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Strengthening Reproductive Health Protections Amendment Act of 2019

Strengthening Reproductive Health Protections Amendment Act of 2019

Introduced: September 17, 2019

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Anita Bonds, Elissa Silverman, Brianne Nadeau, Mary Cheh, Brandon Todd, and Charles Allen


Summary: To amend the Human Rights Act of 1977 to recognize the right to choose or refuse contraception or sterilization and to decide whether to carry a pregnancy to term to term, to give birth, or to have an abortio, to prohibit the District government from interfering with reproductive health decisions and from imposing a punishment or penalty on an individual for a self-managed abortion, miscarriage, or adverse pregnancy outcomes, and to prohibit employment discrimination against health care professionals based on the professional’s participation in or the fact that the health care professional is willing to participate in, abortion or sterilization procedures.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Thank you Mr. Chairman, today along with Councilmembers Bonds, Silverman, Nadeau, Cheh, Todd, and Allen, I am introducing the Strengthening Reproductive Health Protections Amendment Act of 2019.

 Across the country, reproductive health decisions—and specifically abortion rights—are under attack.

At the same time the Trump administration is fulfilling its promise to nominate more conservative federal judges, legislatures across the country are enacting unconstitutional laws that restrict access to abortion.

In some cases, laws like Alabama’s, the strictest abortion ban in the country, are crafted in such a way to force the court to revisit Roe v. Wade.

In other states, the laws are meant to make access to abortion so difficult that it will not matter whether Roe stands or not.

D.C. residents have the right, in consultation with their doctor and free from government interference, to make medical decisions about contraception, abortion, or carrying a pregnancy to term.

With this bill, the District has the unique opportunity to enshrine a positive right to choose into the D.C. Human Rights Act, leaving no doubt that the District of Columbia stands for reproductive health freedom. The bill will:

  • Recognize the right to choose or refuse abortion care, sterilization procedures, or contraceptives;

  • Prohibit penalizing self-managed abortion; and

  •  Prohibit discrimination against health care professionals by a health care provider, based on the professional’s participation in abortion care.

Since January, 10 states have passed total or near-total bans on abortion.

It is more important than ever to enact policies that articulate a positive right protecting safe, legal abortion.

While we are well aware that the District of Columbia is subject to the whims of Congress, we are fortunate right now to have a pro-reproductive health majority in the House of Representatives;

Nevertheless, it is imperative that as a city we do our part to protect the rights of our residents.

We need lasting protection for reproductive health access now, no matter what happens in Congress.

This legislation ensures that everyone in D.C. has access to the full range of reproductive health care, including abortion.

Our residents deserve more access to health care, not less. This bill will help to secure a future that safeguards abortion care and respects decision-making.

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Grosso introduces bill to protect abortion providers from discrimination

For Immediate Release:
November 7, 2017
Matthew Nocella, 202.724.8105 -

Grosso introduces bill to protect abortion providers from discrimination

Washington, D.C. – Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) today introduced legislation that would prohibit discrimination against health care professionals who provide or support abortion care.

“Doctors and nurses are vital patient advocates,” Grosso said. “They should not fear employer discrimination for speaking up in the interest of patients who have decided to have an abortion.”

The Abortion Provider Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2017 would amend the Human Rights of Act of 1977 to make it unlawful to discriminate against health care professionals for providing or being willing to participate in abortion and protect their ability to speak publicly about their support for abortion. It also prevents hospitals from denying staff privileges just because the health care professional is an abortion provider.

Health care professionals across the country, including in the District of Columbia, report hostility and outright discrimination from their employers due to their support for abortion access or participation in abortion care. For example, Diane Horvath-Cosper, a physician who provided abortions at a private secular nonprofit hospital in D.C., was threatened with termination for speaking with the media about the importance of abortion access.

“D.C.’s health care industry employs over 45,000 people. While only a few of those would be likely to need the protection of this bill, we pride ourselves as a jurisdiction that staunchly defends the right to an abortion, and we should ensure that no nurse or doctor fears that they will lose their jobs or careers because of participation in abortion services or advocacy,” Grosso said.

“Health care providers should be able to pursue work as abortion providers, without fear of discrimination,” said Fatima Goss Graves, president & CEO of the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) in support of the legislation. “The Abortion Provider Non-Discrimination Amendment Act is a common-sense solution that voters support and health care providers need. Amid relentless efforts by the Trump Administration and Congress to attack a woman’s right to abortion, it is more important than ever to protect those providing this crucial care.”

