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Our Favorite Moments from WWH v. Hellerstedt Oral Arguments, with GIFs!

It’s safe to say that this past Wednesday will be forever held dearly in our hearts. We had the opportunity to share our mission with the Supreme Court in defense of the human rights Texas women and all people of reproductive ability should be guaranteed. The Rally at the Supreme Court to Protect Abortion Access was beyond inspiring and life giving, and while there will definitely be more on that to come – for now we’d like to highlight our favorite exchanges that occurred within the Court during oral arguments. For added context, we’ve paired each with a gif (naturally).

You can also listen to the whole exchange here or read it here.

 

First the hearing started off with Stephanie Toti:

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There was some major  back and forth between most of the Justices and Stephanie Toti in regards to what *actual proof* there was to support that the Texas clinics that closed actually did so because of the laws. Finally, Justice Kagan shut it down:

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Although, some of our favorite parts of the arguments were between the Justices and Texas Solicitor General Scott Keller. Like this one between he and Justice Sotomayor:

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…and this one:

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…and this one

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We also fangirled over each moment when the lady Justices were on their game, proving why this whole HB2 thing is complete nonsense that just needs to end:

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And other times when you could tell the guys were starting to get it, like ‘oh wait, this actually doesn’t make any sense at all.’

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There were also a few real zingers thrown in there, showing that the high court can determine the direction of our country while maintaining a sparkling sense of humor.

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At the end of it all, we are confident that our argument resonated with the Justices – thanks to statements like this:

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…and this:

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…and because it’s clear we had the best lawyer and legal team in Stephanie Toti and The Center for Reproductive Rights that a lead plaintiff could ask for:)

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Countdown to SCOTUS: Three quotes that show why WWH v. Hellerstedt matters for blue states, too.

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt started in Texas with HB 2. It’s the story of compounding restrictions and legislation, legal caveats that chip away and dissolve a constitutional right. This story is most often told in red states like Texas, North Dakota, and Mississippi.
It would be a mistake to think that the compounded attack on abortion access neatly holds itself within red state borders, leaving more liberal states to continue their role as progressive beacons. One would need to look no further than what’s happened in Ohio to see that’s just not the case, or read any (but hopefully all) of the quotes below from amicus briefs filed on our behalf from blue cities and states across the country.

 

“Amici also have an interest in ensuring that each State satisfies its constitutional obligation to protect the right to terminate a pregnancy within its borders. Residents of the Amici States should be able to exercise their constitutional rights in any State to which they may travel. Moreover, a substantial reduction in the availability of abortion services in one State is likely to cause some women to seek services in other States, thereby potentially limiting the regulatory choices available to those States and burdening their health-care systems.”
 
 
 
“..in analyzing the extent of the burden imposed by the ASC and admitting-privileges requirements as applied to women in El Paso, the Fifth Circuit erred by considering the availability of abortion services in the neighboring State of New Mexico. This Court should reject that approach because it misapprehends the fundamental principle, affirmed by the Court in analogous contexts, that each State bears  an independent obligation to ensure that its laws do not infringe the constitutional rights of persons within its borders. By disregarding this principle, the Fifth Circuit validated restrictions that effectively deny women the ability to access abortion services in their home State and force them to travel elsewhere to access those services.”
 
 
 
“Even if women are not deterred or prevented from seeking abortions by the absence of nearby clinics, the burden of restrictive state abortion laws is not geographically confined. The spill-over harms extend to cities and counties where clinics remain open—both in states that have enacted restrictive laws and in neighboring states without similar restrictions. An influx of women seeking time-sensitive abortion services at a diminishing number of clinics and hospitals will jeopardize timely access to vital reproductive healthcare to millions of amici’s residents.
 
 
 
This is neither hyperbole nor speculation. In some parts of the country, practical access to legal abortion services may already be worse today—some states are down to only one abortion clinic—than at any point since this Court recognized a constitutional right for women to choose abortion in Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973)”

Please join us this week as we stand up for abortion access for Texans and for residents in red states AND blue states. Show your support on social media by changing your profile picture or joining the Thunderclap – and watch the live stream of the Rally at the Supreme Court to Protect Abortion Access here!

 

 

 

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Countdown to SCOTUS: Six quotes that dispell the ‘women’s health and safety’ argument.

There are just SIX days left until the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments for Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Last night we got the heartbreaking news that the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld similar legislation in Louisiana, forcing the probable closure of all but one abortion clinic in the state.

The fight against HB2 has always been about Texas, but this news is a stark reminder that we’re fighting to protect abortion access for ALL of us, in each and every state. Whatever decision the judges make will surely have national implications.We would like to take this moment to shed light on the fact that these restrictions are 100 percent not about protecting women’s health and safety, but are instead about shutting down providers and making abortion unavailable to the women and people who need it.

