller’s Speech from the NIRH Champions of Choice Awards Luncheon

Thank you Andrea, the National Institute for Reproductive Health staff and the board for this honor – as well as fro standing with us as partners and supporters for the past three years. I am grateful to everyone who has come before me; the abortion providers who have paved the way and stood up for what is right, even when it is not easy; and the activists demanding dignity and justice whose shoulders I stand on today. It is wonderful to be here among friends.

I want to introduce a few loved ones who are here. My sister Cathy, my nephew Sam, my dear friend Ellen, my sister of the heart Renee, and my most honored guest, my tremendously supportive #1 fan, my thinking partner, and my love – my husband Karl. These are the kind of people every woman on the front lines deserves to have at her back and by her side. Thank you for coming.

As you can imagine these have been the most challenging, difficult and intense three years of my life.

I have fought like hell to push back on the bully politicians in Texas, to combat the stigma that allowed for laws like this to pass in the first place, and to share a larger vision for what quality independent abortion care provision looks like in this country. Whole Woman’s Health has taken on this challenge with all of ourselves. – with our hearts, minds and bodies. We have spent hundreds of hours on our lawsuit, shared thousands of documents with the State and endured many hours in deposition and testimony.

During this time we have also chosen to open the doors of all of our clinics in an unprecedented way – inviting documentarians, press and on-camera reporters in experience the Whole Woman’s Health way, to see our clinic environment and to meet our staff and physicians. Every time we open the door of a Whole Woman’s Health clinic to the public we see the stigma of abortion melting away; we can see it shifting as we give tours of our beautiful facilities and share openly and honestly about the work that we do. This is not easy, this takes time and effort, and sometimes it is scary; but through these open doors we are changing the way people think about abortion care in this country.

We are proud of the professional and compassionate abortion services we provide; we have nothing to hide and we stand in the light.

At the same time I have been leading this fight, I have also watched the company I build take hit after hit. We have endured a whiplash that is indescribable – winning victories in one courtroom only to be reversed in the next; closing and reopening our clinics repeatedly. This regulatory roller coaster has been going on for nearly a decade now; and as we all know, it has not and will not stay in Texas.

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So why, you may ask, do I do it?

For me, abortion is a calling.

Abortion involves all the big things in life – life, death, sex, family, religion, money, identity, self-esteem – as you all know, it is a lighting rod issue in our culture. Eradicating the shame and stigma around abortion is my life’s work. In places like Texas where we are witnessing such dramatic backlash and hostility, we must challenge the assumptions these laws make about women. Laws that require forced ultrasound, waiting periods, hospital privileges for physicians, and the building of mini hospitals to provide care. When laws like these pass, rural women are out of options and many poor women are left behind. These laws disproportionately affect women of color, young women and families without health insurance. Many women are still shamed and providers are stigmatized.

We all need to stand in the light.

So you may ask, what happened in Texas and why should you care?

Well, the Right Wing convinced people that abortion is unsafe and needs to be regulated and is dangerous – and people believed it. They turned their feelings and beliefs into policy and laws and completely disregarded science, facts or evidence. In fact, they have a well thought out, well-funded, strategic plan that is working. And the truth is that the feelings and beliefs of a few, successfully shut down the constitutional rights for thousands.

As we know, these laws are not in the true interest of the health and safety of women. Targeted regulation of abortion providers (TRAP laws) arise out of a political agenda designed to make abortion almost impossible for practitioners to provide and for women to access. They make false assumptions about a woman’s capacity to understand what it means to be pregnant and to make a sound moral choice on her own.

We know however all across the world, every day, good women have abortions.

Abortion is part of comprehensive healthcare. So is the right to parent, the right to give birth how and when you want to, and the right not to have children at all – it is all part of realizing our full humanity as women.

Access to safe abortion is a human rights issue.

Three years ago Whole Woman’s Health chose to challenge these laws and to work with the Center for Reproductive Rights to build a case that would demonstrate the harm and the undue burden faced by so many people all across Texas. Let me tell you, serving the lead plaintiff is no joke! But amid all of the uncertainty, the challenges, the setbacks and the waiting I have never once regretted it. We are standing on the right side of history and I am proud to lead us through these times. It is an honor.

