“We must do more to keep teens healthy.

And that begins with better instruction for those who care for adolescents and improving teens' access to comprehensive reproductive health care.”

Michelle Staples-Horne, MD, MPH

Teen Reproductive Health

As physicians, we believe that all people--regardless of their age--should have the knowledge, equal access to quality services, and freedom to make their own reproductive health care decisions.

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2013 Abortion Provider Awards Presented to Doctors from New Mexico and Chicago

 Two doctors honored for their unwavering commitment to providing reproductive health services

New York, NY—Last night, Physicians for Reproductive Health (Physicians) honored two doctors at its annual Rashbaum-Tiller Awards ceremony:

Actor Martha Plimpton—known for her roles in film and television and as one of the founders of A is For…, an advocacy organization allied with the reproductive health movement—delivered an inspiring keynote address thanking physicians who provide abortions and calling for support of their lifesaving work.

In her introduction, Physicians President and CEO Jodi Magee said: “With this year’s awards we recognize two providers who are remarkable individuals, highly regarded in their professions, and outstanding examples of commitment in their work and advocacy on behalf of women’s health. Indeed, for both of these wonderful physicians, there is virtually no distinction between the three—their lives, their careers, and their advocacy all go hand in hand.”

Eve Espey, MD, MPH, is a former Physicians board member currently serving as Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Associate Dean of Students, and Family Planning Division Chief at the University of New Mexico. Dr. Espey is a nationally recognized expert in the field of long-acting reversible contraception and is dedicated to reducing unintended pregnancy through the increased use of contraceptives. “In places like New Mexico, barriers are magnified, hurdles are higher and challenges are more daunting,” said Dr. Espey while accepting her award from Dr. Linda Prine, last year’s Rashbaum Award winner. “When I am sitting bruised in my chair in the ring, from threats from Operation Rescue, from opposition in the hospital…. [I’m reminded] there is no more important work than helping women realize their potential through access to reproductive health care.

Willie Parker, MD, MPH, MSc, accepted the George Tiller, MD, Abortion Provider Award, from Dr. Douglas Laube, Physicians’ current board chair and Dr. Parker’s professor in residency.  For several years, Dr. Parker, a Physicians board member, has traveled extensively to provide abortions to women in underserved areas with the most restrictive laws. On accepting his award, Dr. Parker remarked, “We who provide abortions do so because our patients need us, and that’s what we are supposed to do: respond to the needs of our patients. I think that Holocaust survivor and Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel said it best: ‘Our lives no longer belong to us alone; they belong to all those who need us desperately.’”

Martha Plimpton gave an impassioned speech celebrating providers and their work to break down barriers to comprehensive reproductive health care access. Ms. Plimpton emphasized the importance of speaking out on reproductive rights, reproductive justice, and on behalf of these providers: “Shame is not an option. 

Leadership Training Academy Fellows Speak Out

LTA Class of 2013May has been a busy month for our Leadership Training Academy Fellows and alumni—our physician-advocates have appeared in over a dozen media outlets, speaking out on a diverse array of reproductive health topics.

On May 1, Fellows Dr. Erika Levi and Dr. Joshua Nitsche testified in North Carolina in opposition to House Bill 716, a “prenatal nondiscrimination” bill that would punish physicians and undermine the trust between women and their doctors. “A passing comment like, ‘I always wanted a girl,’ could force me to refuse to perform the procedure,” Dr. Nitsche noted.

Program alumna Dr. Tracey Wilkinson was interviewed by Free Speech Radio News about point-of-sale restrictions on Plan B emergency contraception. Later that week, Dr. Wilkinson decried the Obama administration’s decision to appeal a federal judge’s ruling to lift these restrictions in a letter to the Los Angeles Times, noting: “Medical opinion is solidly united that this medication is safe for women of all ages, and research shows women know when and how to take it. There is simply no scientific reason to fight Plan B going over-the-counter for all women, and the new age limit will create restrictions for all women in need of Plan B.” Following that letter, Dr. Wilkinson spoke to a Los Angeles Times columnist about the importance of access to Plan B.

