“I found my sense of purpose and place by making the decision to provide abortions,

and it is very much consistent with my core values, in regard to my spirituality and my humanity. That's why I do this work.”

Willie Parker, MD, MPH, MSc

Abortion Access

As physicians, we believe that speaking about abortion helps remove the stigma that has been attached to it by anti-choice lawmakers and organizations. Legislation that puts politics and ideology before the doctor-patient relationship interferes with our ability to provide the highest level of care to our patients.

In no area of medicine other than abortion do our state and federal governments impose morality-based legislation that has the potential to criminalize doctors and manipulate patients in an attempt to sway their health care decisions.

Physicians for Reproductive Health fights for improved access to safe, legal abortion services by advocating at the state and federal levels, speaking out in the media, and encouraging comprehensive reproductive health education in medical residency education.

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John Oliver and Olivia Wilde to Headline Physicians for Reproductive Health Benefit to Celebrate the Courage of Abortion Providers

Event to Honor Abortion Providers in Advance of Major Supreme Court Ruling

NEW YORK—With the Supreme Court poised to make its most significant ruling in decades on access to abortion care, Physicians for Reproductive Health will hold its annual benefit, Voices of Courage, on June 7 in honor of abortion providers across the country.

This year’s event will honor two heroic physicians – Dr. David Grimes and Dr. Colleen McNicholas – and feature comedian John Oliver and actress Olivia Wilde. Like so many of their colleagues, the awardees have shown courage and resilience in the face of increased barriers to providing women with access to safe and legal reproductive health care.

“The past year has proven to be one of the most challenging for abortion access. Toxic political rhetoric and increasingly burdensome state laws have paved the way for increased targeting of abortion providers. The courage of these physicians and those that support them cannot be overlooked, which is why this year we are honoring all ’voices of courage,’” said Jodi Magee, President and CEO of Physicians for Reproductive Health. “The benefit celebrates everyone who has been integral in the fight for women’s reproductive rights, including the ongoing efforts of the many advocates, supporters, and physicians across the country to ensure that every woman can make her own decision about what’s best for her family. At a critical moment for women’s health, we recognize those who are taking a stand.”

As providers prepare for the historic ruling expected next month in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the event will help raise awareness of doctors’ role in efforts to protect and expand access to high-quality care. Since 2006, Physicians for Reproductive Health has hosted an annual benefit to honor physicians who – in addition to providing evidence-based care to their own patients – have gone above and beyond to advance abortion access at the local, state, and national level.  The event will be transformed this year into a gala benefit that celebrates all voices of courage – physicians as well as the important advocates that support them.

Two awards are given every year, the William K. Rashbaum, MD, Abortion Provider Award, which honors a physician who provides outstanding abortion services and serves as an inspirational leader; and the George Tiller, MD, Abortion Provider Award, which recognizes a physician early in his or her career who provides abortions while demonstrating courage in the face of adversity.

“It is an honor to be part of an event that raises awareness of those who work daily to ensure women can access the reproductive care they need,” said Benefit Host Olivia Wilde. “The stakes have never been higher for women, and in the year 2016, women shouldn’t have to overcome so many hurdles just to access the reproductive care that is best for them. I commend the work of physicians who make it their life’s work to guarantee reproductive health care access to all women who need it across our nation.”

This year, Dr. David Grimes will receive the William K. Rashbaum, MD award for lifetime achievement. A provider, researcher, author, teacher, and advocate, Dr. Grimes’s medical career began in 1972 – just prior to the Roe v. Wade decision. Dr. Grimes spent many years at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, helping to chronicle the public health benefits of legal abortion and in recent years, he has led international research on abortion and contraception for a World Health Organization Task Force. A pillar in the reproductive rights community, Dr. Grimes has used his training and background to provide expert testimony to Congress and state and federal courts, worked with lawmakers to ensure regulations are grounded in science, and educated many others through his writings and online. Based in North Carolina, he has been a clinical professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine since 1998 and a fellow at the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research University of North Carolina since 2000 where he trained medical students and residents in abortion. Dr. Grimes recently published a book, Every Third Woman in America, which documents the impact of safe and legal abortion in America.

Dr. Colleen McNicholas will be honored with the George Tiller, MD award for outstanding courage in hostile and challenging environments. A tireless advocate for reproductive access, Dr. McNicholas provides abortion care at Planned Parenthood of Kansas and Mid-Missouri. Recently, conservative lawmakers put pressure on the University of Missouri to revoke the hospital privileges that allowed Dr. McNicholas to provide care in Columbia, leaving St. Louis as the only clinic in Missouri that is able to provide abortion. She also travels to Kansas to provide abortion services in Wichita, the city where Dr. Tiller worked tirelessly for decades, drawing the attentions of Troy Newman and Operation Rescue.  Dr. McNicholas teaches at Washington University, serves on committees of American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists at the national and state levels, and travels frequently to Washington, DC, and Jefferson City to raise awareness about abortion restrictions that affect her patients. Dr. McNicholas is a catalyst for change. She started a Medical Students for Choice chapter as a medical school student and when Missouri passed a three-day mandatory waiting period law that raised costs for her patients, she helped found the Gateway Women’s Access Fund to assist them.  She was recently featured in the June issue of Marie Claire magazine.

“Although abortion is technically legal, individual states are going to greater and greater lengths to restrict access to abortion for all women—a trend that hasn’t been discussed nearly enough,” said Physicians’ Board Chair Dr. Nancy Stanwood. “Right now, there are bills moving or proposed in 24 states that restrict legal reproductive care, question the knowledge and abilities of trained physicians, and threaten women’s health. At a time when there is so much coverage of political opinions on abortion, we must listen to and respect the advice of the experts who know the facts: the physicians who provide reproductive care.”

