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What's in a Name?

Memphis Center for Reproductive Health gets a new name and offers expanded services.

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Choices, the new name for the Memphis Center for Reproductive Health (MCRH), represents a new era for the organization, which offers a range of reproductive health services for around 3,000 Mid-Southerners each year.

This new era includes a more public persona for the organization. Rebecca Terrell, executive director of Choices, says her organization has intentionally flown under the radar for decades. But she consulted with a friend at advertising agency Archer>Malmo to sort out a new marketing campaign. Marketing guru John Malmo suggested just the name Terrell was looking for.

"He came up with the name change, pro bono," Terrell said. "And it's what we're all about. People deserve choices."

Terrell admits that the new name is an attempt to reclaim the language of the reproductive health debate, particularly centering around the issue of abortion.

"It will definitely get people's attention in good and bad ways," Terrell said. "But who are we trying to hide from? We don't want to distance ourselves from what we do, so we put it out there: No woman should be forced, by the state or by circumstance, to have a baby against her will."

In the two years since Terrell took over as executive director, Choices has undergone more striking changes than in its 37-year existence. In her first year, the organization was already in the process of leaving its longtime home at Poplar and McNeil for a newly renovated space on Poplar near Belvedere. Nearly twice the size, the new Choices location has allowed the organization to expand its educational services, keeping in line with a $150,000 grant they received from the MAC AIDS Fund.

These services range from education on integrating HIV/AIDS prevention and reproductive health care to training for Shelby County Health Department staff and social services providers.

HIV prevention is becoming a focal point for the organization. Choices was recently named a Ryan White provider, a program administered by the Shelby County Division of Community Services that allows Choices to provide outpatient reproductive health care for people living with HIV/AIDS.

"Reproductive health care and HIV prevention need to be integrated," Terrell said. "It all goes together, and we need to be talking about it."

More changes are on the way for Choices, including adding prenatal services by 2013 and beginning to work with TennCare and other health insurance providers. The center offers free HIV and pregnancy testing for its patients, but other services have always been paid for out of pocket.

There are also some subtle ways that Terrell wants Choices to grow as a community health-care provider. They've already begun offering fertility services to unmarried women and surrogates for gay male couples, whom Terrell said might have trouble being seen by other doctors.

Terrell wants to extend the welcome mat to straight men who might not feel comfortable at a health clinic geared toward women and invite the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community for a nonjudgmental experience.

"We want to create the space that every OB-GYN practice and reproductive health clinic should look like," Terrell said. "You should give people choices. You shouldn't judge them. We want to create a sustainable model for that."

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