Grosso previously introduced and the Council passed into law the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act to protect individuals from employment discrimination on the basis of their, or a dependent’s, reproductive health decision making.



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Abortion Provider Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2017

Abortion Provider Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2017

Introduced: November 7, 2017

Co-introducers: Councilmembers Brianne K. Nadeau, Jack Evans, Charles Allen, Robert C. White, Jr., Anita Bonds


Summary: To amend the Human Rights Act of 1977 to prohibit discrimination against health care professionals by a health care provider, based on the professional’s participation in, willingness to participate in, or support for abortion or sterilization procedures, or public statements related to abortion or sterilization procedures.

Councilmember Grosso's Introduction Statement:

Despite the protection provided by Roe versus Wade, elected officials in state houses across the country and up on Capitol Hill are trying to make it effectively impossible to access abortion services.

This includes a climate of demonization of the medical professionals who provide these services.

A doctor, nurse, or other health practitioner should not have to fear for their job based on their support for the right to choose or their willingness to participate in abortion services.

In fact, discrimination based on an employee’s participation in abortion – or willingness to do so – has been illegal under federal law since 1976.

But there are gaps in the federal law, which has led a number of states to legislate additional protections.

The District of Columbia does not done so, but this legislation would fix that.

It is a rather simple bill, adding protections under our Human Rights Act for health professionals who speak publicly about abortion, or who have a second job providing abortion services.

At a time when speaking out about the importance of access to abortion is critical, we had an incident here in D.C. last year in which a hospital tried to silence a doctor who was an outspoken defender of reproductive rights.

This sort of retaliation, or the firing of healthcare professionals for treating a woman seeking an abortion as has happened elsewhere, is inappropriate and discriminatory.

With over 45,000 people employed in the healthcare industry in the District of Columbia, we need to protect these individuals from employment discrimination like this.

While only a few of those would be likely to need the protection of this bill, we pride ourselves as a jurisdiction that staunchly defends the right to an abortion, and we should ensure that no nurse or doctor fears that they will lose their jobs or careers because of participation in abortion services or advocacy.

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Grosso's Anti-Shackling Law Will Soon Come into Effect

In December of 2014, at the end of the D.C. Council's 20th legislative session, the Council passed Councilmember Grosso's bill to eliminate the use of shackles or restraints on pregnant inmates and detainees during and leading up to labor. Although the final version of the law did not go as far as Grosso had hoped it would in prohibiting the shackling or restraining of pregnant in almost any situation, nonetheless this is an important human rights victory. The legislation, the Limitations on the Use of restraints Amendment Act of 2014, is expected to become official law on July 25, 2015, at the conclusion of the mandated Congressional review period.

The final law states that no woman or girl in the custody of the Department of Corrections (DOC) or the Department of Youth Rehabilitative Services (DYRS) shall be restrained during the third trimester of pregnancy, during labor, or during post-partum recovery, except in extraordinary circumstances. Any such uses of restraints in extraordinary circumstances are to be documented and justified. For women and girls in the first or second trimester of pregnancy, the law stipulates that when restraints are necessary, the least restrictive restraint possible shall be used, except in extraordinary circumstances--which also must be documented. It is the responsibility of DOC and DYRS to inform the women and girls in their custody of these rules.

In advance of the legislation coming into effect as law, Grosso sent letters to the Directors of the DOC and DYRS. The responses from DOC Director Thomas Faust and DYRS Director Clinton Lacey are below. Although the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) was not included in the final version of the legislation, the Councilmember will seek to work with MPD to ensure that pregnant women and girls in the Department's custody are treated with the utmost respect for their health needs and human rights.



Anti-Choice Groups Vow to Defy New Provisions of D.C. Law That Don’t Exist

by Emily Crockett, RH Reality Check, May 8, 2015

A group of anti-choice organizations released a joint statement this week that, to many observers, seemed like a vow to commit civil disobedience and violate the District of Columbia’s new Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA).

It’s not clear, however, if these groups’ planned “resistance” would actually break the law, or whether their objections to the law have any grounding in reality.

“The statement from Alliance Defending Freedom and other groups shows that they still have not taken time to read or understand my legislation,” D.C. Councilmember David Grosso, who sponsored the reproductive health bill, told RH Reality Check via email.

The statement, signed by representatives of Americans United for Life, Susan B. Anthony List, March for Life, Concerned Women for America, Alliance Defending Freedom, and the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, pledged to “vigorously resist” alleged violations to their First Amendment rights under the new law.

