Trust Women: A Reflection of the Work We Do

The following was written by one of our abortion providers, Diane Horvath-Cosper, an obstetrician and gynecologist. 

In a hotel conference room in Seattle, a hush fell over the group of about 200 medical students as Dr. George Tiller made his way to the podium to give his keynote address, wearing a button on his lapel that read: “Trust Women”. Maybe I had expected someone so courageous to be loud and outspoken; I was caught off guard by the softness of his voice and the gentle way he spoke about his work. He related story after story of patients who had found themselves in need of his care and who had had nowhere else to turn for help. It was easy to imagine him as an island of calm during stressful circumstances. His career, cut short by his murder at the hands of an anti-choice terrorist, was built around the words on his lapel pin: Trust Women. Trust women to be the experts on their own lives, to know what’s best for themselves and their families, and to make their own healthcare decisions.

His career, cut short by his murder at the hands of an anti-choice terrorist, was built around the words on his lapel pin: Trust Women. Trust women to be the experts on their own lives, to know what’s best for themselves and their families, and to make their own healthcare decisions.

Like Dr. Tiller, I became an abortion provider because I trust pregnant people to make the choices that best fit their needs and values. The decision to have an abortion can be easy or difficult or anywhere in between, but in every single case, it’s the pregnant person’s decision to make.

This job isn’t always easy – my colleagues and I face threats from extremists, excessive and medically unnecessary regulations that harm our patients, and alienation from friends and family who do not support our work. What makes it worth the struggle is the tangible, positive impact we make on the lives of our patients. I will never forget the first person I cared for during my family planning fellowship who reached out and gripped my hand as I was leaving the room after completing her abortion procedure, and with tears in her eyes, whispered, “You saved my life.”

 After working in several other clinics in the 12 years since I graduated from medical school, I knew I wanted to work for an organization that shares my values and supports my advocacy for patients and colleagues.

Whole Woman’s Health recognizes that ongoing access to safe, compassionate abortion care isn’t possible unless we also actively engage in the political process in the courts and in the halls of government. Our fight extends well beyond abortion access – we must also advocate for better prenatal, birth, and postpartum care, affordable contraception that centers the needs of the patient, and the resources people need in order to raise their families in safe and healthy environments.

To truly align ourselves with the communities we serve, we need to recognize the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, age, ability, immigration status, and income, and understand how all of these factors and more impact our patients’ daily lives.

In a place like Baltimore, where abortion access enjoys sufficient legal protection but where children are still harmed by lead exposure, the maternal mortality rate is unacceptably high, and city residents are subject to systematized violence by institutions that are supposed to protect the public, we have a lot of work left to do.

As we approach the 9th anniversary of Dr. Tiller’s murder, I reflect on the importance of the work that we do at Whole Woman’s Health. Being able to decide if, when, and how to have a family helps people pursue educational opportunities, work their jobs, take care of the children they may already have, and realize their own hopes and dreams.

In addition to contraception, respectful pregnancy and birth care, and support for parenting, abortion services must always be an essential component of comprehensive, justice-based reproductive healthcare.

My patients trust me with some of the most intimate details of their lives and their bodies, during times when they may feel vulnerable and alone. As an abortion provider, my role is to provide safe, compassionate care in a stigma-free, shame-free environment, and to be worthy of the trust people have placed in me.

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Whole Woman’s Health Alliance Supports Mayor Buttigieg’s Decision to Veto Organization’s Attempt to Open

April 27, 2018 – (PRESS STATEMENT) 
The following statement was issued by Whole Woman’s Health Alliance:
“Today, we applaud Mayor Pete Buttigieg for standing up for what is right and putting women and families of South Bend first. This veto shows that he is  listening to the community and ensuring access to quality healthcare is available.

Whole Woman’s Health of South Bend is committed to providing comprehensive reproductive healthcare services with expert medical staff and physicians. We have enjoyed participating in open and honest conversations with key community leaders, community members and local allies and we look forward to continuing to build those lasting relationships as we continue the process of providing care to those that need it. As members of the South Bend community, and with broad support locally, Whole Woman’s Health of South Bend will always uphold the values of dignity, respect and compassion in the medical care we provide.”