Let me tell you, being at the Supreme Court and hearing the four liberal justices argue our case and cite our evidence chapter and verse was the thrill of a lifetime.

When Justice Kagan very adeptly took on the Texas Solicitor General’s assertion that the clinic closures had nothing to do with HB2 I almost (almost) felt bad for the guy.

When Justice Ginsburg questioned how the requirement that medication abortion be offered in a surgery center was based in any way on medical evidence we thoroughly enjoyed hearing the Texas attorney grasp for straws.

When Justice Breyer called out our evidence over and over and over, demonstrating a complete mastery of our case, our testimony, the evidence and the amicus briefs I had chills.

Even Justice Kennedy didn’t seem to buy into the state’s argument that this law was somehow in the best interest of women’s health and safety. He never once questioned our attorneys about the undue burden standard, and he even went so far as to comment that the law’s restrictions on medication abortion delay women from accessing the safest method early in pregnancy and may increase the second trimester abortion rate. Something surely not in the interest of a woman’s safety.

And then finally as Chief Justice Roberts attempted to end the questioning that had already gone on for nearly 30 minutes longer than expected we saw Justice Sotomayor, who was on fire, ignore him and just keep on going. At one point when the Texas solicitor general asserted that this law didn’t harm Texan women she just sat back in her chair, actually leaning back quite far, crossed her arms across her chest, gave him the side eye and said, “Really. Really?”

We are very hopeful for a 5-3 ruling. We should hear by the end of June.

So to wrap up today, I want to leave you with my dream for the future of Texas and the future all across our country where abortion care is under attack.

I dream that the people who provide abortions will be seen and respected as the human rights workers and medical professionals that we are, and that people who seek abortion care will be respected and know that they are not alone.

I’d like a world where no woman comes into my clinics thinking she is the only woman she knows who has had an abortion. Thinking she is the only Christian that has had an abortion. Thinking she is the only good mother who had an abortion. Women and families across the country need us, the pro-choice majority, to speak up and out. We cannot let anti-abortion rhetoric go unchallenged. We cannot allow our opposition to hijack the moral high ground.

Whole Woman’s Health clinics offer an oasis from the stigma and shame surrounding abortion in our culture, from the voices and judgments of others that often make it difficult to sit quietly and contemplate a big decision. In our clinics we have a moment to affirm each woman’s life and to listen to her story. Let’s make sure all women get this support both inside and outside our clinic doors.

We need to link arms and stand up against politicians who have tried to push safe and compassionate care out of reach. We are standing in opposition to laws like Texas’ and others like it that shut down clinics, force women to delay care, and create shame or other obstacles to abortion.

Amid this fight back let us also remember that we stand for something: we stand here to affirm that women are good, to affirm that women are moral and kind. To affirm that when a woman has decided to end a pregnancy, we can witness her dreams and her aspirations and affirm that she is put on this Earth to see them out and to act on her own gifts. She gets to determine the path for her life.

That is the world we stand for, and it is the world we will create together.

Thank you again to the team at NIRH for being such fierce allies, for standing with us for so many years, for providing the kind of support that groups on the ground truly need, and thank you to all you you. Here’s to a win for Whole Woman’s Health in the Supreme Court!

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From the bottom of my heart, thank you!

This month will mark 1-year since I had my abortion at Whole Woman’s Health. Having my abortion was one of the hardest decisions my partner and I had to make, granted I was 27 and he 29. It was real life, life changing and something I can say was the best decision we have ever made for our lives, our future, and the child we would have had.

When I found out I was pregnant I was working a part time job for $11.82 an hour, he was in between jobs and we lived in a place my parents owned and we could barely pay our bills. The soul reason for us choosing what we did even though knowing our child would have all the love we could offer, was we knew he or she deserved so much better, we deserved better for ourselves.