The pledge comes on the heels of action by congressional Republicans to try, unsuccessfully for now, to block the new law. A resolution of disapproval of RHNDA failed to pass both the House and the Senate before a 30-day deadline, but Congress could still try to block it using the budget appropriations process.

“It is appalling that these organizations have sought congressional interference in our local legislative process and now claim an intention to disobey the law based on their own ignorance about what the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act does and does not do,” Grosso said.

The Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal website released the statement along with a report claiming that the groups are “putting themselves at risk of violating the law.”

It would in fact violate the law if the groups wanted to fire women for having an out-of-wedlock pregnancy, or fire men whose wives use birth control. The RHNDA amends D.C.’s Human Rights Act to protect employees from discrimination based on their, or their dependents’, personal reproductive health care choices for which some religious conservative employers have been known to fire women.

But if this is the anti-choice groups’ intent, it’s not at all clear from their statement. Instead, the groups appear to be using common misconceptions about what the bill actually does to support their arguments that the bill violates the religious freedom of employers.

“They claim they will not obey the D.C. Human Rights Act, yet their uninformed stance actually means they will be taking actions completely within the law,” Grosso said.

The anti-choice groups’ statement claims that RHNDA is “aimed squarely” at the organizations’ freedoms to “draw our workforces from among those who share our foundational commitment to the sanctity of human life” and to “purchase and provide employee health plans that comport with our pro-life beliefs.”

“Despite the enactment of this unjust law, we will continue to hire employees who share our commitment to the dignity of every member of the human family,” the statement concludes. “We will not abandon the purpose of our organizations in order to comply with this illegal and unjust law. We will vigorously resist any effort under RHNDA to violate our constitutionally protected fundamental rights.”

If all these groups want to do is hire people who share their views, or decline to provide comprehensive insurance that covers contraception and abortion, it doesn’t appear that RHNDA prohibits them from doing that.

The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, as much as it rankled reproductive rights supporters and many D.C. Council members, is still the law of the land. Council members and aides have repeatedly said that nothing in the bill deals with insurance, and the bill now contains language clarifying that point.

That clarifying language is temporary, which the anti-choice groups objected to. But D.C. Council members plan to make that clarification permanent, even though some have argued that it would be redundant to do so.

As for the groups’ concerns about being able to hire people who share a “commitment” to their values, the law’s supporters say that groups can hire who they want, and that the purpose of the law is to prohibit firing an employee for their health-care choices.

“This is about ensuring that workers can make their own health decisions without their bosses’ intrusion, whether that is to initiate or terminate a pregnancy, whether that is taking birth control or in-vitro fertility treatments,” Grosso said.

Religious groups might argue that an employee’s abortion or use of birth control demonstrates a lack of “commitment” to their values, but that’s where the new law draws the line.

It’s possible, for instance, for a person to strongly identify as “pro-life” and Catholic but still use birth control funded by private insurance, or to have a daughter who does. Nothing seems to prohibit a group from refusing to hire someone who says they are pro-choice.

“If Concerned Women of America and the other groups are asking individual job applicants whether they use birth control, have had an abortion in the past, or have used assistive reproductive technologies, then they will be clearly violating the law, and doing so in a really despicable manner,” Grosso said.

He added that those employers are “well within their rights to evaluate a job applicant’s ability to execute the functions of the advertised position and seek employees who agree with the organizational mission.”


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Grosso's Bill to Protect Workers from Discrimination Goes into Effect Today

For Immediate Release
May 2, 2015
Contact: Dionne Johnson Calhoun  
(202) 724-8105; (202) 285-6447

Grosso's Bill to Protect Workers from Discrimination Goes into Effect Today 

Washington, D.C.--Today, the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act of 2014 (RHNDA), introduced by Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large), becomes law in the District of Columbia. The RHNDA, which was passed unanimously by the D.C. Council and signed by the Mayor, prohibits employers from discriminating against workers based on their reproductive health choices.  Grosso's bill was the target of a House vote on Thursday to disapprove--or overturn--the law, an action that has not been pursued for decades and was ultimately ineffective without subsequent passage in the Senate and approval of the President.

"This is an important day for all workers in the District of Columbia--to be free of discrimination based on their reproductive health choices," said Grosso. "My bill ensures that women and men can decide on their own health choices, in consultation with their medical professionals and without interference from their employers. I am especially gratified that D.C. residents and others across the country stood with us to defend my bill in the face of bullying and mischaracterization by members of the House. The failed effort by Chairman Chaffetz and other members of Congress to overturn my legislation reiterates, once again, the urgent necessity for D.C. to have budget and legislative autonomy, and ultimately statehood." 

