HERSTORY of FWHC

"on the frontlines for women's lives"

Freedom of Choice is fundamental to a woman's autonomy, self esteem, and empowerment. The ability to decide for herself, when, if, and under what circumstances she will give birth enables a woman to control her life. We trust each woman to decide.

Yakima FWHC was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization in 1979 and opened the Yakima clinic in 1980 to:

  • achieve reproductive freedom for women by providing abortion services.
  • demystify health information by offering "self help" (personal empowerment through knowledge about one's body) and empowering women to claim their health, reproduction, bodies and lives.
  • be a nonprofit feminist clinic run by women for women (an alternative to physician-owned private practices or hospital-based abortions).

herstory - accomplishments

1960-73 Women campaigned to decriminalize abortion and built strong networks to get safe abortions.
1970 Washington state voters passed Referendum 20 making abortion legal to 16 weeks, but only under state law.
1971 Carol Downer and Lorraine Rothman founded the first self-help group and later the first Feminist Women's Health Center - in Los Angeles. (Read Carol's feminist blog)
1972 In, 1972, the US Supreme Court ruled in Baird v Eisenstadt, to legalize birth control for non-married people and establish the legal precedent for Roe v Wade.
1973 The US Supreme Court voted 7-2 to legalize abortion in Roe v Wade. Their decision prohibits restrictions on abortion in the first trimester, allows some restrictions - to protect the woman's health - in the second trimester, and limits abortion, after fetal viability, to instances where the woman's life or health is threatened. We celebrate the anniversary of Freedom of Choice every year on Jan. 22.
1979-80 Beverly and Deborah, both Yakima natives, founded FWHC in Yakima to achieve reproductive freedom for women in Central Washington. They worked night jobs to support the clinic, taking no salaries and using their personal money for startup. The first employee, Kimberly, was paid through a federal job training program. FWHC set a new standard in the world of medicine - involving women in their healthcare. Clients performed their own pregnancy tests and counseling was done in a group setting where women drew on the support and strength of their peers.
1982 Staff traveled extensively in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska teaching self cervical exam and fitting cervical caps as part of a study which eventually led to FDA approval of the new woman-controlled method, the cervical cap for birth control.
1983-84 FWHC expanded and set up a second clinic in Everett, Washington. Pickets arrived before the clinic was even open to the public and within nine months Everett FWHC closed, the result of three fire-bombs, intense harassment, threats and intimidation. After the first two fire-bombs, we rebuilt, renovated and purchased new equipment and supplies. But after the third arson, our insurance company canceled our policy and the landlord canceled our lease and confiscated our property. Despite the obstacles, more than 300 women were served. Curtis Beseda was eventually arrested and admitted guilt for arsons. Nine months after opening, The Everett Feminist Women's Health Center closed with an unknown future. We know now, it never reopened.
1984 Reeling from the nonstop anti-choice attacks, FWHC consulted lawyers and sought community assistance. Supporters across the country sent nearly $25,000 in contributions.

Sadly, reopening the clinic became impossible, but we began investigating filing a lawsuit against perpetrators.
1985

In Yakima, we opened an on-site daycare center providing care for children of clinic staff and clients. Beverly testified before Congress about the impact of antiabortion violence on clinics.

1986 With assistance of volunteer attorneys from the Center for Constitutional Rights and the National Lawyers Guild, we filed a RICO (Racketeering-Influenced Corrupt Organization) lawsuit against several antiabortion individuals and groups alleging conspiracy to close the clinic through a campaign of terror, criminal acts, and violence. Some defendants paid damages and settled out of court. This money was used as the down payment to buy the clinic - and our independence - in Yakima. This RICO lawsuit sent a shock-wave through the antiabortion movement that their violence and destruction of property would not be tolerated in Washington State and helped make Washington a safer place for abortion providers.
1987 We helped found the Washington State Association of Abortion Providers, a professional association for physicians, clinic administrators, counselors and clinic staff to share clinic knowledge, gain support from each other, advocate on laws affecting clinics or choice, and especially to respond to anti-choice threats and blockades from Operation Rescue and others.
1988 Due to unending and intense harassment of the children by antiabortion demonstrators in Yakima, we were forced to close the on-site clinic childcare center.
1988-89

Operation Rescue came to Washington. In their first blockade, 167 people were arrested at Cedar River Clinic in Renton. Our Yakima clinic endured two blockades resulting in approximately 30 arrests. Yakima was picketed every Saturday. We organized community volunteers to help as client escorts and legal observers. Though police response was not what it should have been, the bonds built then with escorts and community members are strong to this day. Working in coalition, we successfully sought a statewide injunction against blockades which significantly reduced blockades in our region and passed legislation in Olympia to make it a crime to interfere with access to, or to disrupt a health care facility (RCW9A.50).