For Mother’s Day, Fellow Dr. Rebecca Trotzky-Sirr and program alumna and former board member Dr. Pratima Gupta contributed essays to the Strong Families Mama’s Day Our Way celebration, which highlighted the diversity of parenting and the aspects of being a “mama” that are often overlooked and under-celebrated. Dr. Trotzky-Sirr’s piece about the stigma faced by teen parents, “For the Mamas Who Don’t Get Love on Mother’s Day,” appeared on Feministing: “[W]hen a pregnant teenager enters my office and declares she is ready to be a mother, I believe her. I support her. I know she has the inherent capacity to succeed, because I was once just like her.” Dr. Pratima Gupta wrote a piece for Raw Story about her experience as a mother, an abortion provider, and as a woman who has had an abortion: “Choosing adoption, ending a pregnancy, or raising a child is a personal, often complicated and emotional decision. But one thing is pretty simple: that decision is better left to a woman and her family. I know this firsthand.”

Dr. Joshua Nitsche published a letter in the News-Observer (Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, NC) about House Bill 693, a parental notification bill that would prevent teens from receiving confidential medical services such as contraception care or mental health counseling: “Consider my teen patient whose parents threw her out of their house when they learned she was pregnant, or the young woman who became pregnant after an assault by a family member….requiring their parents’ consent would have been unreasonable, likely dangerous, and would have delayed, if not prevented, my patients’ receiving desperately needed prenatal care.”

Reuters Health interviewed Fellow Dr. Kate Shaw about a study that examined methods of shortening second-trimester abortion procedures

Celebrating Mother’s Day from Multiple Perspectives

As part of Strong Families’ “Mama’s Day Our Way” celebration, our physicians contributed essays on the topics of motherhood, teen parenting, abortion, and reproductive justice.

Leadership Training Academy Fellow Dr. Rebecca Trotzky-Sirr published a piece on Feministing called “For the Mamas Who Don’t Get Love on Mother’s Day,” about her experiences as a teen mom, and how they differ and align with other teen parents’ experiences:

Medicine and mothering intertwine in my life. My kid entered kindergarten the same week I started medical school. As a mom and a doctor, I am thrilled that I am able to work toward a world where all women and kids are supported and celebrated. Motherhood should be a fair choice, not a forced choice.

Read the rest of Dr. Trozky-Sirr’s essay here.

Our former board member and Leadership Training Academy alumna Dr. Pratima Gupta published a piece on Raw Story about being a mother, an abortion provider, and a woman who has had an abortion:

As an abortion provider, I know abortion rhetoric too often ignores the complexities of real women’s lives. Choosing adoption, ending a pregnancy, or raising a child is a personal, often complicated and emotional decision. But one thing is pretty simple: that decision is better left to a woman and her family. I know this firsthand.

Read the rest of Dr. Gupta’s essay here

Plan B Access Improves, but Unfair Obstacles Remain

“The administration should follow science—not ideology—and lift all unnecessary restrictions to emergency contraception.”

New York, NY—Physicians for Reproductive Health (Physicians) Board Chair-Elect Dr. Nancy Stanwood has issued the following statement:

“As obstetrician/gynecologists, family doctors, pediatricians, and adolescent medicine specialists, my colleagues and I know that emergency contraception is safe for use by teens of all ages. It is safer, in fact, than Tylenol and other products sold directly from store shelves, without prescription or identification requirements. Studies show that teens, like adults, can follow the instructions safely. For over a decade, Physicians has endorsed an end to unfounded age restrictions.


“As such, while we recognize that the FDA decision to approve the sale of emergency contraceptive Plan B One-Step® to those 15 years and older with government-issued identification as a positive step, we are disappointed that the FDA did not issue an order to implement the recent federal court decision that removes all age and identification requirements. Although the decision lifts an important barrier for some teens, we cannot help but think about those young people who don’t have government-issued ID, or people of all ages who are undocumented or do not have valid identification. The fact is, yesterday’s decision does little to improve real access for already-vulnerable women and young teens.


“We believe that the administration should follow science—not ideology—and lift all unnecessary restrictions to emergency contraception, making it available on open shelves and without requiring identification for purchase. Anything less is an unfair compromise of our patients’ comprehensive reproductive health.”