Although Amy Hagstrom Miller was able to sigh with relief after the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a ruling that struck down restrictive requirements for abortion services, it wasn't long after that there was a new challenge ahead. Namely, the 2016 election. The founder of Whole Woman's Health, the abortion service provider that was the plaintiff in the case, knows that there's a ton at stake for women in every single election held in the United States, but this one in particular, she says, is groundbreaking.
"We get to vote for a woman for the first time in my lifetime — and the first time ever in the USA," she says. And when Hillary Clinton, the first female presidential nominee of a major party, is competing against Donald Trump, a candidate Hagstrom Miller says is "specifically targeting women in an inexcusable way," the stakes for women in this election are even higher.
"This election has been insane — unprecedented in its vitriol toward every minority group — women, people of color, religious folks who aren’t Christian," Hagstrom Miller tells Bustle. "The Republican candidate is a misogynist beyond compare to any candidate we have ever seen run for public office. The language he has introduced into the national discourse is very destructive, eroding the very fabric of our morality as Americans."
So, what's a woman to do about that? Well, vote, for one. But because of the uncouth candidate that is Donald J. Trump that no one could have expected, there's been an unprecedented amount of stress over the 2016 election, and stress is something Hagstrom Miller knows a lot about.
Being the plaintiff of one of the most debated U.S. Supreme Court cases this year was certainly difficult. The case was all consuming. It affected her kids, husband, extended family, and, of course, her team at the clinics. "We just didn’t know what the decision was going to be, and we were open and then closed and then open," she says. "I take my role as an employer and as a leader very seriously. It was very difficult to not be able to make promises of stability to my team throughout this process."
"People are stepping up on behalf of a lot of social justice movements in a way right now that is pretty powerful. I try to focus on that."
Stability is one topic that's been mentioned a lot during the campaign season. Trump has a tendency to say whatever he wants. Just hop on his Twitter account — which he's now no longer allowed to access — or read his constant lies about everything from whether or not he supported the war in Iraq to why he wouldn't release his tax returns. Even the United Nations high commissioner for human rights said a President Trump could be dangerous for global stability.
When the Trump campaign took his access to his Twitter account away, President Obama said, "Now, if your closest advisers don’t trust you to tweet, then how can we trust him with the nuclear codes?"
To deal with the instability that was the wait before the Supreme Court ruling, Hagstrom Miller says she and her team at the Whole Woman's Health clinic detached themselves from the outcome. That doesn't mean they didn't care, but that they tried not to get too attached and instead embraced the opportunities that came to them as a byproduct of being in the position they were in. That meant telling the stories of women and men whose lives were affected by the ruling and doing what they could do, not focusing on what they couldn't. "That, I think, helped us keep a pulse on reality and keep ourselves present instead of just dwelling in the "what if, what if" that will make you nuts."
That's helpful when it comes to the 2016 election. "I can’t worry about the things that aren’t in my control," Hagstrom Miller says — and neither can you. If you voted, if you campaigned, if you talked to your friends and family and got the vote out, you did what you could. And if you continue to worry about the "what ifs?" you'll be frozen by things that you can't control. Instead, look to what you can do.
For Hagstrom Miller, that meant she only dealt with what was on the docket for that day, intentionally practiced living in the present, and remembered that there were supportive people out there even when the bad guys are trying to bring you down. And she certainly didn't read the comments.
"People are stepping up on behalf of a lot of social justice movements in a way right now that is pretty powerful," she says. "I try to focus on that. But sometimes it’s scary, of course. I think that that’s part of the power people have is that fear and that control, so I want to be conscious of it and not be on the defense in the response mode, but to be able to actually be intentional and plan and think through a strategy and not have that be hijacked because we’re in this response mode. It’s a practice."
That doesn't mean it never got overwhelming. Hagstrom Miller is a big advocate of going to the chiropractor, and she also swims laps, a sport she finds gives her the ability to breathe, think, and, occasionally, break down. "It’s just, how can you go through those emotions and make sure that you have a release?" she asks. For her, it's swimming. For others, it's yoga, it's CrossFit, it's meditation, it's coloring while listening to music, it's reading a book you can get lost in. It's something in yourself you should discover.
The election has been hard on women, but it's also been inspiring. Hagstrom Miller cites Michelle Obama's powerful speech when talking about Trump, saying, "there is nothing about this that is normal, and it hurts." But that's not going to stop anyone, especially not Hagstrom Miller. "Until women really have the ability to realize our full potential as human beings, I’m going to fight for that."
And isn't that the most fitting way to deal with the stress of the 2016 election? Fighting might be hard, but Hagstrom Miller has proved that it can all be worth it, even if the conclusion isn't what you hoped for. Whether you're fighting for reproductive rights or encouraging women to vote because of what's at stake for them, if you've voted and spoken up about what you believe in — if you've done what you can — you should rest easy.
"I hope [the Supreme Court decision] serves as an inspiration to people, to not be afraid to stand up for what’s right, even if you might not win. That standing up is in itself is a win, and that’s the most important thing to do, to speak up and speak out, and when you do that, you start to win."
Images: Courtesy of Amy Hagstrom Miller (2); Hannah Burton/Bustle (1)