COVID-19 and Abortion Access in the DC Area

AT THIS TIME ALL CLINICS IN THE DC AREA ARE OPEN. WE WILL UPDATE IF THAT CHANGES.

It’s more important than ever for us to all take care of each other. DC Abortion Fund is holding our community close at this time (even if we are not physically together) and we are here for you. 

We are thinking especially of those who are multiply marginalized — people of color, families with lower incomes, service industry workers, health care workers, small business owners, undocumented people, people with disabilities, people with chronic or high-risk health conditions, and people experiencing homelessness — as we navigate this global pandemic.

Here are some resources we pulled together that we hope are helpful. It will continue to be updated as the situation is still evolving.

For People Seeking Abortions

Our lines are still open. Call DCAF’s free, confidential helpline at (202) 452-7464 and leave a voicemail for our case managers. Include your name and phone number, how many weeks pregnant you are, the date of your doctor’s appointment, and whether or not it is okay for us to leave you a voicemail. To help keep your information safer, we cannot assist with funding via email.

If you are calling on behalf of someone who is pregnant, please follow the same instructions and let us know your relationship to that person.

A volunteer will return your call shortly. Our volunteers can help you estimate how much your procedure will cost, and provide detailed financial counseling to assess your financial need and funding options. After a case manager determines that you are eligible for DCAF funds, they can pledge funding assistance accordingly.

We strongly suggest you contact the clinic on the day of any office visit, prior to coming to the site. If there is a closure, the clinic should inform you, but it is always best to double-check before you travel. If you feel ill, contact your clinic to ask for advice about how to move forward. 

At the clinic, try to keep your distance from other patients whenever possible. If you can, leave 6 feet of space between you and other patients and staff. 

For People Wanting to Support DC Abortion Fund

Throughout this pandemic, one thing remains the same: people will continue to need abortions.

We still need your support to make sure people can get seen as quickly and as safely as possible. 

If you’re in a position to fundraise or donate, we encourage you to sign up to raise money during Fund-a-Thon, our annual peer-to-peer fundraiser.

We understand how weird and maybe even uncomfortable it might feel to ask people for money at this time. People are losing their jobs at an unprecedented rate, and there are a lot of things on everyone’s mind other than fundraising. 

But with more people struggling economically and travel across state lines becoming more challenging, your help is especially critical to ensure people calling our helpline are able to access the abortion care they need. 

We have tips and talking points you can use if you choose to fundraise at this time, and we’ll share more ideas and support in the coming weeks. We’ll also continue to evaluate our plans in light of the changing situation.

If you are unable to fundraise or give at this time, you can still help by sharing information about DCAF and our Fund-a-Thon campaign via email and social media (see page three of our toolkit).

Helpful Resources

Fund-a-Thon for DCAF

We’re excited to announce that Fund-a-Thon is here!

You may be wondering, “What’s a Fund-a-Thon?” It’s our annual peer-to-peer fundraiser! The goal is to work together in small fundraising teams over the next two months to raise money for abortion. Our former iterations of the event — Game-a-Thon, Bowl-a-Thon, and more — were our biggest fundraisers of their respective years and key to our budget, so we’ll need your help to make Fund-a-Thon 2020 a big success! 

For those who are new to joining our cause, this is one of our greatest opportunities to raise money for DCAF throughout the year, so your involvement is crucial. 

Today, we have witnessed an enormous increase in state and national restrictions that are designed specifically to deny access to abortion, especially for people of color and people with lower incomes. Now, more than ever, we need your help to ensure people calling our helpline are able to access the abortion care they need.

So how can you help? Create an online fundraising page, join or start a team, and commit to raising as much money as you can by asking your friends and family to donate.

You don’t have to be in D.C. to join in the FUNdraising! 

We Fund Abortion

If you have never fundraised before, don’t worry, you won’t be alone! We have all the resources you could need, including sample emails you can send, and we’ll regularly provide you with tips, tricks, and support. Plus, some of our seasoned fundraisers are always happy to help newbies out!

To kickstart the FUNdraising (We just can’t stop), join us for a Fund-a-Thon launch happy hour on Friday, March 6, at Town Tavern in Adams Morgan. You will be able to ask questions, connect with other DCAF volunteers, and begin raising money for our cause. 

by volunteer Shelby R.

