Statement from Amy Hagstrom Miller, President and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health on Today’s Supreme Court #HB2 Stay

“Today I truly breathe a deep sigh of relief  as the the Supreme Court of the United States protected our three Whole Woman’s Health clinics in West Texas and the Rio Grande Valley from shutting their doors by partially blocking components of Texas’ omnibus anti-choice law, HB2.

I just can’t stop smiling since I heard the news an hour ago – all this work, all this time, and all this uncertainty for my team and the women that we serve. Always knowing that we stand on the right side of history, yet always being careful not to hope too much. But today we did it. We kept Texas’ clinics open. Calling my team in McAllen and my team in Fort Worth just now was so rewarding – to tell them that the clinics will stay open, and that the jobs they love so much serving women will be there for them next week and beyond. They were cheering.

As you know this law, which was recently upheld by the Fifth Circuit Court, would have had a catastrophic impact on women and families across the state of Texas. We’re relieved that the high court has, once again, prevented anti-choice politicians’ from pushing safe and affordable abortion care entirely out of reach for the women in these communities.

Let me be clear: these restrictions have nothing to do with protecting women. HB2 is anti-choice legislators’ thinly veiled attempt to make abortion unavailable and unaffordable by closing down clinics. Today’s ruling only reinforces the fact that requiring every abortion clinic to turn into a surgical center is both excessive and medically unnecessarily.

We understand that these court decisions are changing the status of this law from  day to day. We are committed to ensuring that Texas women know that abortion is still LEGAL and, despite anti-choice lawmakers’ best efforts, it is also still available. If women have questions about where they can go to end an pregnancy, I would encourage them to call our newly established hotline at 1 (877) 833-9190.

We are emboldened by the Court’s decision, but know that this fight is far from over. We will continue to stand with the women of Texas to ensure they have access to affordable abortion care when they need it. As my staff just said to me when I called them an hour ago – we will be here no matter what, we get knocked down and still we rise. We are in it for the long haul, and today is a really good day!”

 

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An Announcement from our CEO – Meet Whole Woman’s Health of Peoria!

Whole Woman’s Health is pleased to announce that we have opened a new clinic location in Peoria, Illinois! We will proudly be carrying forward the work done here for 40 years by the staff and physicians at National Health Care of Peoria. When the National Health Care team called us earlier this year to let us know that they were interested in selling the clinic after one of their owners had passed away and the remaining owner was ill, we were honored that they would choose Whole Woman’s Health to work with in crafting a succession plan that would work for their team and for the many women they serve here in Peoria. It didn’t take long after we first came to visit – in what is called the heart of Illinois – for us to become impressed with this tight-knit team and beautiful clinic.

As mentioned, Whole Woman’s Health of Peoria is in the heart of Central Illinois, about 180 miles Southwest of Chicago and 190 miles North of St. Louis. We are members of the National Abortion Federation, The Abortion Care Network, and we are a licensed Pregnancy Termination Center by the state of Illinois. We provide quality abortion care to 16 weeks and are staffed by board certified Ob/Gyn physicians, nurses, and a phenomenal leadership team.

All of us at Whole Woman’s Health are truly honored to take the legacy of National Health Care forward into the future and to keep access to safe, quality, independent abortion care a reality for women in Central Illinois.

Later this week, right here on this blog, we will introduce you to Margaret, our fearless leader here in Peoria who has been at this clinic for over 40 years. We are honored to have her help in this transition and to lead Whole Woman’s Health of Peoria as we get established here to continue to serve this wonderful community.

Cheers form the heart of Illinois, where access to safe abortion will remain for many, many years to come! It’s Margaret’s legacy and Whole Woman’s Health’s mission.

– Amy

Whole Woman's Health of Peoria Square

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“…you made a difference in my world.”

