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the Body Politic
Vol. 7, No. 3 - March 1997, Page 15
Copyright © 1997 by the Body Politic Inc.
Spotlight

Ann Rose -- Not Afraid of the "A" Word

Interview by Anne Bower

The fax machine just kept spitting out papers. Ann Rose had promised to send me a bio and it was arriving -- 10 sheets worth and it was impressive. Over the past 25 years, Ms. Rose has enjoyed many careers, everything from restaurateur to comedienne, with public relations, clinic administrator, and editor in between.

However, the main reason the Body Politic asked to interview her this year was the success of her latest venture, Abortion Clinics Online. As she explained in our interview, after being introduced to the Internet, she readily discovered "abortion" was mentioned, but not where or how to get one. A long-time consultant to clinics where she offers inspirational workshops to the staff, Ms. Rose decided then and there she would take on the responsibility to promote clinics in this new information/advertising medium and ACOL was born.

Ms. Rose is perfectly suited to her job. A charming, witty and extremely knowledgeable feminist, Ms. Rose has worked with clinics over three decades, beginning with Midtown Hospital, the nation's first hospital specializing in late abortion services and women's health. Ms. Rose was instrumental in helping open Midtown and served at various times as Clinic Director, Counseling Director, Admission Supervisor and Community Relations between 1977 and 1989.

This extensive knowledge of day to day clinic operations plus her travels to over 600 of the nations clinics makes her the consummate insider. Her work in public relations with Ann Rose & Associates, gives her the connections and know-how to help the nation's abortion providers reach the public with their offering of reproductive health care. In its first year of operation, Abortion Clinics Online has provided web pages for over 100 facilities and been viewed by over 30,000 people. Thanks to Ann Rose, women needing an abortion can now find help on the Internet.

Besides her promotion of clinics, one of the greatest gifts Ms. Rose has to offer the pro-choice community is her positive message to clinic personnel that what they do is "OK" and they should be proud to do it. Said a recent staff member after attending one of Ms. Rose seminars, "Just wanted to thank you for the interesting presentation you made yesterday. You're great! Furthermore, you're an inspiration to all women. I'm very proud to have you in my gender! Keep up the great work...."

Those sentiments are why the Body Politic chose to interview Ann Rose, who for years has been proud to say the "a" word.

ACOL Logo

Q: Ann, when I read your bio, it looked as if I needed three or four magazines to interview you. You've had enough careers for two or three lifetimes, but since the Body Politic deals in reproductive rights, I'll start with your latest venture, Abortion Clinics On-line. What is ACOL and when did you begin this project?

A: This began in September of 1995. A friend of mine introduced me to the Internet and the first thing I went searching for on the search engines was, ABORTION. I found lots of anti stuff, and some pro-choice stuff, but it was politically oriented. There was absolutely no clinic information at all on the Internet.

As you can tell from my bio, I've worked with clinics since 1976, mostly with advertising, marketing and administration. A little lightbulb went off in my head and I said, "here's something I can do." My main theory, frankly, was to stuff this down the antis throat. People have asked me, why did you choose that name and I tell them, when women need an abortion, they don't go looking for a "woman's health center."

Q: That's right. Even the pro-choice community is at times reluctant to say the "A" word.

A: True. When women want an abortion, they don't look up under birth control. Right now, ACOL is hooked up to all the major search engines, plus hundreds of women's pro-choice sites. I've really worked hard to make ACOL easy to find on the Internet and easily referred to.

Q: How many clinics are part of your network?

A: Over 100 and I'm working on more. My theory was, be direct, don't be ashamed of what we do, be proud. One of the things the antis have always harassed us about over the years is the accusation that we don't give our patients information. They say we hide things and don't tell about the risks and complications. Each clinic puts what they want on their site, but I encourage them to put on-line anything they would hand out to a patient. This way, we show we're not ashamed of what we do and prove we tell people more than what most medical entities do when treating patients.

ACOL has been real successful. At first, there were only a few takers, but after a time, more and more came in. I've taken my idea to major clinic meetings and now it's going great. Most clinics report two to five referrals a month from the site. At $500 or less, which is what most clinics pay, this is a major advertising bargain when compared with the yellow pages. Some clinics spend thousands of dollars in yellow pages advertising each year.

Q: You obviously think the Internet is an important marketing tool.

A: Absolutely. I think the Internet will surpass the yellow pages in the coming years, not just for abortion related services, but for people looking for information of all kinds. Right now, college kids are really in tune to finding info on the Internet. All the colleges have a computer center and the students have their own e-mail accounts, free. Sites aren't blocked, unless maybe they contain pornography and no one has categorized ACOL as pornographic.

Of course, someone could say that what we offer is "sexually explicit information" because the word "vagina" appears on my site -- "the speculum goes into your vagina." Of course, if someone complained, I could do what Hustler publisher, Larry Flynt, did.