1989 On July 3, 1989, the US Supreme Court handed down the Webster decision barely upholding Roe v Wade with four out of nine justices voting to overturn Roe. Webster gave states new authority to regulate abortion and abortion facilities.
1990 Six years after the bombings in Everett, FWHC successfully won the RICO lawsuit in a jury trial where we proved a conspiracy and pattern of planned violence against our clinic. The jury awarded us nearly one million dollars in damages. However since the defendants appealed to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the fines were never pa id.
1990-91 FWHC participated within the Pro-Choice Washington Coalition effort to utilize a two-year Initiative process to collect 200,000 signatures and place Initiative 120 on the ballot to enact a state law reflecting the same principles as Roe v Wade. FWHC organized the Yakima Valley Network for Choice.
1991 Cedar River Clinic in Renton became part of FWHC when its owner Dr. Baird Bardarson retired, preserving availability of first and second trimester procedures at this facility. Diane H., who had been a co-director of our Everett FWHC, came back to lead the Renton clinic.
1993 On March 10, Dr. David Gunn became the first known physician to be assassinated for performing abortions. He was shot in the back by Michael Griffin outside the Pensacola Women's Clinic in Florida. Today we honor March 10 as "National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers."
1994

On July 29, the nation was again shocked as Paul Hill shot Dr. John Britton and his volunteer escorts June and James Barrett while they sat in a pickup truck outside another Florida women's clinic. Dr. Britton and James Barrett died. In further horrifying violence, on December 30, John Salvi entered two clinics in Brookline, MA, shot and killed receptionists Shannon Lowney and Leeann Nichols.

In response to this overwhelming violence, FWHC stopped the practice of involving volunteers as escorts, installed enhanced security systems at each clinic, and hired security guards, at an annual cost of over $90,000.

FWHC focused on ways for our clinics to survive as Washington entered the era of "Managed Care" and "Health Care Financing Reform." FWHC educated insurance companies and health maintenance organizations about what to look for when contracting out for abortion services.

Congress passed the Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances Act ("FACE") that prohibits the use of intimidation or physical force to prevent or discourage persons from gaining access to a reproductive health care facility.

1995 For the first time we had our own lobbyist representing us in the state legislature in Olympia. We celebrated our 15th Anniversary with an extremely successful Comedy Event in Yakima featuring "Dos Fallopia: twin sisters of difference cul-de-sacs" (Peggy Platt and Lisa Koch of Seattle). In collaboration with researchers at the University of Washington, we began clinical trials of "medical abortion" evaluating two chemotherapy agents, Methotrexate and 6-Mercaptopurine, for induced abortion.
1996 The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals reversed the jury's findings in our RICO lawsuit regarding the campaign of terrorism including arson, harassment, threat, intimidation which closed the Everett FWHC. As a result, we were forced to pay the anti-choice defendants' court costs. Curtis Beseda, convicted arsonist, was released from jail after serving 12 years.
1997

FWHC expanded our well-woman care with the addition of ARNP Ginny. In the 1970's Ginny worked at Womancare, a feminist women's health center in San Diego, CA where she helped establish a new birthing program for pregnant woman and helped author the book Woman-Centered Pregnancy and Birth.

With the enormous contribution of a talented volunteer, the first FWHC website was officially launched. Immediately the most popular section became the personal abortion stories.

1998

FWHC participated in the Pro-Choice Washington Coalition to successfully defeat Initiative 694 which could have have criminalized the "partial birth" abortions and sent doctors to jail. Cedar River Clinic was renovated and expanded to add a surgical suite to be able to offer anesthesia. We hosted a wonderfully successful Open House for friends and supporters to see the renovated clinic.

In Buffalo, New York, ob/gyn Dr. Barnett Slepian was shot by a sniper soon after arriving home on a Friday evening with his entire family gathered around. He was 52 years old. A man-hunt ensued for the assassin who escaped to France but eventually James Kopp was tried and found guilty. Eyall Press has written a book about the events that rocked his family and is home-town entitled "Absolute Convictions: My Father, a City, and the Conflict that Divided America."

