Dear WHO/O Community & Supporters,
In the last few years you have seen Women Have Options - Ohio adapt to the changing landscape of abortion access and even expand our capacity to provide funding, all while clarifying our values and coming into deeper alignment with racial and reproductive justice. As an organization, we believe firmly that we must be flexible and open to growth in order to meet the needs of our community and our staff. We also believe that you, our community and donors, deserve transparency during our transition moments so that you can trust in our values and our services, especially in turbulent times.
It is with a dedication to you all, then, that we want to share about the work we have been doing to address internal harm.
The WHO/O board was made aware of harm done by executive level staff within the organization and the larger Ohio reproductive access coalition community. Among other issues we became aware of a deep disconnect between our stated values and the environment in which our staff were expected to work, as well as our collective failure to address racialized harm and support our practical support staff. As board members, we are all in our individual processes of pain, anger, shock, and dismay. We are also all firmly committed to implementing a just and transformative process to move WHO/O and the Ohio repro community forward towards authentic anti-racist values based in the tenets of Reproductive Justice.
We know whole communities are responsible for creating a culture of permissible harm, and so as a board we take accountability for our collective missteps that allowed this situation to develop internally and are committed to working toward a better organization.
Accountability for us looks like working with a conflict transformation mediator, undergoing radical values realignment and strategic planning, participating in anti-racism training for our white staff and board members, and revising our organizational policies to create both firmer protections for workers as well as proactive anti-oppressive cultural expectations. We are excited and optimistic that these changes will propel us forward, and sustain us in our mission of abortion access for all.
We are also delighted to share that our former board member, Maggie Scotece, has accepted the role of Interim Executive Director of WHO/O. Maggie has been vital in advocating for safety policies and negotiating the business of transition throughout this time. She, along with our newly appointed Board Chair Jordyn Close, will be prioritizing culture change work, including a review of employment equity models, and a proposal to change WHO/O’s name - after all, we know that it’s not just women who have abortions. Our goal after the interim period is for Maggie to step down into a permanent role on WHO/O’s staff, and to offer the Executive Director role to the most qualified candidate, with a focus on attracting dynamic BIPOC candidates and identifying a leader with lived experience who can shepherd all of us forward in our values.
In the meantime, We Are Still Funding Abortions! In December and January alone, our phenomenal staff have distributed $57,407 in funding to clinics and patients! And we are setting our sights on expansion: more staff, more services, and more funding.
It is clear we have a mountain of work ahead of us to transition, transform, and align our organization with our desired values. And yet, we are no strangers to breaking barriers in fighting for equity, and remaining resilient in protecting each other's humanity. We have undergone many radical shifts throughout our history - from our first patient grant in 1992, to our first staff position in 2016, to remaining the only statewide abortion fund in Ohio. This transition is just another step in upholding our commitment to justice for all of the people we serve.
It takes strength to remain rooted in your values. We at WHO/O - from the staff, executive board, and leadership - remain stronger than ever in fulfilling the organization's mission to provide economic and reproductive freedom, and for abortion to be accessible to all people.
Women Have Options - Ohio Executive Board Members & Staff
Jordyn Close, Chair
Maggie Scotece, Interim ED
Michelle D., Patient Navigation & Practical Support
Lexi D., Patient Navigation & Practical Support