My partner and I both have Bi Polar, I was living in misery being un-diagnosed and he in denial of my disease and it was to a point that we weren’t happy as a couple anymore. He decided he wanted to spend the summer away and I would spend it finding stable ground for myself and my mental illness. When we terminated the pregnancy it became a battle for both our happiness. It weighed on me with the “what ifs” constantly and was only making my depressive phases worse. We needed a break from each other to find each other as well as ourselves again.

“We will support your life and always love you, if these are your reasons then make sure they are not just words.”

My parents being the Catholic Republicans they are were disappointed with our decision. I kept telling them that we wanted better for our child, that I wanted to go back to school and graduate and have a house, financial stability as well as mental stability. I can remember looking at my mom after I found out I was pregnant and made my appointment for the abortion, she looked me in the eyes and said, “we will support your life and always love you, if these are your reasons, then make sure they are not just words.” I have heard that over and over in my head since then.

When my partner and I drove into the city for our appointment it was the longest hour of my life. We drove in silence. When we got about 15 minutes from the clinic I looked at him and asked if he was scared and he looked away from the road and at me and said “yes”, then looked back at the road. The entire eight hours at the clinic was like a movie, I was numb. I answered the questions and had no emotion. Going through the procedure was painful, I opted not to be medicated because I wanted to go through the process with a clear mind, and was not scared of the pain.

Driving home, I went through the motions of my life and had no feelings, no regrets, no happiness, just flat. When my partner moved away I took time to heal, I enrolled in school, I rescued a puppy, I got a new job and found new hobbies. My life completely changed. When he came back we were both different people. We didn’t get back together until about two months after he moved home. With us having the time apart and growing personally it was completely different. It was happy. We were happy again.

The support and comfort and acceptance we received from the women at the clinic was something I have never felt before.

The clinic experience was such a blur, what I remember most was during the procedure I spent crying so hard and biting my arm through my sweater. It was physical, emotional, mental, and spiritually crippling. I had three nurses standing around me, petting my hair, holding my hand, and trying to soothe me. I glanced at my partner and he was staring at the wall with no emotion on his face. I felt worse for him than myself, it was me going through it physically but he felt every ounce of pain I felt, if not more. He saw my hurt and could do nothing about it, i saw his and was equally powerless. our lives changed forever.

The support and comfort and acceptance we received from the women at the clinic was something I have never felt before. We had already made our decision when we walked in but I was assured it was OK by them. I was going to be completely OK. I can happily say I will graduate in December as a Medical Assistant. When my instructor asked where I want to be employed after I graduated I told her a woman’s health clinic. I have always been a feminist, a believer in equal rights and an advocate for that equality. This experience has only fed that fire. I am an empowered, intelligent woman who is in control of my own destiny and that to me is beautiful.

I can never repay anyone for this second chance, all I can do is support the woman and men in my position and advocate for our choices.

We have a house we can afford, we have two dogs and two cats, we wake up with a river in our backyard, we have our bills paid, sometimes we have arguments, sometimes we nit pick at each other but I can safely say that at the end of the day, are are in love and are truly happy. I can’t say we wouldn’t be if we hadn’t had the abortion, but I can honestly say that I am doing exactly what my mother told me I needed to do. I was blessed to have my partner, who shows me things I could never see. He has always supported me, sometimes not up to my expectations, but those are just that, expectations. He truly is a gift in my life and some day him and I will have a child, we will be amazing parents, it was just not the time. We needed a second chance.

So, to wrap it up, I want to say thank you, thank you for giving me, us, this opportunity. Thank you for the support, thank you for allowing me to make my own decisions with my body, thank you to the incredible employees and thank you for everyone you have helped get to the same place of happiness as I am, being able to advocate for their own future and body. I can never repay anyone for this second chance, all I can is support the woman and men in my position and advocate for our choices. Writing this has been part of my healing. I think about our child often, it still hurts sometimes. I know the tiny “what if” will never go away, I accept that and also embrace that because like I said, I got a second chance to make my life the beauty that it is today. Again, thank you for the second chance at being the best woman I can be.

 

This letter was published with permission from the author.

