What’s the Matter With Kansas? They are Trusting Women!

by Missouri State Rep. Stacey Newman – August 14, 2017

Immediately after all patients were seen Saturday afternoon, Dr. Colleen McNicholas and I jumped in a car and drove 2.5 hours to Wichita with Julie Burkhart, Trust Women Foundation CEO.

The “Brain of the Clinic”, the patient board, is finally empty after a busy Saturday.

Trust Women was founded after the 2009 assassination of Dr. George Tiller, the nationally known abortion provider for over three decades, to honor his commitment to women and continue his work.

Currently Trust Women operates three abortion clinics – in Oklahoma City, Seattle and in Dr. Tiller’s former Wichita clinic, the South Wind Women’s Center. All three clinics provide comprehensive reproductive care including medication and surgical abortions, adoption referral, early prenatal care, miscarriage management, contraceptive counseling, well-woman exams and LGBTQIA services.

Currently there are only two abortion clinics in all of Kansas, including the Planned Parenthood Comprehensive Health Center in Overland Park, a southern Kansas City suburb. 97% of Kansas counties do not have an abortion clinic and 56% of Kansas women live in those counties.

Sunday morning Trust Women Foundation hosted a reproductive health strategy session brunch with Kansas legislators, Dr. McNicholas and me, the Missouri interloper.

With Dr. McNicholas at the legislative brunch, after a bit more sleep.

State Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, State Sen. Lynn Rogers, House Minority Leader Jim Ward, Rep. John Carmichael and Rep Gail Finney, all of Wichita, attended along with one other in his first term from Salina, State Sen. Randall Hardy.

The eye opener? Sen. Hardy is a Republican. A moderate. From the middle of Kansas. A legislator who believes that women don’t need government interfering in private medical decisions. In Kansas!

Sen. Hardy is not alone. My good friend, Sen. Dr. Barbara Bollier from Mission Hills is also a moderate KS Republican who champions women’s health and there were even more moderate GOP Kansans elected in 2016.

In fact, I almost fell out of my seat when Sen. Hardy laughingly agreed that he was never ever going to become pregnant so he had no business telling women what they should do!

I left the brunch with my new friends having hope for the future in our crazy legislative world of punishing women and their doctors.

All Women with Hate Among Them

By Missouri State Rep. Stacey Newman – August 14, 2017

Hate towards Muslims, Jews, Blacks, Hispanics, Women, Gays & Transgender… ugly, exposed, all around us.

I’m with all kinds of women – patients, staff and doctor – as a male sat in the clinic waiting room with his KKK, Nazi anti-Semitic tattoos and a very loud voice.

I couldn’t be at a rally or faith service but I am here. I have a loud voice too.

The Real-life World of Real-life Women

by Missouri State Rep. Stacey Newman – August 13, 2017
The real world is all around us if we would just see it.

A Board for Love Notes to Each Other, donated by LadyPartsJusticeLeague.com last month.

As I continue my journey shadowing Dr. Colleen McNicholas in an Oklahoma City abortion clinic, I’m face to face with real-life women while real-life hatred rages in Virginia. Clinic staff and I try to share every bit of news from Charlottesville, the best we can between procedures, huddled briefly in hallways on our phones.
My journey is challenging everything I thought I knew – from my working class upbringing through my life decisions to becoming a mother and now as a legislator who deals with real-life policy consequences.
I’m with real women of every age, race, nationality, faith, income level, family unit and political view. Real women trying to hang on to their personal hopes and dreams from childhood.
Real women reduced to their core in a sterile room with bare feet in examining table stirrups and a flimsy paper drape over their legs. Real women putting on their most brave face making that ultimate choice to trust in themselves & everything they know.
Friday between 8:45am and 7pm, 21 patients had abortion procedures, Saturday – 18 procedures by 2:25pm. I was with most of them, from their initial counseling to the doctor consultation in the examining room all the way through their surgical procedure until they were released to the recovery room. All kinds of women with all kinds of reasons – a very wanted pregnancy gone horribly wrong, a serious genetic issue, mothers who could not chance another life threatening pregnancy, contraceptive failures, personal drug issues and much more. A woman who needed a Mandarin translator, most who had young children at home, many who had suffered miscarriages and one concerned about potential boyfriend abuse.
I saw each of their faces, their hands, their feet. Our eyes met as each woman consented to allow me to be in the rooms with them. We instantly connected through our sisterhood as I witnessed their attempts to be stoic during numbing injections, the shock of uncomfortable vaginal sensations and the raw vulnerability of the experience.
Each woman was sure of her decision.
I wanted badly to hug each one as hard as I could.
“In the course three minutes, the path of a woman’s life is totally changed”, said a clinic nurse staffer after a long day.
Hopes and dreams and possibilities of a future they want for themselves. A chance to put back on their shoes and sandals and go in the direction they alone choose. A chance to write their story their way.
One woman wrote on her clinic evaluation form, “Thank you for still seeing me as a person”.
This is the real world.

