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.