When everyone was complaining about him printing "pornography," he did this incredible mass mailing to just about everyone in Atlanta. He defended himself by saying that some people consider the pictures in Hustler to be pornographic but "this is what I consider pornography." The mailing contained pictures of battered children and abused women. It was the most powerful thing I've ever seen. I've always thought if I were challenged for ACOL I'd put something like that up in retaliation.

When I go into abortion clinics I still find that some people are afraid to tell people what they do, even their parents. The more proud we are of what we do, the more disarming that is to antis and the more they leave us alone.
Q: Ann, you've stated that you visited over 600 clinics nationwide. What would you say are some of the greatest obstacles they face in trying to provide services?

A: I think being proud of what they do and maintaining that pride in their work is really tough. When I go into abortion clinics I still find that some people are afraid to tell people what they do, even their parents. The more proud we are of what we do, the more disarming that is to antis and the more they leave us alone.

The clinic that got bombed here in Atlanta was owned by a guy who never did anything political or supported any political activities. I didn't even know him or where the clinic was.

Q: Since you are in Atlanta, is there any more information about the bombing?

A: The FBI has been to see me, but I don't know what they're doing. They have pictures and drawings, but refuse to put them out to the mass media.

Q: Because someone might identify them.

A: Yeah. I've told them who to go talk to that might help, but I don't think anyone has been contacted.

Well, I was talking about the clinics and their workers and what I do to help them feel proud. I give workshops on stress management, values clarification, contraceptive risk-taking and other issues. But, no matter what the topic, my main goal is to make the staff feel good about the work they do and make them feel proud to be in this profession.

Q: Have you ever gone to a clinic and found you didn't want to work with them?

A: Only once. Even if I'm not pleased with the doctor or owner, I try to impart something to the staff to help them.

ACOL is different. I had to decide whether I am like the yellow pages and will accept anyone who asks to advertise or can I make value judgments. I have come up with some standards that a clinic must fulfill for me to do a Home Page or link them to my site. To date, I have refused a few clinics. I do check out my clinics.

Q: We know that there are some clinics that aren't up to the standards the pro-choice community would like. How do you think the pro-choice community should deal with this?

A: That's a really tough issue. I would like to see a national entity like the Joint Commission of Accreditation of Hospitals that would oversee the nation's clinics. It shouldn't be a government organization but a private group and the clinics would have to pay for its services. The board would be made up of people everyone could respect. There are some national clinic organizations, like NAF and NCAP, but they don't have a staff that is just devoted to clinic inspection.

A lot of times, people say, "I think abortion clinics should move more into 'mainstream' medicine." My retort to that is, I think mainstream medicine should do things more like abortion clinics. Let me list five things that abortion clinics have contributed to mainstream medicine:

  1. We invented outpatient surgery. In 1973 when abortion was legalized, all surgery was done in hospitals. When the hospitals wouldn't let us do abortions we said, "screw you" and set up clinics. So we literally invented the concept of outpatient surgery in this country.
  2. We invented patient education. I don't know of any medical procedure performed today where the patient is given more information about her surgery and educated on a lot of things, including birth control. If you go into a hospital for a D&C you don't get hardly any information. You're barely told what they're going to do to you.
  3. We invented informed consent. Basically, the informed consent form for most surgery is pretty general. In abortion surgery, we give consent ad nauseam. Women are asked, are you sure of your decision? Have you considered alternatives? We tell them about the procedure step by step. We talk about after care and birth control. When women who had an abortion complain they "weren't told" about whatever, I ask, "is this your signature on this piece of paper?" Any good clinic will have a good informed consent form.
  4. We invented medical advertising. In 1973, only chiropractors did advertising. Some of my first ads were for Midtown Hospital in Atlanta and the doctors were asking me if this was "ethical." They weren't sure their names could be used. I did probably the first TV ad for any medical entity in Georgia with my ad for Midtown in 1976. We were the pioneers.
  5. We invented cost containment in medicine. In 1973 the average cost of an abortion was $150. Today it is around $300. There is no other medical procedure you can find that has a slower rate of inflation. When a woman goes to a hospital for a D&C it will cost about $1,000 and insurance pays for it. A tubal ligation 20 years ago may have cost $400. Today, it's about $2,000.

    I know a woman who went to a hospital for an abortion when she could have gone to any one of a number of good clinics and gotten better care. The hospital charged $2,000 to her insurance. That's absurd! Clinics have had to deal on a cash basis and haven't been able to manipulate the third party reimbursement system like the rest of medicine, we've had to keep our prices competitive.

If you look at those five areas, abortion clinics do a very good job in providing this service. The clinics have reason to be proud. For us to allow the rest of medicine to think "less of us" is ridiculous. We started all this and we're better at it than they are!


Next month we'll continue with Ms. Rose's interview and her comments on the national pro-choice message.


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