The Silent Observer Among the Sisterhood

by Missouri State Rep. Stacey Newman – August 12, 2017

Most of yesterday – from 8:30am to 7pm, I was the silent observer at the Trust Women clinic in Oklahoma City, the one standing in the corner silently watching. I tried to blend as inconspicuously as I could in patient consultation and surgical operating rooms as Dr. Colleen McNicholas and staff went about their routine.

Dr. McNicholas entering records between patients.

After a mandatory counseling session, patients progressed to an initial consultation with Dr. Colleen after choosing either a medical or surgical procedure.

Medical abortions are a 2 day process with the 1st dose of mifepristone right then and a 2nd dose of misoprostol taken safely 24-48 hours later at home. Medical abortions are best effective up to 10 weeks of gestational age. If a woman chooses a surgical procedure before 17 weeks she can opt for same day surgery. If she is beyond 17 weeks, she needs to return the following day after a cervix expanding treatment.

Oklahoma state law bans abortions at 22 weeks or later so the clock is ticking for both the patient and provider.

Each physician consultation differs, depending on the woman’s age, her choice of procedure, medical history and circumstance. Many women had traveled several hours with friends, partners or mothers as their support – a few came alone. Dr. Colleen made them feel at ease before doing an ultrasound (at 6 weeks or under a vaginal ultrasound is usually necessary to be able to see the pregnancy). She asked each if they would like to see the ultrasound or have a photo and many said yes. She asked when there were tears, if they were okay to proceed, always making sure they were comfortable with their decision.

I was struck by the sense of calm in the clinic along with the camaraderie and instant warm compassion by the all female staff. Every patient was treated with the exact same kindness and the exact same tenderness.

The hardest part for me was stifling the urge to be a caretaker too. I wanted to hold their hands during surgery and give a compassionate hug afterwards but that was not my role.

We were all sisters in the clinic, with an immediate understanding of each other. Any of us could be wearing any of our shoes. A sisterhood with an instant bond of strength and hope of the future.

The History and Epidemiology of Abortion at University of Oklahoma College of Medicine

By Missouri State Rep. Stacey Newman – August 12, 2017

After a nonstop morning shadowing Dr. Colleen McNicholas who saw 9 abortion patients before 11:30am, we were driven to the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine.

But first we had to pass the contingent of protestors outside the clinic who come often around lunchtime.

For the next 1.5 hours I sat in on Colleen’s lecture to the OB-GYN residents on “The History and Epidemiology of Abortion”, under the direction of Lisa Landrum, MD, PhD in Gynecology Oncology. While the residents ate a non-glamorous lunch of pizza, Colleen (no chance to eat herself) covered the worldwide history of abortion from the days of Plato 1150 B.C. to the present.

We learned that prior to the U.S. Constitution, abortion was legal, widely advertised and performed before “quickening” (when fetus’s were first felt to move in utero). The stringent religious influence was felt soon enough as laws appeared in the early 1800’s criminalizing the circulation of contraceptives which were considered for “immoral use”. However by the late 1800’s our country experienced a profound demographic change — including the proliferation of suffragettes eventually resulting in the 19th constitutional amendment and the work of Margaret Sanger promoting birth control for which women desperately begged.

As medical science became more perfected and exploded with technical and pharmaceutical advances, so did cases before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Women’s lives changed dramatically as was evident by the majority number of women in this OU OB/GYN residency class.

I was fascinated by the questions asked of Colleen afterwards, including the safety precautions in daily life that abortion providers, particularly those in red states must make.

And then we immediately headed back to the clinic where patients were waiting.

No time for lunch.

Abandon women and physicians on abortion rights?

by Missouri State Rep. Stacey Newman – August 12, 2017

I learned this was published this morning as I was in my 3rd examination room with a woman having her pre-surgical exam for a very wanted pregnancy gone horribly wrong.

Am even more resolved.


Democrats must not abandon women and physicians on abortion rights

St. Louis American Op-Ed by Rep. Stacey Newman – August 12, 2017

I have spent every ounce of energy and every brain cell I could muster these past two months on protecting reproductive justice during the Governor’s Extraordinary Special Session on Abortion.  As the chair of the House Progressive Caucus, I worked round the clock with physicians, religious leaders, attorneys with constitutional and health care expertise and, most importantly, women from all corners of the state.