Below are six quotes from the recent duo of articles to come out of Bloomberg Business that dive into the absolute absurdity of these requirements:

“…but the majority of clinics, like South Wind, are independent nonprofits or small businesses. To function, they must contend with standards that vary from state to state. Advocacy organizations including Americans United for Life and National Right to Life have spent 40 years drafting and lobbying for rules that make operating abortion clinics highly difficult, such as the requirement that the clinics meet surgical center standards.”

“Ohio Department of Health documents obtained by Burkons’s attorney show that 33 other health-care facilities that applied for licenses from 2011 to 2015 waited a median of about 15 days between being inspected and receiving a license or a plan of correction that led to a license. Five months after his inspection and pressure from his attorneys, whose $400-per-hour rates quickly added up to about $15,000, the Ohio Department of Health told Burkons that because of six violations, it was denying his license. According to a list of ASC license requests issued by the state, all seven of the other surgical centers cited for violations from 2011 to 2015 were not denied and were allowed to make immediate corrections.”

“In 2012, Governor John Kasich appointed Ohio Right to Life’s president, Michael Gonidakis, a lawyer with no medical background, to the state’s medical board, which oversees physician licenses.”

“Troy Newman: “We do everything legal and moral to make sure these abortion clinics aren’t able to open up. We’ll talk to landlords. We’ll talk to neighbors. We’ll send postcards out asking not to rent, lease, or sell to an abortionist.” Conway, of Texas Right to Life, says that when anti-abortion organizations in her state “hear a rumbling” about an abortion clinic coming to town, activists will go to the local permit office “almost on a daily basis” until documents with contractors’ names are available. Then they blast the contractors with phone calls and organize boycotts.”

“At no time since before 1973, when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion, has a woman’s ability to terminate a pregnancy been more dependent on her zip code or financial resources to travel. The drop-off in providers—more than one every two weeks—occurred in 35 states, in both small towns and big cities that are home to more than 30 million women of reproductive age.”

… and lastly (not a quote, but still relevant so we’re counting it.)

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Don’t forget to join us on March 2nd for the Rally to Protect Abortion Access and click here to find out how you can stand in solidarity with us in this fight!

 

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WWH v. Hellerstedt: Seven Days to SCOTUS! (with GIFs)

TODAY marks just one week until the Supreme Court hears oral arguments for Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. That’s seven more days of anxious waiting. Of diligent planning. Of running through every possible judicial scenario for the 20th time (including the one where RBG calls your name and asks you to join her as a special guest judge.. *swoon*).  We’ve been fighting these laws since 2013 (even longer if you think about the history of TRAP legislation) and we’re SO close. Seven days. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. O. M. G.

One thing for sure is that we could absolutely not have done this without help on the ground from local Texas organizations as well as the flood of support that came from across the country in the form of amicus (‘friend of the court’) briefs.

To mark this special countdown, we’re highlighting quotes from seven of the 40+ amicus briefs that were submitted to the Supreme Court in our favor!

 

“H.B. 2’s challenged requirements place an undue burden on Latinas’ right to choose whether to continue or end a pregnancy by creating a substantial obstacle to abortion access. The District Court correctly observed that a “woman with means, the freedom and ability to travel, and the desire to obtain an abortion, will always be able to obtain one, in Texas or elsewhere. However, Roe’s essential holding guarantees to all women, not just those of means, the right to a previability abortion.” The National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health

 

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There is thus no medical basis from which to conclude that women’s health would be advanced by requiring that clinicians obtain the local privileges mandated by H.B. 2. Indeed, such a requirement is out of step with prevailing medical practice and imposes an unnecessary restriction on the ability of clinicians to provide abortion care.” – American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists

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“Although Texas has justified H.B. 2 as legislation intended to improve the health of women in the state, Texas’s track record suggests otherwise. This Court should take into account Texas’s failure to implement various health promotion policies as it assesses whether the purpose behind H.B. 2 withstands constitutional scrutiny.” – National Association of Social Workers

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“Delays resulting from clinic closures raise the cost of abortion procedures as well as the ancillary costs associated with getting to the procedure, missing work, arranging for childcare, etc. For low-income patients, the delays from clinic closures are layered on top of the delays they already suffer as a result of needing time to scrape together funds to pay for the procedure.”  National Network of Abortion Funds

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Access to abortion is even more critical for rape victims. Rape inherently involves violation of the victim’s liberty by her rapist. A pregnancy resulting from rape further exacerbates the violation of the woman’s liberty, whether the pregnancy lasts weeks or months. The State should not compound the injury by denying her reasonable access to a safe abortion, thereby forcing the woman to endure further victimization.” – Texas Association Against Sexual Assault

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“The proliferation of restrictive abortion laws like H.B. 2 across the states in recent years is no coincidence. These laws reflect a concerted effort to undermine this Court’s holdings in Roe and Casey by securing the enactment of pretextual health and safety laws that chip away at women’s constitutional rights. Their ultimate goal, however, is not to promote women’s health and safety, but to achieve the reversal of Roe, which this Court reaffirmed was settled law in Casey.” –  163 Members of Congress

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The reality is that individuals seeking an abortion have complex lives — they deserve trust, respect and access. The Amicus Brief from 12 Reproductive Justice organizations says it simply, but so perfectly.