1999

FWHC was selected to have a booth at Lilith Fair at the Gorge at George, Washington where we gave away hundreds of speculums to women wanting to learn self-exam and collected signatures on petitions requesting the state legislature and Congress to pass the Contraceptive Equity Bills to ensure contraceptives are covered if their insurance plan covers any other prescriptions.

2000

Cascade Family Planning in Lakewood (south Tacoma) became part of the Feminist Women's Health Center when the owner-physician retired from medicine.

Cedar River Clinic in Renton held an open house to connect with colleagues in the field of women's health so they could see our new Surgical Suite where we provide enhanced anesthesia options.

FWHC endorsed the Campaign for Abortion and Reproductive Equity (CARE 2000) led by the National Network of Abortion Funds bringing attention to the injustice caused by the Hyde Amendment that prevents the use of any federal government money from being use to pay for abortion thus impacting Medicaid, federal employees insurance, military family insurance and Indian Health Service.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) approved Mifepristone (RU-486), the new early abortion pill for use in the United States.

2001

We launched a special fundraising effort asking donors to give "in the President's name." Donations went toward abortions for Women In Need and special letters went to the (new) President George W. Bush thanking him for helping raise money to pay for abortions.

Cascade Family Planning sponsored a public showing and discussion of two documentary films, "Legal but out of reach: six women's abortion stories" and "Abortion Denied: shattering young women's lives" at the Capitol Theater in Olympia, our state capitol. The films explain the devastating impact of the Hyde Amendment's denial of abortion coverage under Medicaid and what happens under parental consent/notification laws.

We marched in the April 7th "Mobilize for Women's Lives" March in Seattle, for health rights, economic justice and safety for women.

2003 FWHC celebrated the 30th Anniversary of Roe v Wade with a comedy show and party co-sponsored by The CAIR Project, featuring comics Kathy Griffin and Peggy Platt, "Fighting for Choice, One Joke at at Time" on January 22, 2003 at Town Hall in Seattle.
2004

When no available rental space could be found in Pierce County to house Cascade Family Planning, we purchased and renovated a clinic in Tacoma. Our new location in the Hilltop neighborhood of Upper Tacoma opened in March 2004. Funding was made possible through grants (Horizons Foundation, Norman Archibald Foundation, One Family (Wood Family) Foundation), Paul G. Allen Family Foundation, individual donations, and a loan through the Washington Health Care Facilities Authority.

We completed a two year ground-breaking research project of the attitudes of women who got abortion at our clinics toward voting and taking action to protect the right to choose. We found that isolation and silence contribute to stigma and stigma blocks participation. When women realize they are not alone (one in three women in their lifetimes will have an abortion), when they connect with each other, the stigma is reduced. Having a connection helps paving the way for taking action.

Staff and Board Members joined millions of other pro-Choice Americans in Washington DC to "March for Women's Lives." Feminist Women's Health Center co-sponsored the historic march of more than 500,000 people.

WA State Attorney General issued an opinion that ARNP (and other advance practice clinicians such as Physician's Assistants) may provide medical abortion (the abortion pill) in our state because it is within their scope of practice.

We changed our name to Cedar River Clinics and selected a new logo.

cedar river clinics logo

2005

Cedar River Clinics published the one-of-a-kind truly comprehensive Birth Control Comparison Chart brochure and website. To get your copy of useful brochure that compares and contrasts available methods of birth control, send us your postal mailing address stating you want the Birth Control Chart.

2006

We sponsored screenings in four counties of a new documentary film entitled The Abortion Diaries by Penny Lane (yes that is her real name) to help stop the silence around abortion.

We co-sponsored Loretta Ross (of Sistersong) in Seattle on Reproductive Justice and "Bridging the Race and Class Divide in the Women's Movement" and "Achieving Reproductive Justice" sponsored by Seattle Chapter of National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF).

We helped launch the Feminist Abortion Network of all the non-profit feminist abortion providing clinics across the country.

2007

We testified before the WA Board of Pharmacy in support of a new rule requiring pharmacies to fill valid prescriptions. We explained our complaint to Dept of Health that a pharmacist told us she was "morally unable" to fill prescriptions for post-abortion medications including antibiotics and other post-abortion medication.

In our No Matter What Happens campaign, we conducted a special fundraising drive to secure the ability of Cedar River Clinics to provide abortion services for the long run.