Proceeds from the benefit will support Physicians’ programs and members in the continual fight for reproductive rights, including the Partnership for Physician Safety – a new program to support providers in crisis situations – and the Leadership Training Academy, a program that prepares physicians across the country to become lifelong leaders in reproductive health advocacy. These initiatives foster a community of physicians who will work throughout their careers to protect and advance comprehensive reproductive and sexual health care.

Tickets are currently available and can be purchased on the Physicians for Reproductive Health website. For more information, or if you are interested in covering the event, please contact Margy Levinson at margy.levinson@berlinrosen.com or 646-335-0441.


Statement from Board Chair Dr. Nancy Stanwood on Oklahoma Bill to Criminalize Abortion Providers

On May 19, the Oklahoma state senate passed legislation that would criminalize doctors who perform abortions, amounting to a complete ban on abortion services in the state. Physicians for Reproductive Health Board Chair Dr. Nancy Stanwood issued the following statement:

“This dangerous and unconstitutional legislation in Oklahoma is yet another egregious example of politicians attempting to illegally ban abortion by intimidating doctors from providing services. It would limit our ability to meet the needs of women and threaten us with penalties for providing safe, compassionate, and necessary care. I hope reason prevails and Governor Fallin vetoes this harmful bill.

“As a doctor, I am especially concerned that the Oklahoma legislature is suggesting that abortion is somehow separate from the practice of medicine. Nothing could be further from the truth. Abortion is an essential part of the full spectrum of women’s health care, and with this legislation politicians are creating a grave and irresponsible barrier against women in need of reproductive care. That’s why major medical organizations oppose this type of blatant interference into the doctor-patient relationship.

“The doctors in our organization know that women deserve better. We know that access to reproductive care is essential for women to make the best health choices for themselves and their families. So even as we face a growing number of restrictions and attacks, we are proud to continue to provide abortion care to women across the country. Our decisions to provide are not based on politics, but on the real people we work with every day. And the stories of why we provide are a testament to the importance of providing abortion access to everyone, regardless of where they live — and to protecting women’s ability to make private decisions in consultation with their doctors. Our patients deserve to have access to care with dignity and respect.” 

Physicians for Reproductive Health: Updated Mifeprex Label Is A Win For Science

Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it is revising the label of the drug Mifeprex (mifepristone), a critical step that will ensure that this medication can be provided in accordance with the current standard of care. The announcement means that providers in states that have unnecessarily restricted medication abortion access will once again be able to provide a high standard of evidence-based care to their patients.

Dr. Nancy Stanwood, Board Chair of Physicians for Reproductive Health, issued the following statement in response to the announcement:

“We applaud the FDA for recognizing the safety of medication abortion and the voluminous research that shows evidence-based regimens are beneficial to patients. As physicians, we work every day to provide the highest quality care to our patients. An updated label means that providers in states that require adherence to the FDA-approved Mifeprex label will not have to practice outdated medicine.

 “We at Physicians for Reproductive Health believe strongly that access to abortion is crucial to women’s health. We decry the laws and policies that have targeted abortion for unnecessary restrictions in an effort to discourage providers and block patients. Millions of women in the United States and Europe have used Mifeprex to safely end pregnancies, and it was profoundly disappointing to see it restricted in some states for political reasons. Abortion opponents object to medication abortion because it allows women more options for ending an early pregnancy – and they want to restrict access to this safe method of early abortion.

 “I hope that today marks a new chapter in expanding rather than restricting access to safe abortion, providing women with access to the best modern medical care for their reproductive health needs.”


Background on mifepristone

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a drug called mifepristone, marketed as Mifeprex, for abortion in 2000 after many years of study. It is used in conjunction with another medication called misoprostol. The steady increase in use of medication abortion – now 23% of U.S. abortions – shows that many women prefer this option.

Today’s announcement makes a number of important revisions to the Mifeprex label, including:

  • Lowering the recommended mifepristone dosage from 600mg to 200mg. Numerous studies confirm that mifepristone is equally effective at lower dosages than the regimen in the 2000 label, meaning that a woman can take less medication – resulting in fewer side effects and lower costs.
  • Altering the dosage and route of administration for the second drug in the medication abortion regimen, misoprostol, to reflect the most effective evidence based regimens.
  • Extending the window of use of mifepristone from 49 days to 70 days based on medical research. The time between 49 and 70 days gestation is critical for patient access, as approximately 30% of women who seek an abortion present for care during this time.
  • Allowing health care providers authorized under state law to provide abortion to prescribe mifepristone. The 2000 label restricted distribution to physicians though several states allow advanced practice clinicians to provide abortion care.
  • Ending the requirement that women to have an in-person clinic visit for their follow-up appointments after being prescribed mifepristone. An in-person appointment is not always medically necessary and, when required, creates significant additional costs and barriers to abortion care.


New Report Details Burdens on Women in Texas Seeking Abortion Care

SCOTUS rally picture

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, Texas House Bill 2 (HB2). Now, new research from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) in the American Journal of Public Health shows that the forced closure of over half of abortion clinics in Texas has, as predicted, resulted in significant burdens for women — including increased travel distances, high out-of-pocket costs, overnight stays, and decreased access to medication abortion. For women in the study whose nearest abortion clinic closed after HB2, the average distance to the nearest provider increased fourfold.

According to author Liza Fuentes: “This study is unusual in its ability to assess multiple burdens imposed on women as a result of clinic closures, but it is important to note that the burdens documented here are not the only hardships that women experienced as a result of HB2.” Previous research by TxPEP has documented both increased wait times experienced by all women accessing abortion care in Texas after HB2 as well as cases of women who were not able to obtain abortion care due to clinic closures.

For copies of the full report, please click here