When Dr. Kohar Der Simonian moved to Maine from the Bay Area a few years ago, she found that she missed the organized, tight-knit community of reproductive health care providers and advocates back in California. While clinicians and advocates across Maine have always provided and advocated for reproductive health care, they face different challenges than those faced by clinicians in geographically smaller, more progressive communities such as the Bay Area or New York City. As such, Dr. Der Simonian joined forces with Dr. Julia McDonald, a New England native, family physician, and longtime reproductive health activist who teaches at the Maine-Dartmouth Family Medicine Residency. Together, they worked with RHAP to launch the Maine Cluster in April of 2017. The Cluster has overcome many of its geographical challenges by meeting in different cities every time, making it as accessible as possible for its members.
“We started the Maine Cluster because it’s a way to connect people in a pretty large state, to foster a community of people who are otherwise practicing in rural isolation from each other, and to promote the reproductive health work that we’re all doing individually,” says Dr. Der Simonian. Cluster members are often the only pro-choice/ pro-reproductive health providers in their work settings, and knowing that a community of like-minded people exists is a source of comfort and inspiration. Others are not necessarily actively engaged in family planning work at the moment, but are committed to learning more and bringing these services to their communities. Members range from physicians to residents to longtime advocates to nurse practitioners and more. The Cluster also serves as a bridge between clinicians and activists; for example, several members of Grandmothers for Reproductive Rights joined the Maine Cluster at their February 2018 meeting!
Since the first meeting, the Maine Cluster has grown and diversified their membership, as well as the content of their meetings. In building the agendas, Cluster leaders keep in mind the varied interests of Cluster members, generally allocating half the meeting to clinical learning and the other half to an advocacy update and discussion. For example, the November 2017 meeting hosted a representative from the Maine ACLU who spoke about the ACLU’s challenge to the Maine physician-only law, followed by a clinical discussion on troubleshooting and managing difficult abortion cases. In February 2018, the Cluster focused on team-building and spent time sharing stories, both from the provider and patient perspective. Moving forward, RHAP is eager to continue supporting Dr. Der Simonian, Dr. McDonald, and all the incredible clinicians and activists across Maine.
If you would like to be connected with the Maine Cluster and/or the Reproductive Health Access Network, please email Senior Program Manager Laura Riker at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Since its establishment in 1987, Women’s History Month has been celebrated to honor achievements that women have contributed to American popular culture, politics, art, and other aspects of American history. In the second chapter of our yearlong reproductive justice campaign, the Reproductive Health Access Project is excited to highlight visible women who are change-makers and unsung heroes . You’ll get to learn more about inspiring women, from Rosa Parks — beyond the scope of her refusal to give up her seat on the bus– to Loretta J. Ross, co-founder of SisterSong and one of the first people to coin the term reproductive justice. We will continue posting on social media and updating our blog weekly, so stay tuned!
The profiles we are sharing as part of this campaign will be turned into a book, titled “A Common Thread: Weaving reproductive health, rights, and justice.” If you would like a copy, become a recurring, sustaining donor of $25 or more today!
There are many ways to get involved with the Reproductive Health Access Project. Clinicians can sign up to receive our monthly Contraceptive Pearls, an evidence-based, free e-publication sharing the most up-to-date contraceptive information. For those of you who are clinicians and are looking to get more involved in RHAP’s clinical organizing, please join the Reproductive Health Access Network, RHAP’s community of over 1,800 primary care clinicians from across the country who work together to expand access to abortion, contraception, and miscarriage in their clinical and teaching practices.
We also have opportunities for volunteers in NYC and across the country. On March 5, some of our staff and volunteers got together to write thank you notes to abortion providers for Abortion Provider Appreciation Day. We sent out 208 personalized, handwritten notes to abortion providers all over the country.
Later this month, an athletic group of supporters is running to raise awareness of and funds for our organization. Katie Neimeyer, Kait Lynes, Sylvia English, and Meghan Tizzano will represent RHAP in the 2018 United Airlines NYC Half-Marathon. Learn more about the team and why they run for RHAP here.
One month after the November 2016 election, several RHAP staff, volunteers, and board members came together to brainstorm ideas on how to manage the growing number of people interested in getting involved in our organization. One of the volunteers who joined us was Angela Petriello, a former co-worker of RHAP’s Development Officer, Rosanna Montilla-Payano.
“Hearing Rosanna discuss RHAP’s work convinced me to become a volunteer. Their name says it all – Reproductive, Health, Access – it’s easy to forget, especially as someone living in NYC, how few people in the world have access to quality reproductive health services.”
Angela had a very important role in developing RHAP’s volunteer program. At her former job with the nonprofit Care for the Homeless, Angela managed and expanded their volunteer program. She brought her expertise to RHAP and helped us develop our own volunteer initiatives. She offered her time and guidance on how to move forward with cultivating our volunteers to committing to RHAP long-term.
“I’m the Operations Manager at a health-tech start up in NYC. I volunteer for a couple of different causes, but RHAP is the first organization I’ve volunteered with that specifically focuses on reproductive health. After the 2016 election, I wanted to get even more involved in issues that the current administration has attacked, and, of course, abortion and women’s health fall into that category.”
We are thankful for volunteers like Angela who selflessly and willingly share their expertise. “The team at RHAP is small, so one of the best parts of volunteering with them is that I can really see the impact of my support. The first time I volunteered with RHAP, a little over a year ago, we handwrote notes and letters of encouragement to abortion providers throughout the country. In a single evening, we were able to send letters to over 200 abortion providers. Knowing we were able to reach that many people, freeing up the RHAP team to do other important work, is an example of why volunteering with them is such a rewarding experience. I’ve learned a good deal more about reproductive health and access to quality care during my time with RHAP, and I look forward to continuing to support their work.”
As we dive into 2018, and celebrate a year of our volunteer program, we want to thank Angela and all of our volunteers for their dedication to our mission, their continuous support, and their enthusiasm that makes the work we do worthwhile.
Hana Raskin is RHAP’s spring 2018 Network Research Intern. She is studying at NYU’s Center for Global Affairs, where she is part of the Gender Working Group, a group which aims to mainstream gender into conversations on global affairs. She has written research papers on why abortion is a security issue, and on reproductive rights in El Salvador. She plans to write her thesis on reproductive rights in El Salvador and Honduras. She first became interested in reproductive rights after attending the March for Women’s Lives with her family at age 14, and is extremely inspired by the fact that Sarah Weddington successfully argued Roe v. Wade at the young age of 26!
In her spare time, Hana enjoys traveling, reading, and playing and watching soccer.
Nora Eigenbrodt is RHAP’s newest Communications and Programs Intern. She is a senior at Vassar College majoring in political science with a minor in women’s studies. Nora is passionate about legislative advocacy for reproductive rights and has previously interned with congressional offices, including the office of her own representative from California, Congressman Adam Schiff. In the future, she hopes to help organizations dedicated to reproductive rights strategize legislatively to pass progressive laws that increase access to reproductive health care for all people.
At RHAP, she is excited to write and curate posts for social media and RHAP’s newsletter. She is also looking forward to helping out with the Reproductive Health Access Network and learning more about clinician-driven advocacy.
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