Dear Whole Woman’s Health Staff:

I was in your care while making one of the most difficult decisions of my life. I don’t remember anyone’s name – the day is a bit of a blur – but I wanted to thank you all for making such a difficult day that much less difficult by providing me (and the other women) with such a supportive, safe, gentle, and loving environment. Thank you.

I’m so glad I had the option of coming to you. I know your jobs must be difficult but rewarding and I wanted to let you all know that you made a difference in my world.

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Positive snaps from the EmpowerLine

Meet Emily: Your abortion navigator and all-around helpful person

When we talk about abortion providers, stories usually center around the physicians, administrators, staff and volunteers who work directly with patients in the clinic. The abortion experience does not only happen within the walls of a clinic, though. What about the before? Or the after?

Our EmpowerLine team is the touchpoint for our patients and their support people in those before, during, and after spaces. Collectively we have over one thousand phone conversations each week with people all across the country regarding waiting periods, insurance and funding options, emotional needs, and more. The EmpowerLine is Whole Woman’s Health values of empowerment and holistic care personified, with a little quirk.

We're Mirenas!

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

We sat down with Emily, one of our Women’s Health Advocates to talk about working in the EmpowerLine and the role of phone service within the abortion experience.

Why work in the EmpowerLine? Is there something to helping people over the phone?

I like the EL (EmpowerLine) because we can speak with people across the country with so many different situations. The stigma surrounding abortion makes it so people don’t know what to expect when they come into an abortion clinic. They have this image in their head that isn’t welcoming or good. It’s nice to put their mind at ease, to explain to them what they’ll be experiencing.

The more you know about what you’re about to go through, the more relaxed you’ll be. It’s nice to be able to dispel some of the myths that women have about abortions, e.g. not being able to get pregnant again. To be able to answer those concerns and then hear the relief, it’s very powerful. You can come into the clinic and receive support here, and that’s great, but you need to have support before as well.

Why should people call the EmpowerLine?

The level of advocacy that we have. The funding resources. We really do go above and beyond. For example, if they’re Catholic and having trouble reconciling that we’ll give them the information for Faith Aloud or Catholics for Choice. I like to think of us like a web.

We’re more than just a call center because we can talk through feelings, questions, concerns. It’s more than just setting up appointments. It’s beyond that. It’s more holistic. We may be speaking on the phone, but we’re developing personal connections. Often times people will call back multiple times, asking for us by name because we’ve developed those connections.

A lot of women will travel from really far away. They can’t come in and have extended counseling, or they don’t have the time etc., not everyone can just come in and take a day off or something to speak to a person. The EmpowerLine is only a phone call away and we always encourage people to call back with questions or concerns no matter how big or small. Women are busy. Sometimes you’re only able to make a phone call and so it’s important that there is someone on the other end who’s really listening.

Emily

Emily sitting at her desk in the EmpowerLine

What kinds of conversations stick out in your mind?

The most meaningful conversations I have are with the people who have all the myths in their mind. They’ve only heard the anti-choice language, but they find themselves in need of our services. So I get to take the time and explain how abortion actually works – that this is actually a very safe, non-invasive procedure.

What changed for you when you started working in abortion care?

Before working here I didn’t realize how common [abortion] was. How one out of three women have an abortion in their lifetime. Most are mothers. We see patients who range from being children to their 50s. It’s not just teenagers, or poor people, or single people. I now think about it more as a regular part of women’s healthcare. It’s not this separate, like, fringe thing. It’s a healthcare service like any other. 

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One of the things that makes Whole Woman’s Health unique is our openness and support for people seeking second trimester abortion care..

There are so many different reasons why women have abortions further along in their pregnancies. Because until you hear their stories, you can’t pass judgement. It’s not a ‘oh, I just didn’t get around to it.’ I had one woman who spent months thinking she was going through menopause and it turned out she was pregnant. Or, there was a patient who was assaulted and in a state of shock for so long that she simply didn’t comprehend that she was pregnant. The people who have abortions further in their pregnancy have special situations. And money… the money chase. Sometimes money is the largest barrier between someone and the abortion they need. 

