We are pleased to announce that this year’s Kenneth J. Ryan, MD, Memorial Program Award recipient is Dr. Valerie Williams. Physicians for Reproductive Health CEO Jodi Magee and past Board Chair/Ryan Committee member Dr. Doug Laube presented Dr. Williams with the Ryan Award on May 16, during the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Annual Clinical Meeting.
On February 3, we announced Dr. Valerie Williams as the 2016 Ryan Memorial Scholarship Award recipient. Dr. Williams is currently Assistant Professor at Louisiana State University (LSU) Health Sciences Center, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology in New Orleans, LA. She has distinguished herself by spearheading a new Ryan Program at LSU, in an area of the country that faces great unmet need for family planning services. A native of Houston, Dr. Williams has always held a special connection to the South, and she was naturally drawn to serve the people of New Orleans. Before Dr. Williams arrived at LSU, resident teaching regarding contraception and abortion was minimal, and devices like the manual vacuum aspirator were not available for use. Drawing on her abortion and contraception learned during her time in Colorado, Dr. Williams introduced training for residents about LARC and how to perform suction dilation and curettage using manual vacuum aspirators, and she has worked tirelessly to ensure that her patients and her residents have access to the services and training they deserve. Dr. Williams’s passion for reproductive health access has endeared her to her department and her residents. Despite the challenges she faces working in a conservative area, Dr. Williams refuses to be stopped from providing excellent service to her patients and her residents.
On May 19, the Oklahoma state senate passed legislation that would criminalize doctors who perform abortions, amounting to a complete ban on abortion services in the state. Physicians for Reproductive Health Board Chair Dr. Nancy Stanwood issued the following statement:
“This dangerous and unconstitutional legislation in Oklahoma is yet another egregious example of politicians attempting to illegally ban abortion by intimidating doctors from providing services. It would limit our ability to meet the needs of women and threaten us with penalties for providing safe, compassionate, and necessary care. I hope reason prevails and Governor Fallin vetoes this harmful bill.
“As a doctor, I am especially concerned that the Oklahoma legislature is suggesting that abortion is somehow separate from the practice of medicine. Nothing could be further from the truth. Abortion is an essential part of the full spectrum of women’s health care, and with this legislation politicians are creating a grave and irresponsible barrier against women in need of reproductive care. That’s why major medical organizations oppose this type of blatant interference into the doctor-patient relationship.
“The doctors in our organization know that women deserve better. We know that access to reproductive care is essential for women to make the best health choices for themselves and their families. So even as we face a growing number of restrictions and attacks, we are proud to continue to provide abortion care to women across the country. Our decisions to provide are not based on politics, but on the real people we work with every day. And the stories of why we provide are a testament to the importance of providing abortion access to everyone, regardless of where they live — and to protecting women’s ability to make private decisions in consultation with their doctors. Our patients deserve to have access to care with dignity and respect.”
On May 2, Dr. Diane Horvath-Cosper filed an administrative complaint with the Department of Health and Human Services. The complaint asks the Office for Civil Rights to investigate MedStar Washington Hospital’s discriminatory practice of prohibiting its physicians and health care providers from speaking publicly about abortion. Physicians for Reproductive Health Board Chair Dr. Nancy Stanwood issued this statement in support of Dr. Horvath-Cosper:
“Physicians for Reproductive Health supports the efforts of Dr. Diane Horvath-Cosper, a fellow of our Leadership Training Academy, to be a vocal advocate for reproductive health. We are deeply concerned that she has been forced to choose between her job and her conviction to speak out about providing abortion care.
“As physicians, we have a professional duty to talk about injustices that affect our patients. From health care reform to combating gun violence, to advocating for safe and timely access to abortion, advocacy is fast becoming a key part of being a physician. The media and policy makers look to us to help them understand medical issues.
“I am an abortion provider and I feel obligated to speak out about what I do to support my patients and help combat the stigma that surrounds this essential health care. I have been fortunate to be involved with organizations that understand the importance of the physician voice and have worked carefully with the institutions where I have been employed to make sure that they are comfortable with my media and policy advocacy.
“In today’s climate of harassment, intimidation, and incendiary rhetoric, physicians that want to speak out about abortion care need to be supported, not silenced. To openly advocate as an abortion provider can carry risk, but forbidding physicians from advocating discredits the life-saving care we provide to our patients. Too many of us feel constrained by our employerswhen it comes to discussing the importance of safe and legal abortion.
“At Physicians for Reproductive Health, part of our mission is to train physicians to be equipped to speak out for their patient’s health and to feel supported by a network of colleagues around the country. To date we have trained more than 240 physicians, from a variety of medical specialties, many of whom provide abortion care. These dedicated doctors have compassion for their patients and are proud of the care they provide. We all benefit when they speak out, countering misinformation and stigma. We hope that Dr. Horvath-Cosper will soon be able to freely communicate in her personal capacity about her beliefs and experiences as an abortion provider.”
Medical students and physicians from across the state of California made their way to Sacramento last week to advocate for legislation that would improve access to safe, reliable birth control. The bill, SB 999, would require all health care service plans and insurers to cover up to 12-months of FDA-approved contraception when dispensed at one time.
Physicians for Reproductive Health partnered with TEACH — Training in Early Abortion for Comprehensive Healthcare – to participate in the advocacy day. Our group visited 16 legislative offices, both Democratic and Republican, which included a meeting with Governor Jerry Brown’s Legislative Director for Health, Donna Campbell. A number of our advocates also rallied on the steps of the State Capitol in support of repealing the Maximum Family Grant Rule, which denies basic needs subsidies for children born to women receiving CalWorks grants.
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