URGENT MESSAGE FOR EVERYONE WHO CARES ABOUT WOMEN’S LIVES
Donald Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to replace Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court has dire implications across the board, including the real possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned. In addition, the recent Supreme Court decision upholding the ability of fake clinics (“Crisis Pregnancy Centers”) to spread lies and refuse to give truthful information about abortion gives a massive green light to the anti-abortion forces that shame, mislead and pressure women to continue pregnancies despite their needs and wishes. (See below for more on all this.) These are truly appalling times.
This is not just another “time to fight.” It’s been time to fight around women’s reproductive freedom for a very long time and some of us have been doing just that. Now is the time to go on the offensive as never before – speaking and acting in bold words and protests in the streets, defending women and providers at the clinic doors, and connecting in multiple ways with our communities and others under attack. I will have much more to say on this in the coming months. In that context, I want to talk about the connections Choices is making for today and the future.
When Choices says “Our Specialty is YOU” we mean it. That includes not only continuing to develop our own services but also expanding our caring community of other providers and agencies to meet our patients’ needs. Choices’ reproductive health specialists offer top-of-the line compassionate care for all gynecological needs, family planning and abortion services, behavioral health counseling and prenatal care. But we cannot specialize in everything. And I firmly believe we could not offer the continuum of care we do without drawing on the expertise and dedication of many other health providers and community organizations – both learning from them as well as referring patients whose needs we cannot meet directly.
At the same time, Choices’ education and training work has expanded, including new generations of medical students who come here to intern. In today’s political situation this assumes even greater importance. Education sessions in schools and community centers go on throughout the year. Summer always brings new groups of young feminist leaders to Choices to gain a practical and political understanding of the great need and the challenges in women’s healthcare, as well as seeing how personally fulfilling this work can be. We asked one of our summer student interns to jot down her thoughts after a particularly challenging discussion at Choices and include it in this newsletter.
I invite you to contact us if you provide a service or are part of an organization that would like to connect.
Merle Hoffman, Founder and President
Choices Women’s Medical Center
Connections Today and for the Future
Following are a few of the valuable partnerships Choices has developed. The descriptions below are provided by our partners. For more information and a full listing, please go to our website here.
Spence-Chapin Adoption Services. We are pleased to announce Spence-Chapin as a new community partner for pregnancy options counseling about family services, parenting, and adoption. A licensed and accredited nonprofit organization, Spence-Chapin has been offering quality adoption services for over 100 years as well as providing support and care for women, children and families throughout the process. As a leader in reproductive health, Choices and Spence-Chapin are aligned in the belief women should be empowered with information about their rights, treated with respect and receive the support they need before, during and after their pregnancy, regardless of their decision.
The Haven Coalition is a 501 (c) (3) non-profit made up of volunteers dedicated to supporting people traveling to New York City for abortions. Our volunteers provide a safe place to sleep the night between appointments, dinner, and an escort to and from the clinic. Volunteers can also be available to escort people living in the five boroughs home from an abortion appointment after receiving anaesthesia. The staff at the clinic will contact us to make arrangements.
The Brigid Alliance is an abortion travel fund that aims to alleviate constraints on individuals who must travel for safe and appropriate abortion services by providing assistance for travel, including transportation, accommodations, and stipends for childcare and meals.
Community Healthcare Network is a not-for-profit organization which provides more than 80,000 mostly low-income and uninsured New Yorkers of all ages with an array of primary care, dental, nutrition, mental health and social services. Our network is made up of 11 federally qualified health centers throughout Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Manhattan, along with a traveling medical van that offers free sexual health services to people in Manhattan and Queens…We never turn anyone away from care.
Practical, Personal and Political Education for the New Generations
Some of the Choices team at a BALI event in 2015 where Merle Hoffman was honored with the Bella Award.
The Moxie Project is a civic engagement experience at Duke University that combines academic, professional and applied learning experiences to foster social justice leadership in undergraduates. The goals of the program are 1) To draw connections between history and the current status of women; 2) To provide students with an opportunity to observe and practice feminist social change from within an organization and within a broader social movement; 3) To develop students’ agency and self-efficacy through curricular and co-curricular activities; 4) To connect undergraduates with a wide array of women leaders in government agencies and women’s organizations. The Moxie Project is supported by DukeEngage.