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Whole Woman’s Health Alliance (WWHA) is working to strategically shift the stigma around abortion care in our culture and is committed to fostering open and honest conversations, lifting up all communities and transforming the abortion care environment. WWHA is a 501(c)3 organization leading powerful stigma eradication, culture change and community education work across the United States. The work is rooted in and informed by direct service work delivering high quality abortion care in many communities across the country. WWHA’s largest programs are the operation of clinics in Austin, Texas, Charlottesville, Virginia and South Bend, Indiana where we have opened new clinics in challenging places where access to quality abortion care is under attack.
For more information: www.wholewomanshealthalliance.org

Whole Woman’s Health Alliance Supports the Release of Activist Alejandra Pablos from Immigration Detention

Immigrant Rights and Reproductive Justice activist, Alejandra Pablos, has been detained at Eloy Detention Center in Arizona for over a month and will be appearing before a judge today.  The following statement was issued by of Whole Woman’s Health Alliance.

“Whole Woman’s Health Alliance supports the release of Alejandra Pablos from immigration detention and urge the immigration judge at her bond hearing to take into consideration Alejandra’s deep impact in our communities. In both Texas and Virginia, Whole Woman’s Health Allianceworks closely with the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health (NLIRH), the organization with which Alejandra works. The community organizing work led by Ms. Pablos and NLIRH is vital to ensuring that all communities have access to reproductive education and reproductive healthcare. Ms. Pablos is a valued member of the reproductive rights coalition in Virginia and is dedicated to advocating for the healthcare rights of all people in the state of Virginia.

Alejandra has made a deep impact in our communities and in the movements for reproductive rights, criminal justice reform, and immigrant rights around the country. We fully support her release from immigration detention. “

Whole Woman’s Health Alliance (WWHA) is working to strategically shift the stigma around abortion care in our culture and is committed to fostering open and honest conversations, lifting up all communities and transforming the abortion care environment. WWHA is a 501(c)3 organization leading powerful stigma eradication, culture change and community education work across the United States. The work is rooted in and informed by direct service work delivering high quality abortion care around the country. WWHA’s largest programs are the operation of clinics in Austin, Texas, Charlottesville, Virginia and South Bend, Indiana where we have opened new clinics in challenging places where access to quality care is under attack.

For more information: www.wholewomanshealthalliance.org

Preparing for Your Abortion

At Whole Woman’s Health, we provide the best medical care and a range of reproductive healthcare. Abortion care is our specialty, with outstanding physicians and trained, caring staff. You will be well cared for while you are with us, and we provide a follow-up appointment 2 weeks after your abortion, to make sure you’re feeling physically, mentally, and emotionally well enough to continue your regular activities.

Whether you choose to have a medication abortion at home or an in-clinic abortion, there are some things you can do beforehand to care for yourself post-abortion. With either procedure, you have the control to make this the experience you want it to be. We are here for you.

It should be noted that abortion is a very safe, common procedure and many women are able to resume regular activities in just a day or two following an abortion.

If you opt for a medication abortion, you’ll take the first pill (mifepristone) at the clinic. You’ll take the next set of pills (misoprostol) at home, 24-48 hours later. Most people will begin bleeding and cramping within about 1-2 hours of taking the misoprostol. The heavier bleeding and cramping typically lasts for 4-6 hours and most people will pass the pregnancy during this time.

In the case of a medication abortion, you have the choice of being in the comfort of your home, in the company of a friend or family member, or perhaps with a partner. Maybe your bedroom is your cozy place, or maybe you’ll want to be in your living room with the fireplace going. This is an abortion on your own terms, and can be a very empowering experience.

If you opt for an in-clinic abortion, your experience at home afterward will be a little different, but you’ll still want to prepare to recover once you get home. During your in-clinic procedure, we are still catering to you and want to make it a relaxing, comfortable place for you.

We’ve put together a checklist of the things you’ll want to have:

  • A support person who is aware of your situation, and can give you a ride, if needed.
  • Phone
  • Be within a one-hour drive of an emergency room
  • No obligations
  • Maxi pads (not tampons)
  • Thermometer
  • Plenty of fluids and light snacks
  • Ibuprofen and Tylenol

You’ll receive a similar checklist, along with a packet of information, to take home so you’ll know exactly what to expect while you’re at home.

In any case, consider this a time to practice self-care and spoil yourself a little! In additions to the checklist above, perhaps you’ll consider a few extra treats for yourself such as:

  • A few TV shows or movies to binge-watch
  • Your favorite snacks
  • A good book
  • A heating pad
  • Magazines
  • Cozy items: favorite blanket, warm slippers, fluffy pillow
  • Comfy clothes + underwear that will fit a maxi pad
  • Tea
  • Journal
  • Aromatherapy/essential oils

Don’t forget that 2-4 weeks after your abortion, you’ll have a follow-up appointment to make sure the procedure and healing went as planned. If you have any questions during this time, don’t hesitate to call your nurse at the number provided to you during your appointment.

