It’s funny to me now that four years ago, I was not very attuned to reproductive issues in the United States. Of course, I’ve always identified as a feminist but most of my involvement was limited to personal debates among my family and friends. It wasn’t until Todd Akin’s asinine comment about our bodies having a way of “shutting things down” that I really started to pay attention.
I began reading blogs like Feministing.org and books by authors like Jessica Valenti. I couldn’t get enough. I wanted to learn everything I could. However, over this past year or so, tweeting and reading about reproductive issues didn’t feel like enough anymore. I wanted to feel like I was more directly involved, like I was helping to make a difference.
I first heard about DCAF during the Taco or Beer Challenge last year. I ate a taco and Googled abortion funds in DC in order to donate. That was basically my only exposure to DCAF until I participated in this year’s Bowl-A-Thon. I knew that DCAF was the recipient of the fundraiser, but I didn’t know much about what they do on a daily basis. After speaking to someone at the event about her experience as a case manager, I decided to sign up for a training session.
I wasn’t sure what to expect during my first week on the phone. Even as a trainee, I was quite intimidated. I felt the huge responsibility of helping people who maybe be in one of the most challenging situations of their lives. It’s so easy to forget how many people don’t have access to the money that is needed for an unexpected pregnancy. Many people also might not even know where to go for the services they need.
I realized just how necessary DCAF’s work is after I was able to close the funding gap for two different teenage girls in the same day. The relief was palpable in their voices. DCAF’s funding is especially important in DC, where Medicaid can no longer be used for abortion. I have already spoken to several women who have Medicaid as their insurance, but are barred by Congress from using it. When you’re actually speaking to the people affected by abortion restrictions and lack of access, the debate becomes much more real. It’s natural to feel disconnected from the real people when your only exposure to the issue is listening to politicians and pundits on television.
This week will be my next shift on the phone, and my first time as a lead. I’m still nervous but I look forward to being able to give advice for how to raise funds, recommend different clinics, and provide funding to those in need. I’m proud to be a DCAF case manager, and will continue to be involved as much as I can.
By volunteer Maggie G.