Last week, we brought together over 50 Network leaders for the first-ever Network Leadership Summit. Held in Chicago, the Summit was a day-long strategic planning retreat and leadership training for Network leaders from Clusters around the country. We had representation from 20 of our 23 Clusters, as well as a few of RHAP’s strongest advocates within the American Academy of Family Physicians. We were lucky to have Miriam Yeung, MPA, a longtime community organizer and reproductive justice advocate, facilitate this great training.
The day started out with welcome speeches from RHAP’s Executive Director, Lisa Maldonado, and Medical Director, Linda Prine, who both explained the importance and purpose of bringing together leaders from across the country to collaborate and strategize. Lisa reminded us that we are all a part of something larger – the Network is now 2,800 members strong, thanks to the efforts of our wonderful leaders! After these introductions, Miriam led us in some ice breaker activities (that involved some running and movement) and, as we prepared to sit down, the power went out! This didn’t stop us, however – in fact, the power outage helped us bond even more (though we were relieved when the power came back on).
Despite the blackout, the morning session carried on with RHAPid Raps, where several Cluster leaders shared quick tidbits on a few issues that are important to our movement, such as self-managed abortion, six-week bans, and the impact of the newly proposed Title X rules. After these quick updates, we dived right into an exercise using the Root Cause Analysis tool, which helped us understand why it’s critical that we organize as clinicians to expand access to abortion care. Then, before lunch, RHAP National Organizer Laura Riker presented on RHAP’s theory of change and our strategy for expanding access to reproductive health care.
After lunch, Hailey Broughton-Jones, RHAP’s Program and Communications Associate, led us in a conversation about activism within the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). Like the American Medical Association and other professional medical associations, the AAFP is a voice for family medicine that is listened to by lobbyists and policy-makers at the national level. We’re working hard to make sure that the AAFP as an organization advocates for reproductive health care in family medicine so that we can ensure that primary care clinicians have access to the proper training and support to bring full-spectrum reproductive health care into their primary care settings.
Finally, we closed out the day by giving each Cluster leadership team space to develop a strategy and concrete goals for their Cluster in the coming year. The ideas that were generated range from partnering with community organizations to presenting at AAFP meetings to hosting medication abortion trainings, movie screenings, journal clubs, and much more. This Summit was the first concerted effort to bring all Cluster leadership together in one space to share ideas and develop concurrent strategies for growing their Clusters. We left feeling inspired, energized, and with a clearer sense of purpose – and we look forward to continuing our leadership development trainings with our leaders in the future!
Just last month, one of our RHAP fellows led a workshop for a group of New York-based physicians, nurse practitioners, and midwives on the fundamentals of counseling and managing medication abortions using mifepristone (the “abortion pill”). She taught them how to counsel patients about their options, what tests to run, what to do if they don’t have access to ultrasound equipment, how to manage complications, and strategies to address administrative barriers to providing medication abortion. Everyone in the workshop shared their knowledge, experiences, and questions and learned from each other about how they can best serve patients who are seeking abortion care. Two clinicians in the workshop coordinated to arrange abortion referrals, as one of the clinicians has yet to integrate medication abortion into her practice.
Our goal is to continue to expand medication abortion training to reach more clinicians than ever. This month, we ask you to help us train 440 clinicians across the country in medication abortion via the 22 workshops we will offer throughout the year. We need to raise $24,000 to do this. Your support now will allow us to offer clinicians continuing education credit, tools, resources, and even start-up supplies. If you give by May 31st, your impact will be doubled thanks to a dollar-for-dollar match from a generous donor! Donate today!
Last month, Hailey Broughton-Jones (RHAP’s Program and Communications Associate) and I attended the New Leadership Networking Initiative (NLNI), a project of Civil Liberties and Public Policy (CLPP) that works to connect “new vision, voices, and leadership for the reproductive justice movement.” We spent the day in Amherst, MA, connecting with activists across the country to talk about what the reproductive health, rights, and justice movements look like in our homes, how to listen to the voices that our movements often discourage, and how non-reproductive justice organizations can move closer to investing in reproductive justice and applying a reproductive justice framework to all aspects of their work. Reproductive justice is a theory and a practice created by black women in 1994 to address the reproductive oppression overlooked by white women leaders in the reproductive rights movement. Reproductive justice is defined by SisterSong as the human right to “maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.”
“What is your big dream for the movement?” is what all the participants were asked when we arrived for our daylong NLNI session with leaders in the reproductive justice movement. “If reproductive justice was actualized, what would it look like?” We heard from our fellow attendees what their big dreams are as the group went around the room, introducing ourselves – you can learn a lot from someone when they share their big dream. It’s not always connected to their current job title or the organization they work for, but all of us have a dream that we want to be realized. Some of the thoughts that came up repeatedly included: unity, solidarity, inclusion, partnership, adequate wages, valuing the people in the movement, compassion, financial independence, and accountability.
NLNI also reminded us that we have work to do. During lunch, we broke out into small groups to discuss other issues in more detail. How do we make space for the youth voices in our movement? How do we work to decriminalize sex work and recognize that sex workers’ movements should not be isolated from other reproductive rights, health, and justice movements, but should be integral to our organizing efforts?
As a reproductive health organization, the Reproductive Health Access Project seeks to learn from the reproductive justice movement, so that we can hold ourselves accountable to our values and strive towards our mission of making reproductive health care accessible to everyone.
I am so inspired by the work that everyone I met at NLNI is doing: the activists from Georgia, fighting nonstop against the abortion ban that their governor signed into law earlier this week, who got on a plane directly from a demonstration; the faith-based organizers who are connecting within their communities to work towards the world they believe in. I feel re-invigorated to continue driving toward a more just world. What am I doing each day to get to my dream? As you go about your work, paid or unpaid, in the reproductive justice movement or alongside it, think of your dream and how you are fighting for it. I invite you to join us in dreaming.
-Kallie McLoughlin, Operations Associate
We host “Papaya Workshops” all the time. Usually, the workshops are for clinicians, students, or allies, but we thought it would be great to offer our donors a chance to experience a papaya workshop. Not only would they learn more about abortion care, but they’d see our approach to teaching and patient-centered counseling in action.
We invited all of our New York City area donors to attend a papaya workshop on March 27th, but capped attendance at 15 – the most we can comfortably fit around our conference table! Dr. Kelly Kirkpatrick, one of our New York fellows, led the workshop and our Development Officer, Nushin Bhimani, filled in as a patient with an unintended pregnancy during the role-play portion of the workshop.
All of our workshops typically follow this format: Introduction to patient-centered options counseling. This is how we model non-judgemental discussion of pregnancy options for patients experiencing an unwanted pregnancy and provide an overview of early abortion options. In our role-play, the patient ends up choosing an aspiration abortion. At that point, we explain the procedure as we would to a patient, and then follow that with a demonstration of the procedure on a papaya using a manual vacuum aspirator.
We take plenty of questions and then give folks a chance to use the instruments.
Everyone was fascinated! We bought enough papayas so that everyone would have a chance to try out the instruments. We had a lively discussion about training, legislation, and access. It really brought home for the attendees that abortion care, especially early abortion care, is a simple, safe procedure. And, they have a deeper understanding of the role clinicians play in making patients feel accepted and supported in whatever decision they make regarding their pregnancy plans.
We will be hosting papaya workshops all around the country. If you would like to host one, let us know. We believe that these workshops are an excellent way to de-stigmatize abortion care and provide an overview of abortion care in the U.S.
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