Signs of Quality Care

At Whole Woman’s Health, it is our philosophy to maintain a holistic approach to healthcare. We understand that women experience medical issues with their whole selves, often including their families, their religion and beliefs, their history, and their dreams. We listen to women, trust women, and are here to guide them through their choices.

As part of our mission, we provide quality care that women deserve. But, what exactly does quality care mean? What does it look like?

Quality care is:

Patient-centered

Each woman must be at the center of her own healthcare decisions. Being patient-centered means each visit is customized for that patient and her needs. We are here for every step of the way, and we trust women to make the best healthcare decisions for their bodies, families, and lives.

Welcoming

No matter which Whole Woman’s Health clinic you visit, you’ll notice our signature purple walls, empowering women’s quotes and photos, down to soothing aromatherapy diffusers. On top of our inviting atmosphere, our medically trained and licensed staff is ready to help you in any way possible.

Non-judgmental

It is our mission to serve women and improve women’s health and happiness in the communities surrounding our clinics. No matter the situation, we are here to help and will never judge. No one gets pregnant to have an abortion, and every day, good women have abortions.

Educational

Whether you have questions about the abortion procedure, birth control, the recovery process, emotions, anything you can think of, we are here to educate and inform our patients and their loved ones with medically accurate information.

Supportive

We are here to offer support for our patients in many ways: through counseling and guidance, funding assistance, and further recommendations. Outside of the clinic, we are taking steps to improve abortion access in the communities and states in which we serve.

Navigating healthcare isn’t easy, and every state has their own laws and regulations for clinics, making it difficult to know if you’ve ended up in a place that works for you. Ultimately, it comes down to the way a medical facility makes you feel. Trust your gut, ask questions, and go with your instincts.

The Top 10 Reasons Whole Woman’s Health of South Bend Should Open

1. There are only 6 abortion clinics in the entire state of Indiana.

This means some women must drive more than three hours to receive abortion care. Distance creates an additional barrier for women who need care, especially when you consider other possible factors such as the cost of gas, arranging for a ride, scheduling childcare, or taking time off work, among others.

2. Political interference should not stand in the way of a woman’s access to safe abortion care.

Politicians like Mike Pence continue to push prohibitive legislation that prevents women from accessing the abortion care they need. Indiana is classified as “extremely hostile” to abortion rights, having passed new laws in recent years to burden women seeking abortion and force clinics to close. In 2014, some 95 percent of Indiana counties had no clinics that provided abortion care and 66 percent of Indiana women lived in those counties. Indiana now has only six clinics open to serve women in the state, dropping from 10 in 2011.

3. When women are denied the ability to choose what will happen to her body, they lose freedom.

Denying women the right to choose an abortion is a slippery slope to denial of other care including birth control, emergency contraception, and even proper prenatal care. When women can choose what happens to their bodies and when, they can also choose what’s right for their futures, their families, and themselves.

4. South Bend deserves the best in medicine, including the full range of reproductive health options for women.

“Whole Woman’s Health will provide access to services crucial to women’s physical, mental, and emotional well-being, thus filling a critical gap in reproductive health care in the South Bend community. When we deny a woman the ability to choose what will happen to her body, we take away her freedom to make decisions that are best for her and her family. We must ensure the rights of our community members to have a child, not have a child, and to parent children in a safe and healthy environment. If we focus only on the former, we perpetuate reproductive injustice at the expense of women, children, and families in our community.”

-Carmella Vizza, Leader of Indivisible Indiana District 2

5. Whole Woman’s Health and Whole Woman’s Health Alliance provides abortion care with dignity, respect, and compassion.

We are a group of women’s clinics providing comprehensive gynecology services, including abortion care. We are committed to destigmatizing abortion and creating safe spaces for all people, whether it’s within our clinics or in the communities where they live.

6. Each woman should be at the center of her own healthcare decisions.

We trust women to make decisions for themselves and their families. We are here to support them in what can often be a challenging time in their lives. It is our philosophy that each woman must be at the center of her own healthcare decisions, and we are proud to be a woman-owned, woman-centered, progressive business.

7. Treating each patient individually will better serve women and improve women’s health and happiness in communities where there is access to quality care.

It is our philosophy that treating each woman holistically — honoring her head, heart, and body — will better serve women and improve women’s health and happiness in our wider communities. We enter communities where we are needed the most, and we strive to raise the standard of care by offering compassionate, quality care, while also working to remove barriers to reproductive care.

8. When women have control of their healthcare, society wins.

It has been proven over many years that when women have access to birth control, the economy and the job market thrive. Results are similar when women have access to abortion care – they are able to plan their futures, which determines how they participate in society. When women have a choice of when or if they want to become a parent, they can also make choices about higher education, careers, travel, etc.

