Abortion 101: What to Know Before You Go

Today’s post comes courtesy of FFC contributor Sarah Erdreich and guest contributor Sarah Cohen, who worked at the National Abortion Federation hotline for several years and currently lives in Philadelphia with her husband and their cat.

January 22, 2013 marks the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision. All month, we’ll be running posts examining various aspects of this landmark ruling. If you’d like to contribute, let us know!

When you work in reproductive rights, people pepper you with practical questions about getting an abortion. How much does the procedure cost? How long does it take? Does it hurt? While the answers vary depending on the particular circumstances, there are a few tips you should know.

First, confirm that you actually are pregnant. This might sound obvious, but as many of us know, it’s surprisingly easy to lose track of when your last normal period occurred. If a home pregnancy test shows a positive result, you are probably pregnant; home test kits rarely give a false positive. If a home pregnancy test shows a negative result, it’s possible that you’re too early for the test to detect a pregnancy. Most test kits come with two in the package, so wait a few days and, if you still think you might be pregnant, take the second test. [Read more...]

Honor Roe By Funding Abortions

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade Supreme Court decision. We’ve been sharing the history of Roe, and we’ll continue to be talking about Roe throughout the month.  But I thought we could take a quick time out from the history lessons and talk about how we can all honor Roe right now – today – all year.

One of the biggest challenges for patient access to abortion is funding.  Economic access intersects race, class, age, gender, and sexual orientation lines.  While an abortion in the first trimester may only cost $350 – $500 (and I say this very loosely), that’s still a lot of money to obtain.  As patients struggle to raise that money, the cost increases the longer they wait – and so does the need for more financial help.

Arizona has some of the worst abortion laws in the US. We seem to like setting the example for other states to follow.  We had three anti-abortion bills pass in 2012, and the bill that has received the most national attention is the 20-week gestation ban.  The bill provides a crazy definition of when gestation starts, so the bill has an injunction while the courts debate when pregnancy actually occurs.  However, when the bill goes into effect, many patients will have to travel out of state to get an abortion – which will only increase the cost and difficulty of obtaining their health care.

The proof is in the pudding.  [Read more...]

March Online for Reproductive Rights!

Join the online march for women’s rights! During “Trust Women Week,” January 20-27, a whole host of fantastic organizations, including Medical Students for Choice, Ms., the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, and the National Network of Abortion Funds have come together to support women’s lives and women’s rights. This online, mass mobilization is letting members of Congress, state governors, and selected state legislators know just how important reproductive rights are, and making sure that your voice will be heard. To learn more and add your message, click here!


Guaranteeing Access, One Dollar at a Time

When Serena proposed the idea of focusing on gratitude this month by honoring pro-choice advocates, I immediately knew who I’d choose: the people that make sure that women who need abortions have the money to do so.

Working in either local funds or the funding arms of major organizations is not an easy job. The need is overwhelming, and there’s never enough money to go around. The hours can be long – in the case of a lot of local funds, the work is literally 24/7 – and the stories can rip your heart out.

But this is such essential work, particularly in our current economic climate. Helping a woman raise $200 or $100 or even $50 doesn’t just mean that she can get an abortion. It means that no matter her situation, she can access the same services as any other woman. It means, as a case manager for the D.C. Abortion Fund told me years ago, that a woman’s rights shouldn’t depend on her wallet.  [Read more...]

How to be Pro-Choice in 8 (and a half) Simple Steps

I recently read an interesting discussion on Jezebel about how individuals could support the pro-choice movement. There were some great ideas, but as several commentors mentioned, they wished they could think of more things.  So – with apologies to Fellini – here are 8 ½ ideas:

1. Ask your gynecologist if she or he performs abortions.  As one awesome provider put it, “How would men react if they found out that their primary care doctors didn’t do prostate exams … and you gotta go and have somebody shove their finger up your ass who they’ve never met before? You think men would go along with it?”

 2. Look beyond Planned Parenthood.  This isn’t a knock on the incredible work that Planned Parenthood clinics do.  It’s just a reminder that while they’re often the best-funded game in town, they’re not the only one. Independent clinics can use volunteers and clinic escorts, too!

[Read more...]

Should Pro-Choice Organizations Be Involved in Advocacy Work?

While I was at the organizing summit for the National Network of Abortion Funds, I attended a very spirited debate on the topic of advocacy versus direct service. Specifically, the speakers were debating whether or not organizations like the abortions funds should focus their efforts on direct service (helping women pay for their abortions), or advocacy (trying to get the laws changed surrounding abortion). I’ll summarize each side’s arguments, and then you can give your opinion in the comments section. I’d love to hear how you view the debate.

Direct Service
In 2009, one in four women in the United States carried an unwanted pregnancy to term because the cost of an abortion was too high. That number is the motivation that drives the work of NNAF and its member funds. Last year, NNAF chapters answered calls from 126,000 women who needed help paying for their abortions; 24,000 were able to be served. According to the Guttmacher report cited earlier, there are about 200,000 women in the United States who need assistance paying for an abortion. If each of those women received $200 in assistance, that would mean that pro-choice groups would need to raise $40 million to meet the need. Last year NNAF chapters raised approximately $1.4 million, which is not a paltry amount of money. However, it’s very clear that there is still a lot of work left for us to do, and we currently don’t have enough money

Providing funding for abortion is simply a bandage solution, and it’s only a means to an end. The women who call abortion funds for assistance have larger economic issues at play. The fact is that we would have fewer late term abortions if laws like the Hyde Amendment didn’t exist and women could obtain abortions earlier in their pregnancies. Abortions become more expensive when they are delayed. So we need to be advocating for the laws to be changed in order to increase the availability of public funding for abortion.

