Local women’s health center gets new name and expands mission
By Rebecca Terrell
After the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision gave US women the right to a legal abortion, feminists across the country celebrated. After so many women had died or had their future fertility compromised from botched, illegal efforts, trained doctors could finally start offering this common medical procedure safely in their offices and hospitals across the country. Only it didn’t happen that way.
Foes of abortion rights threatened to protest any doctor or facility who dared to offer the procedure. Doctors backed down. So women organized themselves in communities across the nation to provide what the medical community would not – access to safe, legal, abortions.
In Memphis, a group of women’s rights activists led by Priscilla Chism opened a small non-profit clinic in 1974 called the Memphis Center for Reproductive Health. They hired physicians and other medical staff, trained volunteers, and opened their doors to the women of the Mid-South. Thirty-seven years later, this small non-profit is still serving the community, but with a new focus on comprehensive reproductive care and an expanding list of services.
“We wanted to create a model of reproductive healthcare that reflected the real needs of women, men, and teens in our community,” said Rebecca Terrell, Executive Director of the center since 2009. “For example, women coming into our clinic to terminate a pregnancy weren’t there because they wanted an abortion. They were there because they didn’t want to be pregnant. That’s a whole different thing. So we started to focus more on their primary needs of pregnancy prevention and planning, and we started listening to what else our patients wanted and needed. Where could men go for nonjudgmental STI testing and treatment? Where could same-sex couples go for fertility services? Where could transgender patients go for hormone management? Who was doing free HIV testing for every patient? Who was talking with teens about normal reproductive development? Who was offering comprehensive pregnancy options counseling? We realized a lot of needs were not being met. So we decided to step it up.”
And step it up they did. The growing non-profit, which will be rebranded as Choices on October 13, now provides adolescent reproductive health visits, colposcopies, fertility assistance including artificial inseminations, HIV testing, reproductive health services for people living with HIV/AIDS through Ryan White Part A, Gardasil vaccinations, lesbian and gay sexual health visits, transgender healthcare, miscarriage management, menopause management, comprehensive pregnancy options counseling, first trimester abortion care, and training of medical students and advanced nurse practitioners. They plan to include prenatal care and mid-wife deliveries by 2013.
So why the new name after all these years? “Nobody could remember our name!” said Terrell. “Even patients who loved the clinic and community supporters had a hard time referring their friends to us. It was just too hard.”
The new name and logo was created for the group by local marketing guru John Malmo. It expresses the values that the center has held for almost 40 years. “People have the right to make choices in their lives and in their healthcare,” says Terrell. “We all deserve choices.”
A cocktail reception to celebrate the center’s rebranding will take place Thursday, October 13, from 5:30 to 7:30pm at 1726 Poplar Ave. in Midtown Memphis. Tickets are $30 each and are available online at mcrh-tn.givezooks.com/events/choices-celebration.