Spring 2016 Newsletter

Whole Women’s Health Arguments and Rally at the Supreme Court

Credit: Mike Morgan

Credit: Mike Morgan

On March 2nd the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt. Dozens of Physicians for Reproductive Health members and hundreds of other reproductive rights supporters rallied on the steps of the Supreme Court to express their strong opposition to Texas law HB2—a direct attack on the constitutional right to abortion, that would force 75 percent of abortion clinics in Texas to close their doors.

As our colleagues at the Center for Reproductive Rights argued the case inside the court, Physician advocates from this organization and speakers from all backgrounds—elected officials, college students, reproductive justice advocates, spiritual leaders, and abortion providers—spoke out to denounce the bill as a dangerous assault on women’s health care.

As Physicians’ Reproductive Health Advocacy Fellow Dr. Pratima Gupta said in her speech: “When we stand against these sham laws we are standing up for women who have the least access to care, who face the most discrimination, and who are least likely to be able to travel to the only open clinic that may now be hundreds of miles away. We need to ensure that all women, no matter their zip code, have access to the care they need and deserve.”

Physicians Testifies before the Senate Judiciary Committee

Jodi Magee, President/CEO

Jodi Magee, President/CEO

On March 15th, Jodi Magee, President/CEO, was proud to represent our doctors at a hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  My testimony expressed Physicians for Reproductive Health’s strong opposition to the proposed 20-week nation-wide abortion ban, and, indeed, against all bans and restrictions on the safe and effective delivery of abortion care.

Despite widespread public disagreement, anti-choice members of Congress continue to introduce legislation restricting both access to abortion and doctors’ ability to provide patients with the reproductive health care they want and need.

As she said in her testimony: “The legislation… threatens physicians with criminal penalties in an attempt to deter doctors from providing abortions. But this has dire consequences for women. When doctors are facing complex, urgent medical situations, they need to be able to focus on providing the best treatment for their patients, and not delay as they consider whether their professional judgment will land them in prison. In no other area of medicine is this kind of political intrusion into medical care tolerated.”

You can watch the full testimony on the Judiciary Committee’s website, and read the statement here.

Physicians Stands Up For Access at the Supreme Court

Staff at the Supreme Court

Staff at the Supreme Court

As the Supreme Court heard oral arguments on March 23rd in Zubik v. Burwell, hundreds of reproductive rights supporters rallied on the Court steps, with many hundreds more joining online in a #HandsOffMyBC digital rally. I was happy to be part of this demonstration with our DC-base Public Policy staff Jeryl Hayes on the left and Jenny Blasdell in the center of the photo above.

At stake in Zubik is whether employers can make it more difficult, if not impossible, for women to access essential birth control coverage. We all know that access to contraception is critical to the health and well-being of women. That’s why, earlier this year, Physicians for Reproductive Health joined with numerous medical groups – including the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Family Physicians, and the American Nurses Association – to file an amicus brief before the Court in this case.

As the brief explains: “Contraception not only helps to avoid unwanted pregnancies, but it also helps women plan their pregnancies and determine the optimal timing and spacing of them,  which improves their own health and the well-being of their children. Pregnancies that are too frequent and too closely spaced, which are more likely when contraception is more difficult to obtain, put women at significantly greater risk for permanent physical health damage.”

Physicians and Students lobby on California Advocacy Day

California Advocacy Day

California Advocacy Day

Medical students and physicians from across the state of California descended on Sacramento on March 10 to advocate for legislation that would improve access to safe, reliable birth control. The focus of their efforts, SB 999, would require all health care service plans and insurers—including Medi-Cal managed care plans—to cover up to 12-months of FDA-approved contraception when dispensed at one time.  What a great convenience for women!

Physicians for Reproductive Health partnered with TEACH—Training in Early Abortion for Comprehensive Healthcare—for the Advocacy Day. We visited 16 Democratic and Republican legislative offices, in addition to meeting with Governor Jerry Brown’s Legislative Director for Health, Donna Campbell. Afterward, our advocates rallied on the steps of the State Capitol in support of repealing the Maximum Family Grant Rule, which denies basic needs subsidies for children born to women receiving CalWorks grants.

Report Details Burdens on Women in Texas Seeking Abortion Care

As reported above, the Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments on one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country, Texas House Bill 2 (HB2). 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 went into effect, 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, as well as cases of women who were not able to obtain abortion care at all due to clinic closures. To read the full report, please click here.

Physicians’ 2016 Voices of Courage Benefit Taking it to a Whole New Level

Physicians’ 2016 Voices of Courage Benefit (formerly the Rashbaum-Tiller Awards) recognizing extraordinary abortion providers is going to be a night to remember this year.  Just for starters, Comedian John Oliver, host of HBO’s hit show Last Week Tonight, will be joining us, performing a one-time monologue on reproductive health!  This will be a once-in-a lifetime chance to celebrate extraordinary abortion providers while watching a performance from one of the most popular comedians working today.  And to add to the fun, actress, activist and producer Olivia Wilde will also be with us.  It’s a night you don’t want to miss!

Purchase your tickets here!

The Voices of Courage Benefit is taking place on June 7 at one of Manhattan’s premier event venues.  In addition to hearing from our two special guests, we will recognize two outstanding providers – Dr. David Grimes of North Carolina and Dr. Colleen McNicholas of Missouri – for their leadership and courage, while celebrating the compassion and commitment of all abortion providers. You can read more about this year’s honorees and past awardees here.

In addition to our honorees and special guests, we will have several activities for guests, a full premium open bar, and delicious food for every appetite and taste.

You will be providing an important and well-deserved show of recognition for our two deserving awardees, as well as for all courageous abortion providers. And you’ll be in for one of the most rousing fundraising events you’ve ever experienced!

If you can’t join me at the event, I hope you will consider making a contribution to recognize and honor abortion providers as true champions of reproductive health care.

Read more about the 2016 Voices of Courage here.

Advocating for Access to Contraceptives for Adolescents in Vermont

Dr. Erica Gibson, Assistant Clinical Professor of Adolescent Medicine at the University of Vermont Children’s Hospital and a member of Physicians’ Adolescent Reproductive and Sexual Health Education Program (ARSHEP) faculty, gave testimony regarding the Access to Birth Control Act at the Vermont State House Health Care Committee Meeting on March 8. Dr. Gibson based her testimony on an ARSHEP grand rounds presentation she had previously given on Long-Acting Reversible Contraception (popularly known as “LARC”) Her testimony is a perfect example of Physicians’ ARSHEP doctors using their experiences with adolescent reproductive health care to do advocacy for the benefit of their patients and the general public.

As Dr. Gibson explained in her testimony, “I come before you today to describe how The Access to Birth Control Act can help us to fight the close to 50% unintended pregnancy rates that we have here in the state of Vermont… In terms of teen birth rates in young women aged 15-19 year old here in Vermont we currently have 2-4 times the birth rate of other developed nations such as the Netherlands, Japan and Italy. The reasons for our higher unintended pregnancy rate and teen birth rate are complex and multifactorial, but chief among them are barriers to accessing highly effective contraceptive methods like LARCS, which stands for Long Acting Reversible Contraception.”

You can find out more about our work around adolescent reproductive health here.