From May 11-12, 2016, RHAP Fellow Dr. Martha Simmons traveled to Washington D.C. for the Act for Women’s 2016 Advocacy Day (www.actforwomen.org). Dr. Simmons joined health care providers and reproductive rights advocates from across the country to speak with their legislators about the Women’s Health Protection Act. This federal bill would block states from imposing restrictions on abortion that do not exist for any other medical care, that interfere with a person’s individual decision-making about their health, and block access to safe and legal abortion care. This includes prohibiting TRAP laws.
Dr. Simmons was part of a contingent from New York State, speaking with staffers from Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s office, and staffers from Representatives Tonko (NY Capital Region), Serrano (Bronx), Maloney (NYC), and Meng (Queens). “It was really great, because [the Women’s Health Protection Act] is an important piece of legislation that a lot of people don’t know about, so it was nice to go out and raise awareness for it, especially because we were in multidisciplinary teams.” Dr. Simmons was part of a team that included a trained lobbyist, a lawyer, a person representing the faith community, concerned citizens, and others.
“It was so important and meaningful to have a group with such different points of view coming together to talk to the legislators about how this issue has affected all of us in different ways.” Dr. Simmons brought the provider perspective, sharing stories of patients affected by anti-abortion restrictions, including a patient who had to travel from North Carolina to New York because she had a fetal anomaly and was unable to access abortion in her home state. Another member of the group who was raised in New York shared how moving to another state for college made her realize she no longer had access to the same care that she’d had growing up. Dr. Simmons also noted that there was a large turnout of medical students from Medical Students for Choice. “As abortion providers get older, involving the next generation of students – who aren’t even doctors yet – in this work is so important for our future.”