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
- 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
||Women campaigned to decriminalize
abortion and built strong networks
to get safe abortions.
||Washington state voters passed
Referendum 20 making abortion legal to 16 weeks, but
only under state law.
||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)
||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.
||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.
||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
||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.
||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.
||Reeling from the nonstop
anti-choice attacks, FWHC consulted lawyers and sought
community assistance. Supporters across the country
sent nearly $25,000 in contributions.
the clinic became impossible, but we began investigating filing a lawsuit against perpetrators.
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.
||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.
||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.
||Due to unending and intense
harassment of the children by antiabortion demonstrators
in Yakima, we were forced to close the on-site clinic
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).
||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
||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.
||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.
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.
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."
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.
||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.
||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
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
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."
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.
Family Planning in Lakewood (south Tacoma) became part of the Feminist Women's Health Center when the owner-physician retired from medicine.
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.
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.
||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.
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
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 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.
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.
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.
|| 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.)
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.
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.
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.
||Cedar River Clinics begins offering LGBTQ Wellness Services thanks in part to a grant from Pride Foundation
|| Our Founder and Executive Director, Beverly Whipple, retires after 35 years of service. “I will always be an activist and support our clinics by raising my voice and wielding my pen.” Connie Cantrell, our former Director of Operations with 21 years of service, is selected as the new Executive Director
Our downtown Seattle location in the Medical Dental building opens on August 11th. Our presence in Seattle began with the acquisition of Aurora Medical Services in April. The previous owner and provider, Deborah Oyer, MD, joined the staff of Cedar River Clinics. “I’m excited to join such a wonderful team of providers. Cedar River Clinics has a long history of providing excellent health care and treating patients with compassion, dignity and respect,” states Dr. Oyer.
||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
- Coalition/collaboration work resulted in:
- passage of Initiative 120
setting the standards of Roe v Wade in state law in
- 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
- 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
- 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
menstrual cycles and women's
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.
More articles on the history of the women's health movement
August 15, 2014
"Women are the gatekeepers of life. We have not just the right, but the responsibility, to decide whether and when to bring new life into the world through our bodies."
Feminist Women's Health Center