 

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Amy Hagstrom Miller on Today’s FDA Mifepristone Announcement

Today’s FDA announcement of a label change to Mifepristone is a significant advancement for women in the United States.  All of us at Whole Woman’s Health are thrilled that the updated FDA labeling reflects evidence based care that is best for women. People who visit our clinics deserve options for abortion care without worrying about medically unnecessary obstacles and this change allows for more women to get the care they deserve.
We are particularly encouraged that this updated labeling could expand the availability of abortion in Texas, where  anti-choice politicians continue to interfere in women’s personal health decisions, enacting laws such as HB2 that deny women the ability to make their own decisions about whether and when to become a parent.
Prior to HB2, 40 to 50% of our patients at Whole Woman’s Health chose medication abortion. Since HB2 went into effect, that figure has decreased dramatically. For the past two years only about 5% of the women we serve in Texas have been able to get the medication abortion care they wanted because HB2s barriers were insurmountable. This label change will dramatically expand access for women not only in Texas, but throughout our clinics nationwide.
While we appreciate this step forward, we also acknowledge that there are still too many restrictions preventing women from quality care.  The reality is that low-income women, women of color and rural women bear the brunt of abortion care restrictions.  We will continue to fight for the day when all women have access to the compassionate and comprehensive reproductive health care that we provide at our clinics.
Whole Woman’s Health has a strong commitment to make Medication Abortion an option for all our patients and we look forward to implementing this new label change in our clinics in the coming days.
Amy Hagstrom Miller
President and CEO
Whole Woman’s Health
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#FlashbackFriday: Watch the Whole Woman’s squad speak @ the Supreme Court!

We don’t know about you, but we’re still just recovering from last week’s oral arguments and Supreme Court rally! It’s been tough getting back into the day-to-day now that we’re no longer prepping for the biggest reproductive rights case of our generation (although now we’re playing the waiting game again as we look toward the Justices for a decision).

So, it’s understandable that we’d be spending the week reliving the moment by going back through Twitter and Instagram feeds, and re-watching the rally recordings. Our Whole Woman’s Health squad had the honor of speaking several times throughout the program, and we’ve gathered them all below for your Friday viewing pleasure:)

Amy Hagstrom Miller, President & CEO:

 

Dr. Bhavik Kumar, Physician @ Whole Woman’s Health:

 

Andrea Ferrigno, Corporate Vice President:

 

Marva Sadler, Director of Clinical Services:

 

You can watch the rally in its entirety here and scroll down for the entire list of speakers!

Below is the complete list of speakers:

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#WeWereThere One Week Ago, Today.

It has been one week since we rallied on the steps of the Supreme Court while the Justices heard our case against Texas HB2. We are still so full of love and hope from that amazing day, and are thankful to everyone who came out!

We’ve been saying all along that while HB2 started in Texas, it has national implications. We know this from the 40+ amicas briefs submitted to support our cause, that ranged from personal stories and statements from municipalities and leading medical organizations. We know this from the stories we hear in our clinics every day, the callers who try all they might – end up falling through the cracks.

We especially saw the national implications leading up to the oral arguments as the Fifth Circuit court of appeals upheld the same admitting privileges law in Louisiana, shuttering all but one clinic. And most recently we know this from the news that Google searches for self-abortion have skyrocketed in the past years, as TRAP restrictions have increased across the country.

It was nothing short of unreal to have the Supreme Court Justices discuss the merits of our case against Texas. They asked pointed questions showing recognition of the injustice many Texans now face because of their status and zip code.

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We were also given hope that they understood our plight – the plight of abortion providers who are hanging on by a thread, jumping through every harmful, medically unnecessary, state-mandated hoop, just to stay open and to provide care.

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We also silently cheered as the justices grilled Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller, Esq., on what seemed to be on behalf of every woman and person ever scorned by a TRAP law.

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Regardless of these exchanges, we were confident that whatever game the Justices brought we’d be able to handle it because The Center for Reproductive Rights was on our side and we had Stephanie Toti defending us!