Even though I’ve had a pregnancy, I learned way more than I never knew I would need about development of zygotes and embryos, routine miscarriage procedures, standard medical practice of pregnancy complications with fetal abnormalities and infertility practices. My binders of legislative research look like medical textbooks even though I am not an OB/GYN nor is anyone else in the legislature or governor’s office.

Abortion care includes long standard treatment after a miscarriage (D & C’s and D & E’s), severe fetal abnormalities in very much wanted pregnancies, complications involving a deceased fetus, rape and incest cases and other numerous reasons that are bound by HIPPA regulations. Up to 25 percent of pregnancies result in miscarriage, one in three women have had an abortion, and seven in 10 people believe abortion must remain constitutionally protected. Women of all ages and faiths, including Republicans who have confided in me and even abortion protestors, have had an abortion for reasons that are none of our business.

Abortion care is constitutionally protected, even more so with the landmark 2016 U.S. Supreme Court decision which states abortion regulations must actually outweigh the undue burden it places on access.

As the legislature spent over $20,000 per day for 48 days to attack St. Louis city’s reproductive anti-discrimination ordinance and advance new unconstitutional restrictions on abortion providers through SB5, I understand in full the real life consequences of the bill on women and physicians living in every county of the state.

Not one credible respected medical organization or entity supported SB5, so you might think it would be a slam dunk that every Democrat would be in opposition. However, just like in regular sessions, the “pro-life” Democrats routinely side with the anti-science, anti-medical, anti-reproductive rights lobby – even though women, particularly those of color and in rural neighborhoods, will lose access to basic healthcare and physicians standards of protocol will be jeopardized.

So you can imagine my blood pressure when I heard my state party chair along with national Democratic leaders say they are a-ok with recruiting and financial supporting additional “pro-life” candidates. Since when did it become acceptable for Democrats on a policy level to throw women’s access to basic healthcare under the bus and interfere with medical practice?

Access to abortion and the whole gamut of reproductive healthcare is an issue of economic justice, racial justice and human rights. Every woman’s choice when and if to have children is not a decision which belongs to anyone else, particularly legislators.

I was just one of the millions of women who were the majority of January’s Women’s March in Washington D.C.  and in tons of other cities, including in Missouri.  Reproductive freedom, including access to abortion, was a huge tenet of the protest and remains at the forefront of the congressional fight targeting healthcare.  Reproductive justice remains a strong issue on Election Day for millions of women, as reflected by the continual 20-point gender spread by women, most dependably women of color, voting Democrat.

Plenty of faith leaders from diverse denominations endorse reproductive rights, including Rabbi Susan Talve of Central Reform Congregation and Rev. Dr. Traci Blackmon of Christ the King United Church of Christ.  They recently published a video with other leaders, “What it Means to Be Pro-Life Missouri” exposing the “pro-life” hypocrisy of the legislature and in opposition of SB5. Rabbi Jonah Zinn of Shaare Emeth Congregation in St. Louis was one of the most ardent testifying against SB5 in June.

With our long historical struggle for full voting rights, racial and LGBT equality, to throw women up as a political tool to recruit conservative candidates is abhorrent. Would these leaders consider racist candidates?  Those opposed to equality or any other human right? Yet, those “pro-life” conservative electeds already in office also tend to vote for bills which target minorities, loosen gun laws, rob federal TANF funds and give millions in state funds to unregulated fake pregnancy centers.

In the last century, strides by women academically, in the workforce and in government is due to reproductive freedom – deciding if, when and how to raise a family, no matter what kind or color of family we are.

Having autonomy over our own body is not a moral, religious or social issue but a basic human right.


My First 4 Hours at the Trust Women Clinic, Oklahoma City

By Missouri State Rep. Stacey Newman – August 11, 2017

With Dr. Colleen McNicholas arriving near midnight in Oklahoma City.

Last night near midnight, my friend Dr. Colleen McNicholas and I landed in Oklahoma City where I will be her shadow for several days at the Trust Women Clinic. As a Missouri legislator who champions reproductive rights, I need to experience her real world of abortion care.
The Trust Women Clinic is one of only four abortion clinics in the entire state of Oklahoma and is dependent on 5 out of state physicians who regularly travel here to be the revolving abortion provider.
Colleen, as a physician and educator at Washington University in St. Louis, spends an enormous amount of time in reproductive healthcare advocacy, teaching residents how to speak up and testifies in the Capitol every chance she can. On top of that, she also travels to Oklahoma City and Wichita about every 5-6 weeks to provide abortion care to women who have very little options.
I have never done this before.
Already by Noon today, I have observed 7 patient-doctor consultations, one surgical pre-op for a 2 day procedure and witnessed a surgical abortion for a 16 week pregnancy.
Very wanted pregnancies with fetal abnormalities and birth control methods which failed.
The real world is nothing like anti-abortion legislators say it is.