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...]

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...]

Steph Herold: Tweeting to End Abortion Stigma

Feminist Conversations is a weekly column at Feminists for Choice, where we talk to feminists from across the interwebs to find out what feminism means to them. Today we’re talking to Steph Herold, who caused quite a stir earlier this week when CNN caught up with her to ask her about the #ihadanabortion tag that she created on Twitter. Steph is a reproductive justice activist who has worked in direct service abortion care and reproductive health advocacy. She founded the website IAmDrTiller.com to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Tiller and honor the stories of abortion providers. She also founded the blog AbortionGang.org as a space for young people in the reproductive justice movement. She tweets from the handle @IAmDrTiller and lives in Brooklyn, NY.

1.  How did you get involved with the New York Abortion Access Fund?
When I was in college, I worked for the abortion access fund in Philadelphia, the Women’s Medical Fund. That was my introduction to the pro-choice movement, and I fell in love. After graduating, I continued volunteering for the fund so I could remain a part of the community working to make sure that women have access to save abortions. When I moved to New York a few months ago, I wanted to find a way to continue this reproductive justice work. After attending a few NYAAF events, I applied to be on the board, and luckily for me, they accepted me!

2.  What inspired you to start the IAmDrTiller website?
Instead of trying to summarize that in a few words, I actually wrote an article about this for On the Issues Magazine. I wanted to create a space to celebrate the legacy of Dr. Tiller and share the experiences of abortion providers.

3.  What was the motivation behind the #ihadanabortion hashtag on Twitter?
It is not, as some have suggested, politics. I could have done this a week ago or last year with the same motivations. Unfortunately, abortion carries a stigma no matter who is in power. Last week, I read this blog post where the writer compares the modern pro-choice movement to the gay rights movement in the 1970s. What strengthened the gay rights movement then, according to her, was people coming out, and the general public realizing that homosexuality is more common and prevalent (and normal!) than they ever imagined. The author of the post posed an interesting question: why don’t we do that for abortion rights? That really struck a chord with me. The anti-choice movement has tried to make abortion the sin of a few bad women. In reality, abortion is a regular part of women’s lives. [Read more...]