Feminist Camp isn’treally a conference, and it isn’t really a retreat. It’s a front-row seat to feminist work, activism, and action beyond classroom theories. Our cam
ps are designed so that campers can explore the landscape of feminist work, learn about themselves, and start envisioning what their feminist futures might look like. We introduce campers to fellow feminists who get sh*t done: by working for non-profits, volunteering, creating art, organizing, protesting, running businesses, and translating theory into action. With these connections and inspiration, Feminist Campers leave with a renewed sense of direction and the confidence to make the next move.
The Bella Abzug Leadership Institute (BALI), NYC has faithfully worked with young women and girls since 2005, inspiring, mentoring and training them to become leaders in creating positive social and economic change. BALI is a not-for-profit 501 (c) (3) organization.
NEW ATTACKS and NEW RESISTANCE
Today’s Fight for Abortion Rights
The prospect of a new anti-abortion Supreme Court Justice raises the very real possibility of Roe v. Wade being overturned. A challenge to Roe could come in the form of an anti-abortion state law that, if upheld by the Supreme Court, could result in the overturning of Roe. That would mean abortion could become illegal immediately in states that now have such laws on the books but which at present are not enforced. In 24 states, the right to abortion is at the highest risk of loss—these states could ban abortion outright. In 8 states (including the District of Columbia), the right to abortion is at risk of loss, and in 19 states, the right to abortion appears secure. (See www.reproductiverights.org/what-if-Roe-fell.)
New York State is one of those where abortion would remain legal – for now, that is, because if the Federal protection under Roe is further weakened or outright overturned, anti-abortion fanatics will be enboldened to go after any state law that guarantees abortion access. Any attack on abortion anywhere must be fought as an attack on everyone who values women’s right to make their own reproductive choices – that is, women’s right to be free from forced motherhood.
Earlier this summer, in response to outrageous efforts by the Trump administration to limit or outright ban abortion services, the National Council of Jewish Women’s New York Section (NCJW) has joined with other groups to fight against the domestic gag rule and has launched a campaign against fake abortion clinics. Their efforts will be a valuable contribution and an example for other organizations, including religion-based groups, to step up and step out against these increasing attacks on women. To read more about this effort, click here.
Note: Fake clinics advertise themselves as helping women with unplanned pregnancies but exist only to shame and mislead women and girls not to have abortions. The recent Supreme Court decision said these so-called clinics that are licensed by the state have a right NOT to provide full and accurate information about abortion. The domestic gag rule would withhold all family planning funds from any program or agency that even mentions, let alone offers, abortion as an option.
NCJW’s Andrea Salwen Kopel launches Pro-Truth, a campaign against fake abortion clinics, at a press conference in early June.With her, from left, are Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer; AndreaMiller, president of the National Institute for Reproductive Health; and City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal (D-Manhattan).
“We need to be less secretive about abortion.”
Thoughts from a Choices Intern
As a 21-year old college student, I have discussed the necessity of choice with many of my peers. We all agree with a woman’s right to choose. However, few of us believe we would admit to having an abortion, or even being pregnant in the first place. Given society’s judgement of women’s worth according to their sexual behavior, no one wants to admit that they could have made a mistake or been unlucky enough to get pregnant when it was unintended. Yet, what are the implications of this silence?
Merle Hoffman suggests that to change the culture around abortions and eliminate the associated stigma, everyone who has had an abortion should proclaim it. To me, this presents an obvious parallel to the LGTBQ movement’s emphasis on “coming-out.” Both face a strong religiously backed opposition and people who are reluctant to make their status known in fear of backlash from society and those closest to them. For the LGBTQ community, these proclamations and pride have changed the narrative around gayness so that it is no longer an abstract phenomenon, but instead your long-time friend, neighbor, or sister. These goals also align with those of advocates for women’s right to choose.
How do you convince someone that they should speak out at a personal cost when it would be much easier to just put the event behind them? I think the answer falls with the silent majority of people who are in favor of abortion. (Nearly one in four women will have an abortion by age 45 – that’s millions of women, not to mention all those who know, love and respect them.)
When my cousin graduated from high school recently my family flew in from across the country to celebrate with her and spend time together. Given their wildly disparate views about politics, I was hesitant to share the full extent of where I was working this summer. I told them how I loved working at a full-service women’s health clinic, but left out the portion about offering abortions until my Grandmother asked me point blank. I was pleasantly surprised when my family nodded approvingly, noting what an important and hard-to-obtain service it is. This confirmed my ideas about the silent openness many people have to abortion.
Despite my peers’ reservations, we need to be less secretive about abortion. As colleges push to change the campus culture in favor of a more liberal, open, safe environment for sexual health, we need to include women’s ABORTION in that discussion. I hope to bring this message back with me to my college campus and carry it with me as I continue on to the medical profession.