9. Whole Woman’s Health Alliance is dedicated to eradicating shame and stigma surrounding abortion care.

We remain to be a strong advocate and community pillar wherever we have clinics, becoming the voice of women’s reproductive justice in many communities where the state has attacked the women’s healthcare system, by decimating it and creating an environment that forces women to potentially take desperate measures. We pride ourselves in eradicating the stigma surrounding abortion as well as ensuring that all women have safe, affordable access to abortion care.

10. Good women have abortions.

The people we serve come from all walks of life – from young college students to teenagers to professional women to stay at home moms; from religious folks and spiritual people to women struggling to figure out what they believe; from women with insurance to women who have no health care safety net and need financial support. The fact is, there is not just one kind of woman who has an abortion. Abortion is a normal part of women’s reproductive lives and nearly 40% of American women will have an abortion by the age of 45. We understand that no one gets pregnant to have an abortion. We also understand that facing an unplanned pregnancy and choosing abortion involves all the big things in women’s lives – examination of identity, life, death, sex, religion, family; your dreams and your aspirations.

Yes, We Want It: A Response to ‘The Abortion Memo’

 

The following was written as a response to David Brooks’ editorial, “The Abortion Memo”, which was published in The New York Times on February 1st.

I am The Director of Clinical Services at Whole Woman’s Health and support the management of our clinics in Baltimore, Minneapolis, Peoria and soon to be South Bend. As someone who has worked my whole career listening to the hearts and minds of women and families and ensuring they have to access safe, compassionate abortion care, I have some comments and questions for David Brooks and his “Abortion Memo.”

First, it’s always refreshing to have a man tell women how we should act and feel in regard to our rights, reproduction and fertility.  And though women are always a favorite scapegoat, abortion (and by extension, women) are not to blame for the polarization of all of American politics.

You assert that Democratic donors “want to preserve a women’s right to choose through all nine months of pregnancy.” This is directly out of the anti-abortion handbook (and Donald Trump’s mouth) – and you are smart enough to know better. A woman doesn’t have the right to “choose” through all nine months. She has the right to obtain an abortion in the 3rd trimester of pregnancy only if the fetus has health issues incompatible with life, if the pregnancy threatens her life, if she was raped, etc. (you know, what it says in the Roe v. Wade decision). And there are a grand total of about 3 places in the entire country that she can go to have this procedure done. So guess how many women even have that “choice” in reality?  Very few.  Even in the 2nd trimester, most states have passed such restrictive laws that there is no reality to that choice. When was the last time you were pregnant with a desperately wanted pregnancy and the fetus had Trisomy 13 and would absolutely die and you didn’t have the money or resources to get to Colorado and stay for 4 days and take off work and find care for your kids and pay for a hotel room and buy a plane ticket and so instead you had to continue your doomed pregnancy, walking around for the next two months hearing people congratulate you while carrying a fetus that is dead or soon will be? STFU! If this is what you call us “having our way” then yes, we want it.

And the age old, “don’t worry about Roe because the issue will just go back to the states.” Who cares about the tens of thousands of women in more than half the states where abortion would be illegal (see travel concerns listed above) who are totally screwed? You assert that “…states would hammer out the sort of compromise the European nations have, legal in the first months, difficult after that.” Guess what, that is the system we have now except the “difficult” part exists in the first months too, especially for poor women or women in rural areas (see travel concerns listed above). Even for abortion in the “first months,” 87% of counties in the US have no abortion provider. If demanding access to basic health care in our own communities is “having our way” then yes, we want it.

Then here comes the argument about advances in medicine and “babies are now viable outside the womb at 22 weeks.” I would argue that is a huge overstatement which doesn’t address the fact that just because a fetus is potentially viable at that gestation that it will actually survive and survive to grow into a healthy child. It doesn’t address the disparities in health care and the fact that survival that early is unlikely unless you are white, live in an urban area with a trauma one hospital and have excellent health insurance. Even then the odds aren’t good. That is actually all beside the point. Even if a fetus is viable or “cognitively active” does that now mean women who are pregnant become human incubators who forfeit their human rights and bodily autonomy? Hello Handmaid’s Tale! If claiming basic rights that men have had since the dawn of time is “having our way” then yes, we want it.

Mr. Brooks’ argument is essentially that women should just take one for the team. As if we haven’t been thrown under the bus, scapegoated and subjugated for centuries…we should just keep doing that a little bit longer. Thanks for the thought, but no.