A new year and the 49th anniversary of Roe v. Wade are an opportunity for reflection and renewal. At Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, we know many challenges and uncertainties lie ahead with our country’s changing landscape of abortion care and access. What we are certain of is our work is more important than ever – and you can count on us to continue providing compassionate abortion care, combatting stigma, and fighting for reproductive freedom.
We also know that change is inevitable and even necessary as we renew our commitment to advancing reproductive freedom. I have worked as the Managing Director for WWHA for 4 ½ years, a role I will be departing at the end of the month. I am so proud of how WWHA has grown during my tenure and today, WWHA is uniquely positioned to meet this moment when abortion rights are under the greatest threat in our generation. The opportunity to shepherd this incredible organization has truly been one of the most extraordinary, challenging, and gratifying experiences of my life. I am proud of what we have accomplished together, and I believe wholeheartedly in the mission of WWHA.
Sonja Miller will be stepping in as Interim Managing Director. Sonja has significant experience working with WWHA in her current position as the Director of People and Culture, as well as past roles with Whole Woman’s Health. She also brings a wealth of nonprofit administration and leadership experience, most recently as the Texas Freedom Network’s Outreach and Faith Director. To all of you who have supported me and WWHA over the years, I will carry you in my heart as I continue fighting for reproductive health, rights, and justice.
Jesse Torrey, Managing Director
Abortion is Our Work
We’re at the beginning of a new legislative session, and anti-abortion lawmakers have already filed nearly a dozen bills that would chip away access to abortion in Virginia. These bills include ones that would reinstate targeted restrictions on abortion providers (TRAP), biased counseling, a 24-hour waiting period, and shaming and criminalizing doctors who provide abortions. This comes just weeks after the state’s new Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, and the House of Delegates took office, many of which have anti-abortion agendas. WWHA is part of the Virginia Reproductive Equity Alliance (VREA), a large coalition fighting to advance reproductive freedom in the Commonwealth. We will be doing all we can to protect the progress we have made over the past few years to ensure Virginians can get the abortion care they need and deserve. The VREA will be organizing 5 weeks of virtual advocacy and action, starting at the beginning of February. Stay tuned for more information about ways you can get involved and make your voice heard.
A bright spot in Virginia is our nonprofit clinic, Whole Woman’s Health of Charlottesville. The clinic is now offering medication abortion care by mail to people who live, work, or can travel to Virginia. The team is proud to provide more options for patients to have abortions on their own terms.
Today marks 143 days since Texas Senate Bill 8 (SB 8) went into effect – and there is no end in sight. Just yesterday, the U.S. Supreme Court denied our request to allow our lawsuit challenging SB 8, WWHA, WWHA, et al. v. Jackson, to finally proceed in District Court after months of delay. In a blistering dissent, Justice Sonya Sotomayor wrote, “This case is a disaster for the rule of law and a grave disservice to women in Texas, who have a right to control their own bodies.” Earlier this week, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals sent our lawsuit to the Texas Supreme Court. This is a delay tactic by the state to prevent abortion providers from getting back to the district court and obtaining a declaration once and for all that the ban is unconstitutional. It will now likely be weeks or months before the case returns to district court, if ever.
Clinic staff at Whole Woman’s Health of Austin are heartbroken that they must continue to turn away hundreds of Texans who need and deserve abortion care in their own community. That’s why we’re developing a network to help patients get abortions outside of Texas (more to come!).
The Reproductive Health Alliance (RHA) and UnRestrict Minnesota (both of which WWHA is a member of) have begun meeting and preparing for Minnesota’s 2022 legislative session, which begins on January 31st. RHA’s focus will be on continued support of – and increasing – the Family Planning Special Projects (FPSP) grant, which provides funding for family planning clinics throughout Minnesota. In 2021, UnRestrict Minnesota introduced the Patients Right to Know Act and will continue supporting this bill, which gives healthcare providers the right to provide medically-accurate, evidence-based information to their patients without interference from lawmakers, in 2022. UnRestrict Minnesota will also continue to educate and inform legislators regarding barriers to abortion access, as well as focus on ways to increase Medicaid reimbursement rates. Lastly, UnRestrict Minnesota will be supporting the ‘Reproductive Justice Agenda,’ which includes many bills that are not abortion specific, but relate to maternal health, economic barriers, and other issues related to creating healthy communities.
This is also an election year: reproductive rights and abortion care will be very “hot topics” in Minnesota. WWHA will be working with our community partners to increase awareness around barriers to abortion care and reproductive freedom during this election cycle, as many Minnesotans are unfamiliar with the current laws in MN. Save the date for Reproductive Freedom Virtual Lobby Day, March 25th in Minnesota – more details to come.
WWH continues to offer medication abortion care by mail to anyone who lives, works, or can travel to the state of Minnesota. Learn more here!
Indiana’s 2022 legislative session began on January 4th. Representative Curt Nisly introduced HB 1282, which totally bans abortion and defines life beginning at conception. He introduces similar legislation every year and it has never passed. Anti-abortion lawmakers planned to make moves to restrict access to abortion, but many of the expected bills were not introduced. Our legal experts believe that the legislature is waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, expected to be issued in June. If Roe v. Wade is weakened or overturned, we expect Indiana legislators to call a special session to address abortion issues this summer.