Thank You

But, as much as we all wished to have been inside the Supreme Court during these arguments, to have basked in the glow of Justices RBG, Kagan, and Sotomayor, the vast majority of us were outside in what was clearly an equally life-giving event – the Rally to Protect Abortion Access!

For FOUR HOURS we joined some of the fiercest, most inspiring reproductive rights and justice advocates across the country and the awesomeness never. let. up.

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“I am proud to be able to talk to patients in their preferred language, to listen to them and hold their hand. I have the privilege to sit next to women as they share their stories with me, and honor their most inner struggles with spirituality, fear, love, life, and parenthood.” -Andrea Ferrigno, corporate vice president of Whole Woman’s Health

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“I am proud to stand here today and say that I provide abortions with Whole Woman’s Health in Texas. I have grown up in that state and know what it’s like when your government considers you unworthy of dignity, respect, and equality. Unfortunately, things only seem to get worse for Texans who are women, undocumented, gay or lesbian, queer, trans, a person of color, low-income, or part of any marginalized group. Many of us may think this case is only about abortion in Texas. But it is about all of us. These laws are a clear indication that they think we don’t matter, that our lives are less than.”  -Dr. Bhavik Kumar

 

More photos from the rally:

 

Below is the complete list of speakers:

 

 

If you missed the rally, or would like to watch it again, click here:)

 

Photo Credits: Lorie Shaull, @mikemorganfoto

 

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“I’ve learned to be stronger by witnessing their strength” – Andrea Ferrigno’s speech on the steps of the Supreme Court

Good Morning Everyone,

My name is Andrea Ferrigno, I am the corporate vice president for Whole Woman’s Health. Like my colleagues here to, we are grateful that so many of you have come to bear witness as we bring our case to the Supreme Court. It’s been quite a journey.

As a Hispanic immigrant from Latin America, I have witnessed firsthand the grave importance of having access to safe, legal abortion care in an environment where women’s voices matter. That is why I am committed to this work both on a professional and personal level.

I have done just about every job at Whole Woman’s Health, and I can tell you what it means to provide compassionate, quality abortion care. to do this work in Texas, where so many Latinas and immigrants like me are struggling to get the health care we need, is personal.

I am proud to be able to talk to patients in their preferred language, to listen to them and hold their hand. I have the privilege to sit next to women as they share their stories with me, and honor their most inner struggles with spirituality, fear, love, life and parenthood.

I am truly humbled and inspired by their resilience.

But I have also seen firsthand how laws like HB2 can force clinics to shut down. I’ve had to sign the construction orders for costly work to comply with medically unnecessary TRAP regulations.

Not only have they tried to shut down our clinics, they’ve tried to stop us from creating the warm and friendly atmosphere our patients deserve. They want to make our spaces cold, sterile, adn scary. I watched with sadness as they told us we could no longer provide the soothing space our patients are grateful for. Again, there is no medical reason for these rules. Instead, they are simply a way for politicians to reach in and interfere with how we provide care, with how we show women that we love them, value them, and trust them.

I think about the woman that on the phone begged me to see her even though our clinic was shut down by this law, I still hear her desperation telling me: “Please, please, I won’t tell anyone. Why won’t you help me, please?!’

Or the woman that became pregnant while starting her chemotheraphy treatment for ovarian cancer. Her own physician refused to help her terminate the pregnancy because of fear of repercussion from the anti-choice board members of his hospital. She came to us the day HB2 was enacted and we couldn’t see her.

There are so many stories just as compelling, and it is by listening to women’s stories that I’ve learned to be a better person; I’ve been humbled by their wisdom, and I’ve learned to be stronger by witnessing their strength. I share their frustration and pain on a personal level, because it is impossible to ignore this injustice. We have to remember that these laws don’t end abortions, it ends safe abortions.

Every day I see the impact of onerous, medially unnecessary abortion restrictions on the lives of the women who come to our clinics.

But working for Whole Woman’s Health, I’ve also seen what is possible. What it looks like to respect and support our patients and provide compassionate care. It is transformations and is the reason why we are here today. I look forward to the Supreme Court deciding on the side of justice so that I can keep doing the work that I love.