In addition to the RHNDA, the Human Rights Amendment Act of 2014 also came into effect today. This Act closes a long-standing loophole--the so-called "Armstrong Amendment"--to the D.C. Human Rights Act that allowed religious educational institutions to discriminate against LGBTQ students.

"It is a great day for human rights in our city with the elimination of the Armstrong Amendment as well," added Grosso. "I call on all members of the House and Senate to cease political grandstanding with their attacks on D.C. laws and instead focus on  issues in their own backyard."


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Kicking off Women’s History Month, Grosso Introduces Bill to Ensure Gender Equity in D.C.

For Immediate Release
March 3, 2015

Contact: Dionne Johnson Calhoun
(202) 724-8105

Kicking off Women’s History Month, Grosso Introduces Bill to Ensure Gender Equity in D.C.

Washington, D.C. — Today, in honor of Women’s History Month and the International Women’s Day on March 8, Councilmember David Grosso (I-At Large) introduced the Local Implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Amendment Act of 2015. The United Nations General Assembly adopted CEDAW in 1979 and President Carter signed the treaty on behalf of the United States in 1980; however, the United States Senate has not yet ratified CEDAW. In 2014, municipalities across the nation began signing onto the Cities for CEDAW initiative, pledging to implement the principles of CEDAW at the local level in light of the Senate’s failure to act.  The U.S. is one of only eight countries that has not ratified the treaty. Countries that ratify CEDAW are mandated to condemn all forms of discrimination against women and girls and to ensure gender equality in the civil, political, economic, educational,  social and cultural arenas.

“In D.C., we already have some of the strongest human rights protections for women and girls in the country,” said Grosso. “In honor of Women’s History Month, I am introducing this legislation to ensure that all of our government agencies are working proactively for gender equality.”

Under the legislation, D.C. government agencies will be required to conduct gender analysis reporting, including data analysis, to assess gender equity in their operations. The bill also calls for an annual citywide action plan to address any deficiencies identified in the gender analysis reporting. Such analysis and evaluation will help identify and remedy structural gender inequalities in the D.C. government.

Additionally, March 3 is the International Sex Worker Rights Day and CEDAW notes how sex workers are particularly vulnerable to violence and other human rights abuses due to stigma and criminalization. Grosso has previously called for a greater emphasis on protecting the human rights of those involved in commercial sex.

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Paid Family Leave: Eight Weeks for District Government Employees

By Anne Robinson

In March, we published a blog post on the Fair Leave Act of 2014, introduced by Councilmember Grosso.  The legislation provided D.C. government employees up to six weeks of paid leave in connection with the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child, or the care of a family member who has a serious medical condition.   During this time, conversation was sparked across the country about the need for men to be more supported as fathers and policies that encourage women to stay in the workplace.  This was an area where D.C. could lead.

When the Mayor released his proposed FY2015 budget to the Council in April, we were pleased to read that he included language for a six week maternity or paternity leave for D.C. government employees.  This was a follow through on the promise he made during the State of the District speech in February and similar to the language in the Fair Leave Act, but the issue of a fiscal impact was still unclear.  

Throughout the budget process, we worked diligently with Chairman Kenyan McDuffie of the Committee on Government Operations and were successful in amending the Mayor’s Budget Support Act language to: expand the language to be for the care of any family member; increase the amount of time from six weeks to eight weeks; and to cite all references and definitions to the D.C. Family Medical Leave Act (DC FMLA) for consistency (see the bottom of this post for the language).  

The eight weeks of paid family leave policy for a qualifying District government employee will go into effect on October 1, 2014.  The Department of Human Resources (DCHR) is currently working on issuing a bulletin to each agency’s Human Resources advisors to inform them of the law and the leave certification process.  They are hopeful that it will be issued by mid-September, at which point employees can submit an application for the benefit for leave occurring on or after October 1. DCHR is also working on a draft rulemaking that will be open for a 30 day comment period in late fall.   The eight weeks of paid leave will count against the allotted 16 weeks in a 24 month period of unpaid leave that is currently given under the D.C. FMLA.  The bill has no fiscal impact because employees’ salaries are already allocated for on an annual basis, therefore this leave time will not require any extra funding. 

The paid family leave beginning on October 1 is a major step for the District of Columbia and we will eagerly track the implementation process and the success of this initiative.  Our work is not done until we can expand this benefit to all of our families in the District working outside of government employment.

