Memphis Flyer
Close

Birthing a Center

Choices re-claims feminist health care with new site.

Toby Sells Sep 6, 2018 4:00 AM

Rebecca Terrell is calling, um, malarkey.

Why do traditional health-care providers get to claim childbirth? No more.

Choices will break ground this week on a new, $4.2 million facility that will include more capacity for patients, a new mental health program, and a new, three-room center for birthing babies.

Midwife-assisted, out-of-hospital births are on the rise in the U.S. Choices hired midwives in January and the program is already at capacity, "so, clearly people want this," Terrell says.

The Choices center will be the first of its kind in Memphis. Yes, the move is about offering patients more services, Terrell says. But it's also about Choices re-claiming feminist health care. — Toby Sells

Memphis Flyer: Why did Choices decide to get into child births?

Rebecca Terrell: We consider ourselves a feminist health-care provider. That is our history. We were founded right after [Roe v. Wade]. We decided that feminist health care is re-claiming birth. We were like "why do [traditional health-care providers] get that?"

The idea of segregating abortion providers off — like culling the herd — was a very specific strategy of the far right. This makes [abortion providers] easier to target, easier to harass. So, people aren't, maybe, going to rush to their defense. In fact, that has been the case across the country.

We also saw the maternal health outcomes in the country are not good. The OB/GYN community, as a profession, hasn't really stepped up to the plate in terms of protecting women's right to choose. There are some providers who have been more outspoken than others. But, as a profession in general and especially in Tennessee, they've said it's just too much trouble, too politically controversial.

So, we're saying those services need to be provided in a single context. We're going to show that this is how those services should be provided.

MF: How did the capital campaign go?

RT: It's been a big, big challenge, but the community has — and is — stepping up. We still have about $500,000 to raise. By December, we hope to have it all.

We're looking locally and nationally. We've have a number of local foundations say, "Oh, you do abortions? We can't help you with this." I'm like, this is a birth center. But they'll say it doesn't matter.

MF: Tell me about the new mental health program.

RT: Sometimes we're like "Stigmas R' Us." Abortion is stigmatized. Sometimes in the South, even contraception is stigmatized.

We see a lot of transgender patients. We see a lot of gay and lesbian patients. The idea of midwifery is somewhat stigmatized in the medical community.

So, the program is about those stigmas. If you're transitioning, or if you have any kind of sexual assault issues that we see here. We will see postpartum depression. We'll see people with big life decisions. "Is this a pregnancy I want to continue? Or, is it not?"

Then, just like all of us, people need access to good mental health care. Look for the full interview at memphisflyer.com.