“Courts may not “blind [them]selves to the fact[s]” of women’s lives.”

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Help us continue our countdown by showing your support online! Color your Facebook profile purple in solidarity and register for the Thunderclap.

If you’re in Washington D.C. make sure to join us at the Rally to Protect Abortion Access or stay tuned for more information about watching coverage online. We’ll be there speaking (in purple, of course) in front of the Capitol along with other local and national advocates in this fight!

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We’ll leave you here with the thorough (and NSFW) take down of these sham laws from our favorite TV Brit, John Oliver:

 

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Amy Hagstrom Miller: Champion of Choice

Last night, Whole Woman’s Health president and CEO, Amy Hagstrom Miller, was honored by NARAL Pro-Choice America as Champion of Choice for her leadership in bringing the fight against HB 2 to the U.S. Supreme Court.

With exactly two weeks until oral arguments are heard on March 2nd – she had this to say:

Thank you for this honor and for inviting me here this evening. I am very touched to receive this award and to be asked to share a few words with you tonight.

 First, I want to start with a big thank your to The Center for Reproductive Rights for representing us and for securing the injunction we currently have from the Supreme Court. They are fierce advocates to whom we all owe a giant round of applause.

Second, a loud shout out to my Whole Woman’s Health team members across the country. We are a fabulous group of women and men who deliver impeccable care to women day in and day out. My team has endured many challenges since HB2 went into effect in Texas and they are bruised and battered beyond what you could imagine. I hope you are able to come to the Rally at the Supreme Court on March 2nd and meet Marva, Fatimah, Andrea, Bhavik, Kristeena and other Whole Woman’s Health folks in person. They deserve a round of applause and our supreme respect.

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

I have fought like hell and done my best 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 this lawsuit and shared thousands of documents with the state as part of the discovery process in this case – openly sharing our emails, our financial information, our leases, our mortgages, our doctor contracts.

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

Over these past 3 years I have chosen to open the doors of all of my clinics in an unprecedented way – inviting documentarians, press and on-camera reporters into our clinics – to 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 share openly and honestly about the work that we do. This is not easy, this takes lots of 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.

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

So why, you may ask, do I do it? For me, abortion care is a calling.

Abortion involves all the big things in life – life, death, sex, family, religion, money, identity, self-esteem, and stigma – as you all know, it is a lightning 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.

I firmly believe that our national, public discourse around abortion needs to SHIFT. Our conversations are plagued by simplistic dualism that begs for more complexity, for more nuance; for embracing the grey, the ambiguity, and the depth of feeling that people in our culture have about abortion. The laws we are dealing with stem directly from our silence and the shame and stigma that surrounds abortion in this country.

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. Not because they are idiots or Texans are dumb – but because they have a well thought out, well-funded, strategic plan that is working.

As we all 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.

Every day, all across the world, 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.

Over these past three years being at the center of this storm I have come to think of the national news coverage as Tragedy Porn. The sensational way Texas is presented in the news can allow people to think it is crazy and over there and won’t happen to them…. When in fact it can and it will. The truth is that the feelings and beliefs of a few can shut down access and constitutional rights for thousands. We need everyone taking real action to shift this culture.  Especially those in progressive states – we need you to lead the way and to show what’s possible; to stand firm and show what actual rights look like when they are accessible to all women.

As I wrap up I will leave you with this – 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, and that people who seek abortion care will be respected and know that they are not alone.

I need you to speak up and out, do not let anti-abortion rhetoric go unchallenged. Do not allow our opposition to hijack the moral high ground. I’d like a world where no woman comes into my clinics thinking she is the only woman 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.

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 that women are good, to affirm that women are moral and kind, and to affirm that women are not selfish. As we listen to her, 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. Let’s make sure all women hear these messages both inside and outside our clinic doors – from DC to California to Minnesota to Texas and all the states in between.

We need your leadership in order to hang on on the front lines in Texas. I welcome your support, and I welcome your donations. If you would like to support our sigma eradication and culture change work on the front lines I invite you to make a donation to our 501©3, Shift,  by visiting www.shiftstigma.org

Thank you again to Ilyse and NARAL for being such fierce allies and thank you to all of you, so very much. Here’s to a win for Whole Woman’s Health in the Supreme Court. We will see you in two weeks for Oral Arguments!

