Chicago Women’s Health Center (CWHC) has served Chicago communities with pride for more than four decades. In 1975, a group of health care providers, counselors and health educators, troubled by unjust gynecological care disparities in Chicago, joined together to create CWHC. Emphasizing self knowledge and a peer approach to health care, these early collective members believed that health care was a right, not a privilege, and that gender inequity was a serious barrier to respectful health care. The history of CWHC embodies a dynamic story of the women’s health movement and feminism in Chicago. This history and perspective lends CWHC strength and perspective as a leader in reproductive justice and health care .
We are proud of our historical roots which inform our approach and services today. Each time we offer a client a speculum, provide services regardless of a client’s ability to pay, or work with a group of middle-schoolers on making healthy choices for their lives, we advance the notion that individuals have both the right to self-determine their health care and the right to affordable services.
As our collective adapts and evolves for today’s patient needs, we remain committed to the founding ideals of CWHC. For example, in the early 1980s we were one of the first health centers to provide dedicated alternative insemination services to single women and lesbian and queer families. In the early 1990s, we established one of Chicago’s first counseling services that embraced a feminist relational model. Today, our Trans Greater Access Project (TGAP), developed in partnership with the Queer People’s Health Collective, offers needed and affordable services to Chicago’s trans communities.
Our commitment to complementary medicines and holistic health care has led us to partner with Pacific College of Oriental Medicine, providing us the ability to offer acupuncture on a sliding fee scale. In partnership with Young Women’s Empowerment Project, we have helped develop sex education materials for young women involved in Chicago’s sex trade and street economies. CWHC continues to adapt and grow as our health care needs and our communities change.
CWHC’s flexibility and adaptability has nurtured our slow and steady growth. CWHC has grown from serving hundreds of clients per year in our early days to more than 6,000 clients in 2010.We bring the best of our history to the challenges and complexities of the current health care situation, always working to meet the changing needs and identities of our ever-inspiring community of clients, volunteers and collective members.