It’s profoundly unfair to me that our nation’s public health policies punish low-income Americans for having less power. There doesn’t seem to be any better illustration of this than the Hyde Amendment, which restricts Medicaid funding for abortion. With Hyde hanging over all our heads, there doesn’t seem to be a more meaningful or immediate way to help people avoid unintended pregnancies than to facilitate the funding of their abortions.
Just this evening, I talked to a mother calling on behalf of her 16-year-old daughter. I gave her the numbers for some clinics in the area and for the National Abortion Federation, who will also, hopefully, be able to help. I also talked to one woman who asked for counseling because she hadn’t yet decided to go through the procedure — I gave her the number for an options hotline — and faxed in a pledge for one more patient in a domestic violence situation who has her procedure tomorrow. Every patient’s story is different, but in the 20-plus months I’ve case managed the common denominator has been that every patient is a person who deserves affordable, accessible medical care. No one should be forced to carry to term a pregnancy they don’t want, regardless of whether they have disabilities or are undocumented or a student or trans or a mother of six.
I’m a journalist, so my day job sometimes involves writing about the politics that impact these patients, but that comes without the inherent advocacy of case managing. I love to write, but the work is necessarily removed. I briefly worked at a reproductive rights advocacy group before the media gig, so I’ve existed in these different spheres where the connection to the patients actually feeling the impact of our nation’s laws was less direct. Now, it’s endlessly fulfilling to be a part of a community of people who care about reproductive justice, and inspiring to see how hard the leaders of this fund work to provide this essential service.
There’s this case managing high I experience faxing in pledges that can quickly turn into a low of realizing that these calls will never abate without adequate health care for the patients we serve. It feels so satisfying to know that I helped a patient get over the finish line, and so frustrating to see people in dire economic circumstances have their dignity compromised when they have to scramble to get the funds to access the procedure. Here I am, sipping a beer in my pajamas returning these calls, while the person at the other end of the line goes to bed with the anxiety of not knowing whether they can raise enough to make their appointment.
The people who are opposed to abortion don’t seem to ever acknowledge the kinds of patients calling our hotline. They talk about abortion like it’s some frivolous form of birth control, without recognizing that sometimes birth control fails. (I had a woman who had an IUD but somehow still became pregnant.) They talk about abortion like the patients who seek the procedure are confused and vulnerable, without appreciating how determined and strong these patients actually are. And they talk about abortion as if all it does is disrespect life, when really their policies do the utmost to degrade the lives of patients. The hypocrisy never ceases to upset me — how could one be so opposed to abortion and birth control — so the only way to feel useful and force the anger to the background is to partner with these patients to get them the care they need.
By volunteer Samantha L, image courtesy of the Repeal Hyde Art Project.