Anything else?

I like to be able to say that I work at an abortion clinic because abortion is not a dirty word and the more we say it the more it’s less hush hush. It’s not something to be ashamed of. I work here with pride. The more I share my knowledge with other people, the more that conversation happens and the more people get interested and it opens doors to other people. And that’s what needs to happen across the country. Conversations that are being had around abortion.

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Shift. Real Talk on Abortion. postcards

Amy Hagstrom Miller is *so over* abortion stigma, formally launches Shift.

On Tuesday our Founder & CEO, Amy Hagstrom Miller launched a new non-profit initiative, Shift, that aims to change the way we talk about abortion in Texas. We’re talking real information about access, safety, laws, funding and stigma.

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The response was overwhelmingly positive! Many of you showed up to give your support and those who couldn’t make it gave beautiful messages of encouragement. It was moving, and reminded us that we all fight the fight in good company!

Amy Hagstrom Miller shares her vision for Shift. during the launch party.

Amy Hagstrom Miller shares her vision for Shift. during the launch party.

Shift. Real Talk on Abortion. print materials.

Shift. informational materials

Shift. Real Talk on Abortion.  postcards

Shift. postcards

Deputy Director Fatimah Gifford preparing for the Shift. launch party

Shift. Deputy Director Fatimah Gifford preparing for the launch party.

Shift. Real Talk on Abortion. swag

Shift. swag (click to get yours)

Shift. Real Talk on Abortion. t-shirts and tote bags. Proceeds from these go towards the Whole Woman's Health Stigma Relief Fund!

Shift. t-shirts and tote bags. Money used to purchase Shift. gear goes directly to helping Whole Woman’s Health patients through the Stigma Relief Fund.

The launch party also gave us an opportunity to show off the new ChoiceWorks coworking space! Just under a year ago we were forced to close our beloved Austin flagship clinic due to the onerous HB2. Ever since we’ve been searching for a use that would both benefit from and honor the history of the space, and we think we’ve found it!

“Keep going, keep working, keep fighting because you know that Texas women and the men that are strong enough to love them, will not stop. We will not stop standing, we will not stop fighting.” Rep. Jessica Farrar

Conference table in the ChoiceWorks coworking space.

Conference table in the ChoiceWorks coworking space.

Image of Jessica Farrar in the Texas State Capitol

Artwork of Rep. Jessica Farrar in the Texas State Capitol

Images from the Shift launch party at the new ChoiceWorks space.

We’ll definitely have more to share about ChoiceWorks – but for now, let’s get back to Shift! This week held the formal introduction of the organization as well as the Facebook and Twitter pages, and there are more projects in the works!

The first is the website shiftstigma.org to help women in Texas get accurate information on abortion. This includes how the abortion works, contact information for state abortion providers, funding information, navigating the legal requirements, and links to all of the wonderful allies who are able to help with everything from pregnancy options counseling to judicial bypass. This website has you covered.

The second is the Safe Abortion Hotline, staffed with people who can compassionately and respectfully walk callers through any of the above information. The Safe Abortion Hotline will provide accurate, comprehensive, and non-judgmental information about abortion options and access.

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These resources are just the beginning. There will be more additions to the website over time, in addition to more stigma busting projects. Make sure to follow the Shift social media pages to stay in the loop for new announcements!

We all deserve to have accurate, unbiased information about abortion. Pregnant people deserve to know that when they call a number, visit a website, or walk into a clinic, that they will be receiving medically sound information and care. The prevalence of abortion stigma allows the misinformation and shaming to continue and grow.  It’s time to change that It’s time to Shift.

Shift the culture around abortion stigma. Tell one person about Shift.*ChoiceWorks photos courtesy of Laurie Felker Jones. Shift. materials features photography from Aundre Larrow

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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

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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.