A Year of Growth and Planning for the Future

In 2019, there was once again an increased demand for our services. As the abortion landscape around the country becomes more restrictive, more patients have been traveling to the DC area for their abortion care—and more people are turning to DCAF if they need help paying for their abortion.

As we look to our 25th anniversary in 2020, our commitment to ensuring that every individual receives proper abortion care has never been stronger.

Since DCAF started with a handful of volunteers in 1995, we have been dedicated to making abortion care not only legal, but accessible to people who need it.

This past year, we spent time aligning ourselves and our volunteers with a shared understanding of a reproductive justice framework—which includes greater transparency for callers, stronger collaboration between abortion funds that centers callers’ experiences, and updated intake processes that affirm callers’ agency. 

We will continue to work to center the needs of assist our callers by further developing our existing partnerships, and growing our connections to movements, organizations, and individuals who share our values—goals that have never been more crucial.

Right now, the basic right to abortion access is under severe attack. For the first time in our nation’s history, the president of the United States spoke at the annual anti-choice rally in Washington, DC. 

Though this is emblematic of the increasingly constrictive legislation surrounding abortion care in our country, we believe that no individual should be denied one’s reproductive rights because of politicized barriers. 

We’re thankful for 25 years of folks like you, supporting our work, staffing our lines, and being right there with us as we grow and innovate.

Your support made a direct impact in meeting the needs of patients — and we are so grateful for you. You can view some highlights from our exciting year of growth in our  FY19 annual report.

One thing is certain: When we say “your rights shouldn’t depend on your wallet,” we mean it. 

No matter what, our lines stay open, and that wouldn’t be possible without your support. 

We can’t wait to see what we can accomplish together in 2020 and beyond!

by volunteer Shelby R.

“Yes, we can help you.” 

“Yes, we can help you.” 

You are the reason our volunteer case managers get to tell our callers this every day. 

You are the reason our helpline always stays open. 

You are the reason people get to take back control of their own health care decisions, bringing us closer to reproductive justice.

Help us continue to do this by making a tax-deductible gift today. And for a limited time through December 31, all gifts will be matched, up to $10,000, thanks to two anonymous donors!

Since 1995, people have called our fund for one simple yet heartbreaking reason: They cannot afford the full cost of their abortion care. 

This constitutionally guaranteed health care service is out of reach for many people because of political and economic barriers — barriers that disproportionately affect people with lower incomes and people of color. 

This year we’ve provided hundreds of thousands of dollars to patients to cover the gap between what they are able to pay and the full cost of abortion care. We’ve assisted more callers than ever before.

But the role and growth of abortion funds have perhaps never been more critical. As the abortion landscape around the country becomes more restrictive, more patients travel to the relatively progressive states of the D.C. area for their abortion care — and more people turn to DCAF if they need help paying for their abortion, stretching our already-tight resources.

Your support helps our patients overcome these obstacles and access the quality care they deserve. 

We don’t know what the next year will bring. But we know DCAF will always be here — and we hope you’ll be here, too, helping to make our work possible.

Supporting #DC4AbortionAccess

Editor’s Note: Here at DCAF, we believe everyone should have access to a full range of reproductive health care, and that includes abortion. When people have the freedom to make decisions that are best for themselves and their families, our communities thrive. On December 19, we expressed our support for the Strengthening Reproductive Health Protections Amendment Act of 2019 at a hearing with partner organizations. Below is the statement presented by DCAF’s president, Deepika Srivastava.

Chairman Todd, members of the Committee, my name is Dee Srivastava and I am President of the DC Abortion Fund. I have been a DC resident for nearly a decade, and am proud to call Ward 1 my home. Today, I am here to speak out in support of the Strengthening Reproductive Health Protections Amendment Act of 2019. Thank you for the opportunity to comment on this important issue.

The DC Abortion Fund, or DCAF, is a DC-based 501c(3) that provides about $400,000 annually in financial assistance to people seeking abortion care in the District, Maryland, and Virginia. We also provide referrals to clinics and other resources. In addition to providing financial support and referrals to patients who need abortion care, DCAF also has volunteer-led policy and movement building teams that weigh in on critical legislation like this, to not only bolster our partnerships in the area, but also to advocate for policies that put the needs of our callers first and protect their access to comprehensive reproductive health care. 