As we began our research and collaboration with advocacy groups, it became clear that identifying a funding structure to provide paid family leave without creating a new source of revenue would be very difficult.  California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island each have paid family leave programs that were more easily implemented because of already existing state level payroll and income tax systems.  Other jurisdictions offer paid family leave through State Disability Insurance (SDI) funds and temporary disability laws. Unfortunately, the District of Columbia does not have structures like these in place to expand coverage to all residents.

Over the summer, advocates worked with the Department of Employment Services (DOES), in partnership with Mayor Gray, to apply to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) for a grant to study the feasibility of a paid family leave program in the District.  At the White House Summit on Working Families in June, President Obama announced that DOL’s Women’s Bureau and Employment and Training Administration will make $500,000 available for up to five grants.  If awarded this funding, D.C. would be able to assess various aspects of a paid family leave program by estimating the expected costs, benefits, and economic impact; evaluating different models for delivery; and provide an analysis of education and outreach needs. The results of the grant competition are expected early this fall.

There is a major shift happening in national policy and paid family leave is a topic that many organizations are focusing on to support women and families in the workplace. Our office will continue to explore the option for expansion of paid family leave, researching alternatives, having conversations with the business community about the effects of paid family leave on the private sector, and supporting other federal policies that might help us progress toward inclusive paid family leave.  This is an area where D.C. can lead, and we plan to!

If a D.C. government employee or HR advisor is seeking information about the law, please direct them to DCHR at (202) 442-9700. The agency has FMLA coordinators who will advise them.

*This post is part of an ongoing series of posts by Councilmember Grosso’s staff to support professional development. All posts are approved and endorsed by Councilmember Grosso.



Criminal Justice Legislative Priority: “Anti-Shackling of Incarcerated Pregnant Women Act of 2013”

On Tuesday, September 17, I introduced the “Anti-Shackling of Incarcerated Pregnant Women Act of 2013.”   This legislation changes the standard operating procedures in the District of Columbia correctional system. The bill establishes that no woman who is pregnant while in the custody of the District of Columbia Department of Corrections (D.C. DOC) can be shackled at any time while she is pregnant, during labor, during transport to a medical facility for treatment related to being pregnant, during delivery of her child, or during post-partum for a six week period. This bill aslo requires the D.C. DOC, the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD), Halfway Houses, and the Department of Youth Rehabilitative Services (DYRS)  to collect and publish data about the practices of using restraints in their required quarterly reports and during annual oversight hearings before the Council. The bill also requires enhanced staff training and detailed notice to incarcerated women about this act.

I have introduced this legislation because it is an important human rights issue that must be addressed in D.C.  According to the American Civil Liberties Union, eighteen states already have laws prohibiting shackling pregnant prisoners. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that the number of female inmates is rising five-fold every year, mostly due to increased prosecutions and convictions of offenses related to “recreational” drugs. There are currently more than 200,000 women in U.S. prisons, and at least 12,000 of those women are pregnant at the time of incarceration. The D.C. DOC reported that in July of 2013, the daily average of women and juveniles in the D.C. Correctional Treatment Facility was 137.  What we do not know is how many of these women enter the D.C. criminal justice system pregnant or how many of them deliver while they are incarcerated.  D.C. government officials, with oversight, need to know how these situations are handled and how these women are treated during pregnancy.

Currently, the D.C. DOC regulations only address shackles on women who are in their last trimester of pregnancy.  There is a restriction for using shackling restraints during labor and delivery or immediately following delivery unless the inmate poses an extraordinary security risk.  My bill would ensure that no woman is shackled during her pregnancy or for up to a six-week period during post-partum recovery.  This measure will ensure both the safety of the mother and of the fetus.  There is always a concern for balancing the safety of our corrections officers, the mothers, and the fetus.  In this circumstance, I do not believe that laboring women are a flight risk.  Studies in the other 18 states that have banned shackling have shown that women who were laboring, delivering, or recovering from child-birth posed little to no threat to the corrections officers, the hospital staff, or to themselves. 

This is not a problem that will remedy itself, especially while we watch the number of women being incarcerated rapidly increasing each year.  It is important that the Council addresses its responsibility to protect those who are vulnerable to adverse treatment especially when no one is watching.  I believe that we must have safeguards in place to recognize that punishment for a crime does not equate to the loss of an individual’s right to appropriate safety measures, medical attention, and personal dignity.   We live in a progressive city that often sets the standards for other cities and states nationwide.  It is imperative that we join the other states that have passed similar anti-shackling.