Executive Director Beverly W. was elected to the Board of Directors of the National Abortion Federation a professional association of abortion providers in USA-Canada-Mexico.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled, 5 to 4, in a decision in Gonzales v Carhart, to uphold a Congressionally-passed federal ban on one type of abortion procedure.

2008 We launched BUILDING FUTURES to raise funds dedicated to relocating our Renton clinic within South King County. (As it turned out, we moved in May 2010 to a new location within Renton.)
2009

On May 31, Dr. George Tiller of Wichita, KS was assassinated while ushering at his church on Sunday morning. Dr. Tiller was well known across the nation for providing abortions when others would turn women away, especially when there were fetal malformations that were incompatible with life. We dedicated our newsletter to his memory.

The Yakima Herald Republic wrote about our founder Beverly who founded the organization 30 years ago. Beverly W, co-founder and Exec Director says "It is an honor to be involved in work that matters: abortion, birth control, and women's health care continue to be vital tools for women's self-determination, freedom and health.

2010

Our Renton clinic moved to newly renovated location at 263 Rainier Ave South, Suite 200 in Renton, WA 98057. Clients expressed great excitement at the lovely new energy efficient facility with lots of natural light and much larger waiting room.

Everyone concerned about violence against abortion providers should read this article: Not a Lone Wolf by Amanda Robb in Ms Magazine, and see Rachel Maddow's documentary on MSNBC.

With a heavy heart, we announced the Yakima health center, that has provided abortion care and women's health care for 30 years, closed. Clinics in Renton and Tacoma remain open. The administrative office in Yakima remains open.

2011

For the first time ever, our clinic is receiving a grant through Human Services funding from City of Renton to underwrite reproductive health care for Renton women.

We celebrate one year in our new space in Renton. It is working out wonderfully! See pictures.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS:

Feminist Women's Health Center of WA which operates Cedar River Clinics has been accredited by AAAHC since 2000. Accreditation demonstrates our clinics meet rigorous standards for delivery of quality health care services.
  • pioneered safest, least traumatic abortion techniques and trained more than 60 physicians and residents in abortion technique
  • provided abortion services in regions of Washington state which are/were underserved
  • helped found WSAAP, the Washington State Association of Abortion Providers in the mid-1980's
  • participates in numerous pro-choice coalitions and associations including:
  • Coalition/collaboration work resulted in:
    • passage of Initiative 120 setting the standards of Roe v Wade in state law in 1991.
    • defeat of anti-choice Initiatives 695 in 1998, 471 and 479 to prohibit Medicaid funding of abortion in Washington in 1985 and 1987.
    • a statewide injunction against clinic blockades with fines against blockaders and a change in state law to to protect patients' rights to safely enter health care facilities.
    • unmasking of "fake" abortion clinics (clinics that pretend they offer abortion but when a woman goes there they give her biased antiabortion information)
    • stopping anti-choice legislation in Olympia.
    • passage of national and state legislation to end clinic violence and protect against harassment. Beverly testified before Congress about the impact of clinic violence relating our experiences in Everett.
    • making sure Washington's Health policies meet the needs of women, are not gender-biased, do not impede access to abortion services, and do not allow employers, insurance plans or other institutions to use conscience clauses to "opt out" of providing care, ensure women and girls are offered emergency contraception when the seek treatment for sexual assault in emergency rooms.
    • WA State Attorney General's opinion that ARNPs may provide medical abortion.
  • helped win FDA approval of cervical cap.
  • conducted a cutting edge medical research on "medical abortion" (non-surgical abortion options) in collaboration with the University of Washington.
  • sent Beverly Whipple to Huairou, China for the NGO Forum paralleling the UN's 4th World Conference on Women in Beijing, China in 1995.
  • purchased and renovated clinics in Tacoma (2003) and Yakima (1986) when no one would rent to us.
  • renovated our clinic in Renton to offer Deep Sedation when the only other doctor who had been offering Moderate to Deep Sedation during abortion retired from practice.
  • published the highly-regarded Birth Control Comparison Chart
  • built informational websites that are utilized by over 70,000 people each week for information on abortion, birth control, menopause, menstrual cycles and women's health.

The "herstory" above represents highlights of the our presence in Washington State. To learn more about the origin of feminist clinics, see "Self Help Clinic Celebrates 25 Years" and Sherry Schiffer's personal memoir of the early Los Angeles-FWHC. We are part of the a feminist abortion network of feminist clinics throughout the United States and the world.

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More articles on the history of the women's health movement

page updated September 19, 2011


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