Additionally, there is no such thing as a single issue movement. We need to be building larger advocacy coalitions that reach outside of the pro-choice movement for support.  This is an issue of economic justice, a lack of affordable housing, and unreliable access to public transportation; it’s a part of the much larger movement towards universal health care access; and it’s also a labor issue – since women need access to time off of work and often need child care to be able to go to a health care provider.  If we’re really after reproductive justice, we have got to connect all of the dots. [Read more...]

Merging the Pro-Choice and Faith Communities

I attended a workshop at the 2011 National Network of Abortion Funds organizing summit that addressed how to reach out to faith communities. The workshop focused specifically on Christian traditions, since there is strong support for reproductive justice within Judaism. Although Islamic beliefs were briefly discussed in the Q&A period, it was not the main focus of the discussion. As a person of faith myself, I got a lot out of the workshop and was so glad to hear different Christian perspectives on the topic of reproductive rights.

The Catholic Point of View
Meghan Smith of Catholics for Choice gave a summary of Catholic beliefs surrounding birth control and abortion. As Smith pointed out, it is important to understand the Catholic point of view because there are currently more than 68 million Catholics in the United States, and more than 1 billion Catholics globally. Although the Catholic hierarchy has stated its opposition to birth control and abortion, the majority of Catholic parishioners generally disagree with the hierarchy on reproductive rights issues. For example, a recent survey of active Catholics found that 98% of Catholic women use some form of birth control. Additionally, only 14% of Catholics believe that abortion should be illegal. Consequently, we should not confuse the voices of those who are in power as being representative of the Catholic community itself.

For Catholics, an individuals’ conscience is the ultimate arbiter on the morality of all decisions. If a woman contemplates the decision to obtain an abortion and feels that it is right for her, that is the most important thing to consider. Since Catholicism has an emphasis on improving the lives of the poor, discussions of faith and reproductive justice must include discussions of economic equality.  [Read more...]

Why the Repeal of Hyde is a Priority for Pro-Choice Advocates

I just got back from the 2011 National Network of Abortion Funds organizing summit in Denver, Colorado.  The weekend helped recharge my battery, and more importantly, gave me a lot of tangible tools that I can use to help get an abortion access fund started in Arizona.

The opening plenary session of the summit was about the Hyde Amendment and Health Care Reform. Stephanie Poggi of NNAF, Eesha Pandit of the New York Abortion Access Fund, and Marlene Gerber Fried from NNAF explained what the Hyde Amendment is, and why the repeal of Hyde needs to be a priority for the pro-choice movement.

What is the Hyde Amendment?
The Hyde Amendment was passed in 1976, and was only one of 200 anti-abortion bills that were passed in the backlash against Roe v. Wade. The Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funds from being used to pay for abortion. The anti-choice members of Congress never actually believed that they would get the law passed because the bill was a clear case of reaching too far. The Hyde Amendment initially had no exceptions, not even in cases of rape or incest, or to protect the life of the woman. The bill received 25 roll call votes, and exceptions for rape and the woman’s health had to be added to Hyde in order for the bill to pass.

During the Congressional testimony on the Hyde Amendment, Henry Hyde blatantly admitted that he didn’t want any women to have access to abortion, but he knew he couldn’t have everything he wanted so he focused on restricting abortion access for the women he knew he could effect: low-income women. [Read more...]

Apparently Women in D.C. Have Really Pricey Abortions

I don’t know about you, but I breathed a huge sigh of relief on Saturday morning. The government shutdown was averted, without sacrificing Planned Parenthood! Yay, bullet dodged!

… and then I learned that that bullet was actually headed straight for pregnant, low-income women in the District of Columbia. Because not only did House Speaker John Boehner want to limit government funding for Planned Parenthood and other nonprofits that provide abortion services, he also wanted to restrict funding on abortions in D.C. So a compromise was worked out: D.C. funding was cut, but the funds to nonprofits were safe.

Look, I get that an argument can be made for this outcome. Planned Parenthood and other nonprofits serve a huge number of men and women, and can now continue to do this very necessary work. And to take even more of a “greater good” perspective – if the government actually had shut down last weekend, hundreds of thousands of people would have been affected, and D.C. would have essentially come to a halt. As a proud resident of the District of Columbia, I’m really glad that we’ll continue to have things like trash pick-up and parking enforcement, and that the businesses in my neighborhood that depend on the income of government workers won’t suffer.

[Read more...]

National Network of Abortion Funds is on Facebook

NNAFweblogo--Smaller-LogoBecause of the Hyde Amendment, every year thousands of women sacrifice food, risk eviction, and pawn their possessions in order to raise money for an abortion. The National Network of Abortion Funds is a group of over 100 grassroots abortion funds around the country and abroad. The Network and their funds work hard to provide women with the money and other support they need to get their abortions. Last year, they helped 21,500 women pay for abortions they couldn’t otherwise afford.

Social networking is substantially changing the way that pro-choice activists organize. For example, @ClinicEscort recently sponsored a fundraising drive for NNAF via Twitter and was able to raise over $1000. It doesn’t surprise me that most Planned Parenthood affiliates have their own Twitter and Facebook accounts, or that Facebook groups have enabled pro-choice activists to organize anti-Stupak events in a matter of days.

The National Network of Abortion Funds is hopping on the social networking train. They’re all up on Facebook and Twitter. Their posts regularly focus on the health care reform bill, and how the anti-abortion funding “compromises” that the Democrats have agreed to will affect women’s health. So check them out, become a fan or a follower, and stay in the loop about all the great work they’re doing. [Read more...]