(Cover photo courtesy of Renee Bracey Sherman)

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Texans Honor Roe Anniversary with Promise to Fight Back

On Friday, January 22nd, Whole Woman’s Health, along with our Texas coalition partners, NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, the Texas Research Institute, the Texas Freedom Network, the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, ACLU of Texas, Shift, Planned Parenthood Texas Votes, and the Center for Reproductive Rights, honored the 43rd Anniversary of Roe v. Wade with a rally to support the upcoming Supreme Court case, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt (formerly Cole) and to kick off the Fight Back Texas 2016 Truth Tour!

Just like the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt is a fight that started in Texas and is set to hit the national stage (although we’ve been in the national spotlight since the Wendy Davis filibuster). This case will transform the way abortion is accessed in the United States by either blocking unjust laws, or opening the floodgates for them to spread state-by-state.

The disastrous impact of HB2 is more than theoretical. It is intimately felt in our communities, our neighborhoods, and in our homes. The Fight Back Texas Truth Tour will be visiting these communities over the next few weeks to shine a bright light on those voices and to reaffirm our pledge to fight back against laws that do nothing more than remove a person’s ability to determine the course of their life.

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So, what better day to launch the Truth Tour than the 43rd Anniversary of Roe v. Wade!? We were joined on that chilly (some would say it was straight up frigid) afternoon at the Texas State Capitol with rally MC, Lizz Winstead and some of the most vocal, steadfast abortion rights supporters in Texas.

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Photo-20160124165834284.jpgPlanned Parenthood Texas Votes – partners in the fight against HB2!

 

Photo-20160124165834416.jpgAmanda Williams, first ever executive director for the Lilith Fund of Reproductive Equity, giving an interview before the rally starts.

 

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“This is what a wall of choice looks like!” Rally MC Lizz Winstead, Daily Show co-founder and creator of Lady Parts Justice!

 

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Don’t let those blue skies fool you, it was coooooooold!

 

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“We must all stand together.” Senator Kirk Watson, a driving force behind the Wendy Davis filibuster (who also stood the entire duration) and vocal abortion-rights supporter, was the second speaker to take the stage.

 

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“Some lawmakers at the Capital work session after session to strip away our rights. These legislators pander to a vocal minority. They are working against your interests.” TX State Representative Donna Howard.

 

Photo-20160124165834674.jpg“I want to help break the cycle of abortion stigma.” President of the UT student chapter of the Texas Freedom Network.

 

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“I let them know that we are here w/out judgment despite whatever law is in place. Every day we hear their stories and try to give them a voice that this decision is ok for them to make. In the end these laws are only hurting thousands of Texans and perpetuating a cycle that takes away decisions for women.” Marva Sadler, director of clinical services for Whole Woman’s Health.

 

Photo-20160124165834775.jpg“Y’all, the Hyde Amendment should have never been passed.” So much truth coming from Sofia Peña of La Frontera Fund!

 

Photo-20160124165834826.jpg“El Pueblo undo, jamás cera vencido!” Lucy Felix, NLIRH.

 

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“At Whole Woman’s Health our clinic staff and doctor’s care for women across Texas who have faced significant barriers accessing the abortion care they need, and that lack of access is only going to get worse unless we get intervention from the Supreme Court. Women need care in their local communities; no matter where they live, or what their status is, women deserve to have the option to go to a local clinic they trust.” Amy Hagstrom Miller, president & CEO of Whole Woman’s Health.

 

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Amy Hagstrom Miller posing with members of the El Paso urge chapter! Over 30 drove the distance to show their support in person at the rally!
Thanks again to everyone who came out for the rally! You can continue to show your support for the fight against HB2! Text ‘Fight Back’ to 97779 or click here to sign the pledge and stay tuned for more informaton regarding the Truth Tour!

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Two Letters of Support

Last week we received the following letters from two of our patients. These letters are a reminder to all of us that how you provide care is just as important as the service itself.

Letter #1

Dear Whole Woman’s Health,

We have been here twice this year in sadness (terminating for medical reasons). I always meant to send you a card last time, so here it finally is.

Thank you for being here and helping us care for our family as best we can. Thank you for being here for all women, regardless of circumstance. Thank you for your work despite the fear and intimidation.

We appreciate every one of you so much. Thanks for your courage, care and compassion. We stand with you.

 

Letter #2

Dear Whole Woman’s Health,

In a world that judges your decisions, mistakes, and path you choose to recover from them – I was so happy to be around a whole staff of women who seemed to get it. From making an appointment, walking in, and leaving out, I felt a sense of sisterhood that movies are made of. I felt like I had people on my side no matter what I decided was best for me. They were nonjudgmental and there to support whatever decision I made with information and know-how.

I never once felt awkward or as if I should second guess myself. I never once felt unsafe or unsure. I felt that I would be taken care of from start to finish and I could always call back if I was confused or needed help with anything. I would refer a loved one, friend, or stranger with the confidence of knowing they would walk away satisfied from the service they received.