Sunday, May 04, 2008

May Day Letter from New Orleans Women's Health Clinic

Dear Supporters of the New Orleans Women's Health Clinic:

Even before Hurricane Katrina, women of color and low income women in New Orleans lacked access to basic health care. Almost three years after the storm, the limited health care resources that existed before the storm for low income and uninsured individuals have yet to be replaced, despite repeated commitments by public officials to create a "better system." In reality, this "better system" includes plans to shift from public services to subsidized private health insurance, leaving over 60 percent of Louisiana 's most vulnerable residents without health insurance or a safety net.

Combined with the loss of needed public resources and the continuation of economic isolation, gender inequality, environmental hazards, limited housing affordability, and racial discrimination, this lack of services and access to safe, affordable preventative care is equal to a public health disaster that directly impacts women of color and low-income women – particularly those who are young, uninsured, immigrant, elders, head of households, HIV/AIDS positive, homeless, sex workers, queer, disabled/differently-abled, incarcerated and formerly incarcerated, and living in public housing – as they face increased barriers to health care.

The need to organize to address this public health crisis in New Orleans is clear, but the specific needs of women and the issues of sexual and reproductive oppression have not been prioritized in the rebuilding of the city. The manifestations of ill-health, lack of preventative care, inadequate medical resources, and the absence of a comprehensive health policy paint an unpromising picture as the voices of low income and uninsured women of color are largely silenced. Despite this harsh reality, the New Orleans Women's Health Clinic (NOWHC), a women of color-led project, has become a CRITICAL resource with vast potential for comprehensive health education and grassroots organizing activities.

The mission of the New Orleans Women's Health Clinic is to equip marginalized and underserved women with the means to control and care for their own bodies, sexuality, and reproduction through a holistic, community-centered well women approach to health care which integrates sexual health and reproductive justice. Through the organizing and health advocacy work of INCITE! Women of Color Against Violence, the New Orleans Women's Health Clinic was conceived to combine health services with a political analysis of the oppression that prevents low income, uninsured, immigrant, disabled/differently-abled, formerly incarcerated, and LBTQ women of color from receiving comprehensive health care.

NOWHC not only provides health care services, but also addresses the social invisibility of low-income women of color that allows their needs to be chronically ignored and unmet. As corporate healthcare programs attempt to fill the gaps in health care existing for low-income women in New Orleans , NOWHC stands out as a clinic that is grassroots in origin and support, and that incorporates an analysis of the root causes of the current health care crisis into the services it provides.

Since the New Orleans Women's Health Clinic opened on this day one year ago, the demand for our services has steadily increased month by month. We currently provide a range of gynecological care and preliminary obstetrical visits including pregnancy testing and counseling; pap smears; pelvic exams; diagnosis and treatment of irregular menstruation, vaginal, urinary tract, and sexually transmitted infections; comprehensive sex education and access to safe and effective contraceptives; and prenatal care and education. The low cost sliding fee scale rates of the Clinic are possible due to the support we've received this year, most of which has come from individuals like you.

Most recently, we established a Women's Healthcare Fund, designed to ensure that uninsured women who cannot afford the cost of care or medications can receive care at NOWHC. In the coming year, NOWHC plans to begin providing midwifery care, expand our services to gender variant people, conduct educational workshops at the Clinic space and in community settings throughout the city, and engage in base building activities to build support and awareness of the Clinic locally and nationally.

At NOWHC, we are working to build the "table," as we continue to assist women access safe, affordable, and quality health services and resources they need to take care of their over health, bodies, sexuality, and reproductive. To continue this, we are asking you to support the New Orleans Women's Health Clinic in the following ways:

*Make a financial contribution to the New Orleans Women's Health Clinic. We rely primarily on donations from individuals such as you to provide sliding scale medical services to local women, and organize to build our long-term capacity. Donations help NOWHC to pay living wage salaries, rent and maintain our space, and cover the cost of laboratory services for uninsured women. A financial contribution of $50 will provide an annual exam for a woman who otherwise could not afford one, through our Women's Health Care Fund. Hosting a benefit house party will raise enough for a supplies order or a piece of medical equipment, as well as spread the word about NOWHC. In addition to financial donations, we are also accepting gift cards from Office Depot, and prepaid medical supply orders through PSS Medical Supplies. Financial contributions should be made out to our fiscal sponsor: Women With A Vision, with NOWHC listed in the memo line of check. Checks and gift cards should be mailed to:

New Orleans Women's Health Clinic
1406 Esplanade Ave.
New Orleans , LA 70116

*Spread the word about the New Orleans Women's Health Clinic. Publicity in local, national, and international press helps NOWHC spread the word about our services, connects us with people engaged in similar work, provides publicity, and generates support. But, it's something we often don't have time to coordinate ourselves. If you have an idea for an article, please contact us at 504.524.8255 or at for an interview and press points. Alternately, reach people directly by spreading the word about NOWHC to five potential donors. Your direct appeal saves us time and administrative costs!

*Donate needed supplies to the New Orleans Women's Health Clinic. The supplies that NOWHC uses daily really add up. Additionally, there are several pieces of medical equipment that we still need. If you would like to sponsor a supply order, or have supplies or equipment to donate, please contact Cassandra Burrows at to determine if NOWHC can use them, or to get a list of needed supplies. Please don't send unsolicited material.

The New Orleans Women's Health Clinic warmly thanks our network of donors and volunteers for your continued generous support. You are needed now more than ever. Our ability to provide needed services, maintain autonomy, and participate in grassroots organizing is made possible through the support of individuals and organizations in our community and nationwide.


Shana M. griffin, Interim Director
Isabel Barrios, Board Member
Rosana Cruz, Board Member
Monique Harden, Board Member
Deon Haywood, Board Member
Mayaba Liebenthal, Board Member
Thea Patterson, Board Member