Some might argue that the section of this bill that will require data collection is costly and cumbersome.  However, it is essential that we maintain records about government funded Departments and their activities.  These systems of record keeping in the prisons should already be in place and if they are not, we need to hold our prison systems to a higher standard.   I have stood, and will continue to stand, on a platform of transparency and accountability.  The D.C. DOC has significant room for improvement in collecting accurate and timely data and reporting it to the Mayor, the Council, and most importantly the residents of the District. 

Women who are about to enter the criminal justice system must be educated about their rights while they are in prison.  They should be afforded the appropriate care and should not be subject to any kind of shackling or restraint while they are experiencing labor or delivery.  This is a basic human right and it is our duty as civic leaders to stand behind all members of our community.



One Woman’s Mission Spurs Collective Vision and Community of Leaders

By Dionne Calhoun, Communications Director

For those of you who have embarked upon an endless journey to help empower those within your respective communities, I ask that you stand with me today to salute those leaders who serve to inspire, educate, empower and improve the quality of life for D.C. residents.

I had the pleasure of attending The Women’s Collective (TWC) “Youth, Chat and Chew” event and to learn about the advocacy work of the young women who lead the TWC, including: HIV/AIDS education, testing and prevention; access to care; sexual reproductive health curriculum; community outreach, referral and support services; special events to raise awareness and encourage the importance of getting tested and creating platforms to bring young women together so that their voices are heard.

Each attendee at the “Youth, Chat and Chew” event gave a brief introduction about their work with TWC. The Youth Program Associate, Chantil Thomas, was roundly praised for her tireless dedication and commitment to serve women and youth, always with a smile on her face. Thomas then rose to speak and was overwhelmed with joy as she stated, with tears in her eyes, “I could not have done this without the help of the staff” and the one who paved the way for her – Patricia Nalls, founder and executive director of TWC. Patricia Nalls wiped tears from her eyes while everyone in the room stood up and applauded her for her dedication to empowering women, girls and families, especially those living with and at risk for HIV/AIDS.

Patricia Nalls was diagnosed with AIDS in 1986 after she lost her husband and three-year-old daughter from AIDS within six months of each other. Nalls shared her story of being ashamed with the diagnosis which led her to isolate herself from help and support. “I stayed in self-imposed exile for several years before I realized I wasn’t dying and I wasn’t actually living either. And living with HIV is what I had to do for my children’s sake and mine,” said Nalls. With a new perspective on life and a growing frustration with many years of not finding appropriate services for women, Nalls set-up a private phone line in her home for those living with HIV/AIDS to call for support, but kept it a close-held secret because of the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. The phone line grew into a support group where women shared their personal stories, laughed and cried and provided recommendations for HIV care and services while relying on one another for strength as they coped with their health status. In 1995, Nalls founded TWC with the goal of supporting women and their families and with the hope of creating a “woman-focused” organization. The board set-up training sessions, identified funding opportunities and eventually tied in policymakers, local providers and the District of Columbia Department of Health.

Nearly twenty years later through the vision of Patricia Nalls, TWC has evolved into a strong body of women who are committed to empowering the lives of women and girls each day. Through Patricia’s vision comes a new vision - from Chantil Thomas, a former teacher and D.C. public school graduate with a passion for music. She developed a sexual reproductive health curriculum with a focus on HIV/AIDS which is currently offered at Cardozo Senior High School, Luke C. Moore High School, Hospitality High School, Bell Multicultural High School, The Washington Metropolitan High School and Youthbuild Public Charter School.

Thomas developed a curriculum using music to resonate across cultures and “to meet the needs of youth and young adults where they are.” Each workshop is titled after a hip-hop song to engage students. Thomas also highlighted a workshop targeted for middle school students; “Between us Girls” which is a social, emotional, sexual reproductive wellness curriculum that focuses on self-sufficiency for young girls.

TWC, under the leadership of Chantil Thomas, also empowers and educates young women and girls through special events such as “Girls on Fire: Blazing the Way and Passing the Torch,” an event to celebrate National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and to honor female trailblazers in the community featuring local artists, a fashion show, free HIV testing and giveaways.

Just as Patricia Nalls is praised for her leadership in empowering the lives of women, girls and families, she has developed a team of other women and young aspiring leaders to carry the torch to fight the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the city, reduce barriers to care and services, meet the needs of women and girls “where they are” and improve their overall quality of life.

*This post is part of an ongoing series of posts by Councilmember Grosso’s staff to support professional development. All posts are approved and endorsed by Councilmember Grosso.