I stated 16 years ago that this is my calling, what God would want me to do. I’m not stopping, are you?

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We Stand in the Light: Amy Hagstrom Miller’s Speech at the Supreme Court

It is an honor it is for me to stand here with you today. I am grateful to everyone who has come before me; the abortion providers who have paved the way and stood up for what is right, even when it is not easy; and the activists demanding dignity and justice whose shoulders I stand on today. Thank you.

To all of you who have supported Whole Woman’s Health and our co-plaintiffs Reproductive Services, Austin Women’s Health Center, Dr. Lynn, Dr. Richter and Dr. Davis. Thank you.

Another big thank you goes to The Center for Reproductive Rights. The Center is full of fierce advocates who work all over the world to ensure that women have access to safe abortion care. It is to them that we all owe a giant round of applause.

My final, and deeply heartfelt thanks goes out to my husband Karl and my two children who are here with us today. I thank them for their patience, for their love and for their belief in me and in our cause.

I’d like to invite the Whole Woman’s folks here today to come stand with me. While they make their way up here, let’s give a loud shout out to the Whole Woman’s Health team members all across the country. This is a phenomenal group of women and men and it is my joy to have some of them here with me today to receive this love from you.

As you can imagine, this has been one of the most challenging, difficult and intense 3 years of our lives.

We have fought like hell and done our best to push back on the bully politicians in Texas. We have chosen to open the doors of all of our clinics in an unprecedented way – inviting documentarians and reporters into our clinics – to meet our staff and physicians and experience the Whole Woman’s Health way.  Every time, we see the stigma of abortion melting away as we share openly and honestly about the work that we do. Through these open doors we are changing the way people think about abortion care in this country. After all, we have nothing to hide and we stand in the light.

Just look at all of you!

Many of you took off work, got on buses from all across the country, arranged childcare; I see some of us have brought our kids along!

And you’ve come here in the cold to stand, UNITED for abortion access. Thank you for making the journey.

But here’s the sad part: however far you traveled, however tough it was, for most of you, coming here today was nothing compared to what a woman in Texas goes through to get an abortion.

And that’s what today is all about.

If the Supreme Court does not put an end to HB 2, Texas women will continue to suffer. And make no mistake: what happens in Texas will not stay in Texas. The bully politicians who passed HB2 have counterparts in nearly every state who want nothing less than for abortion to be completely illegal. They are determined to shut down our clinics and cut women off from care.

We cannot – we WILL NOT allow that to happen.
We’re fighting for the day when all women have access to compassionate reproductive health care like we provide at our Whole Woman’s Health clinics. We are fighting to build a better world for all of us.

I want to help close today’s events by inviting you to join me in envisioning that better world, to share with you my dream for the future of Texas and all across the USA.
I dream that the people who provide abortions will be seen and respected as the human rights workers and medical professionals that we are. That we will be able to go to work without worrying about how we will keep our doors open to serve our patients and our communities, without bulletproof vests.

I dream that those who seek abortion will have the information they need and high-quality holistic care they deserve. I dream that a woman will be able to walk into a clinic without having to worry whether her insurance will cover abortion, without having had to travel hundreds of miles, without a protester screaming in her face.

I dream of a world where no woman comes into my clinics thinking she is the only person who has had an abortion. Thinking she is the only Christian that has had an abortion. Thinking she is the only good mother who had an abortion.

I dream that every one of us who has decided to end a pregnancy will be respected, supported, and feel secure in the knowledge that we are not alone.

Yes, today we stand up against politicians who have tried to push abortion out of reach. We stand in opposition to HB2 and any law like it that shuts down clinics, forces women to delay care, or creates obstacles to abortion.

But we also stand for something: we stand here to affirm that women are good, to affirm that women are moral and kind. To affirm that when a woman has decided to end a pregnancy, we can witness her dreams and her aspirations and affirm that she is put on this Earth to see them out and to act on her own gifts.

That is the world we stand for, and it is the world we will create together.

 

Amy Hagstrom Miller -President & CEO of Whole Woman’s Health

Lead plaintiff in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt