In July, the Reproductive Health Access Network’s newest Cluster in Montana met for the first time. Thanks to the leadership of longtime RHAP member and reproductive health champion, Dr. Joey Banks, the Montana Cluster has gotten off the ground and is moving full speed ahead.
The first meeting brought together 12 clinical advocates and activists from across the state. Like many of our geographically larger Cluster states, Montana has the added barrier of physical distance between members. Thanks to video technology like zoom, clinicians are able to more easily participate in Cluster meetings. Building a supportive community across the state is especially important in areas that already experience more barriers to abortion provision and access. RHAP also sets up secure email lists that help Network members communicate digitally more easily.
The meeting started off with everyone sharing a thought and/or feeling that they have about the state of reproductive health care in this country – for many clinicians, the Clusters are a safe space where they can talk to their peers about doing this work in an environment that is supportive and understanding. Many of our Network members are often one of the few (if not only) providers of reproductive health care in their areas, this is especially true for clinicians working in rural communities. The group decided to continue meeting as a Cluster and laid out some goals for the upcoming year, which include offering clinical trainings and engaging in advocacy within the Montana Academy of Family Physicians.
The Cluster also received an update on the 2018 case filed by the Center for Reproductive Rights and the ACLU of Montana that challenges a Montana law that prohibits well-trained and competent non-physician clinicians from providing abortion care. Helen Weems, a certified nurse practitioner and Cluster member, is one of two plaintiffs in this case. Last year, a judge temporarily blocked the law, allowing trained NPs to offer abortion services; however, the case is still open and the Cluster is ready to advocate in support of it. About 30-35% of RHAP’s Network is made up of non-physician clinicians, and it is critical that we all work together to support each other in ensuring that people can access care.
We are grateful to Dr. Banks and the leaders in Montana for boldly speaking out in support of abortion care, especially in an increasingly hostile environment for reproductive health. RHAP cannot do this work without our Network leaders and members, and we’re looking forward to seeing the Montana Cluster grow and thrive!
If you are a clinician and would like to be connected with the Network and your local Cluster, please email RHAP National Organizer, Laura Riker, at email@example.com.