On January 12th, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals heard the merits of a state appeal to a 2021 district court ruling in WWHA v. Rokita. The ruling blocked a host of unconstitutional abortion restrictions, including a prohibition on qualified advance-practice clinicians providing medication abortion care, a ban on providing second trimester abortion care outside of a hospital or ambulatory surgery center, and a prohibition against using telemedicine to provide medication abortion care. In addition to hearing the merits of the case, the judges discussed whether it is prudent to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court’s major ruling before considering this one. Our attorney from the Lawyering Project asked the judges to lift the stay they issued in September 2021, which has prevented much of the district court’s ruling from going into effect. Unfortunately, the panel decided to hold the case pending the Jackson decision and they did not lift the stay.
Our clinic in South Bend, which currently offers medication abortion care up to 10 weeks, will soon be expanding to offer in-clinic procedures. WWH is the only abortion clinic within 2 hours of South Bend, so we’re proud to help provide these much-needed healthcare services to the community.
Roe v. Wade’s 49th anniversary is tomorrow, January 22nd. Sarah Weddington, the fierce Texas lawyer who successfully argued the case at the Supreme Court, passed away in late December. Her legacy will live on forever in the people, families, and communities who have received safe, legal abortion care since 1973. Saturday may be the last anniversary if the Supreme Court upholds a Mississippi law banning abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, therefore overturning Roe. Help us spread the word about what’s at stake with this toolkit from the Liberate Abortion campaign. If Roe is struck down, 26 U.S. states are expected to ban abortion soon after. West Virginia and Arizona are the latest states to introduce abortion bans this year. Anti-abortion groups are emboldened by the onslaught of abortion bans and restrictions, and they are stepping up their efforts to mobilize conservative lawmakers.
Some states are taking action to ensure people will be able to get the abortion care they need, no matter what. Recently, the New Jersey legislature passed a bill that will codify Roe. Vermont and California are also taking similar steps to protect abortion rights. Our Texas advocacy team is working hard in this non-legislative year (thankfully!) to provide factual, stigma-free information to state legislators and candidates so they can fight back against the onslaught of SB 8 copycat bans across the country.
The Senate will be recessing the week of January 24th and are expected to vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA) when they return. WHPA is a federal law that helps protect the right to abortion in every state. The time for WHPA is NOW – urge your representatives to vote YES.
WWHA is also working with the National Institute for Reproductive Health (NIRH) and a group of abortion providers and advocates to celebrate abortion providers around the country. March 10th is Abortion Provider Appreciation Day, celebrated annually in remembrance of Dr. David Gunn and in honor of the incredible abortion providers across the country. The celebration will include a postcard writing party a few weeks before. This day is near and dear to our hearts – and we hope you’ll help us celebrate! Stay tuned for more details.
Shifting Abortion Stigma
We are committed to fostering open and honest conversations about abortion and advocating for reproductive freedom. Our Texas Advocacy Director Courtney and incoming Interim Managing Director Sonja will be leading an Abortion 101 training for the SACReD virtual gathering next week, which will bring together people of faith, activists, and leaders from the reproductive health, rights, and justice community. Here’s how you can participate.
Inside Our Abortion Clinics
Here is a recent testimonial from Whole Woman’s Health of Charlottesville: “They’ve really thought of everything here at WWH. At Whole Woman’s, I felt heard. There was no propaganda, or agenda. They actively listened, they presented scientific facts and offered an in-depth look at the choices you have. I left with no confusion and felt such relief. Speaking of choices, the environment and support staff were A++. Although I’m a very no-frills person, I noticed that every possible comforting measure has been taken in every area- diverse reading material, refreshments and snacks all gratis, blankets, I noticed notebooks for journaling, and stationary, I appreciated no televisions as it made the entire place very calm. All this to say – I was not fortunate to have a person to travel and share this experience with me, but I never felt alone at Whole Woman’s.”
In the News
While we spent some time over the holidays restoring our minds and preparing for the fight ahead, our eyes are always on what matters most: that people can access abortion care when and where they want it. We have not gotten the relief we need in Texas from SB 8, and we know that Roe v. Wade is on the line at the U.S. Supreme Court. WWHA’s litigation, clinics, and advocacy are at the center of it all. We will continue our innovative communications work with authenticity, passion, integrity, and grit. Don’t miss our recent interviews with The Washington Post’s The Lily on self-managed abortion, The Guardian on protecting our doctors in South Bend, and The Texas Tribune on the latest developments with Senate Bill 8.
We’ve also been very active on our blog, sharing messages of hope from WWHA donors, stories of our clinic staff, and connections between the insurrection and anti-abortion extremists. This year may be the fight of our lives for abortion rights, and we’ll show up in big ways to educate the public, destigmatize our vital work, and empower folks to take action at the polls.
How You Can Help
If the Supreme Court weakens or overturns Roe v. Wade, your right to abortion will depend on where you live or the resources you have to travel to states where abortion is more accessible. The Women’s Health Protection Act (WHPA), being voted on by the Senate in the coming weeks, would protect abortion rights nationwide, regardless of how the Supreme Court rules later this year. Contact your senator NOW to urge them to support WHPA – our future depends on it!