The DC Abortion Fund is the only local abortion fund serving residents of the District of Columbia. Last year, we screened about 1300 calls from District residents alone — calls from people who cannot afford their abortion largely due to systemic inequities. We commit to meeting our callers where they are, working with them to close their financial gaps, being an empathetic resource, and doing whatever it is we can to get people to their appointments. We have been serving the District and its residents for nearly 25 years, partnering with the city’s incredible abortion providers at Planned Parenthood, independent clinics, and hospitals. 

As introduced, this legislation would prohibit the District government from interfering with people’s reproductive health decisions and from imposing punitive measures for self-managed abortion, miscarriage, or other pregnancy outcomes. It would also prohibit employment discrimination against employees and healthcare professionals who would participate in abortion or sterilization procedures. In a world where the social and political climate around abortion care gets ever more hostile, proactive legislation like this is one of the most important ways to affirm that DC residents deserve the right to access abortion, and that no matter what happens, we are committed to protecting that right. 

As DC’s local abortion fund, we have seen, firsthand, over and over, what restrictions on DC’s representation and budget autonomy have done to patient access here — including the Dornan Amendment, which renders the District unable to use its own locally raised dollars to cover abortion care for its low-income residents. While this bill won’t be able to do everything that is needed to attain equitable abortion access for all DC residents, it is a key step in the right direction. As we approach the dismantling of abortion access at all levels and branches of government, and live in a world where DC and its residents face a lack of statehood, home rule, and budget autonomy, that step couldn’t come soon enough. 

At their core, restrictions on abortion access — whether they’re outright bans on abortion or harmful regulations that lead to clinic closures or the impeding of funds to cover the cost of abortion care– are a form of oppression rooted in power imbalance and exerting control over the autonomy and well-being of people seeking health care. They disproportionately impact communities of color, exacerbating the already-rampant systemic racism in the health care system. They diminish the autonomy and safety largely of our Black, immigrant, LGBTQ, and low-income residents, and those who sit at these intersections. 

DCAF is testifying in favor of this legislation because we believe that everyone in DC should be able to access abortion, without burdensome and medically unnecessary restrictions. Organizations like DCAF need to exist because there is a health system that is stacked against our callers, forcing them to jump through hoop after hoop when they should have timely, affordable access to health care. We believe that District residents deserve a health care system that is better than the one we have, where one’s acute access to care is shifted based on where they live and what’s in their wallet, due to differing levels of support and investment in things like access to child care, public transportation, and, of course, funding. We believe no one should fear punishment for a pregnancy outcome or for accessing reproductive health care, because we talk to those who would be most impacted by such punitive measures — people with low incomes and people of color, particularly Black and brown communities. We can and must do better as a society than criminalizing and ostracizing people who seek an abortion. Too often we fail people in this regard, and too often anti-abortion advocates legislate away bodily autonomy for people with low incomes, Black and brown people, queer people, and others who live at the margins. 

Abortion funds have to exist because the health system marginalizes abortion care and those who seek it. Often, our opponents justify attacks on abortion access with concepts like safety, compassion, and humanity, but we should be exposing this for what it is — control and manipulation. Safety, compassion, and humanity are important to us, too — but stoking people’s fear with medically inaccurate information or forcibly imposing one’s personal religious beliefs is not how you ensure the safety and wellbeing of all people — protecting and promoting access to compassionate, affirming, person-centered care is. Our commitment to these values is why DCAF supports people seeking abortion from all walks of life. We provide compassionate case management and strive for the transparency, empathy, and resources that our callers deserve as they are navigating a health system that is constantly putting care out of reach. We work with health care providers who have high medical standards, and who value and provide patient-centered health care. 

Our callers, and others seeking abortion care, should have the right to autonomy and control in their health and their lives, and we as a community need to be doing more to affirm that right. We need to trust them to make the best decisions for themselves, and to take these rights seriously. By passing this legislation, we can say firmly that we won’t stand for outdated and nonsense laws and policies that jeopardize the public’s health, legislate away bodily autonomy, and endanger communities. We know that the ability to make autonomous decisions about health care helps communities thrive. We strongly encourage the Council to support the Strengthening Reproductive Health Protections Amendment Act.

Hi! I’m the new DCAF president

It’s been a busy few months at DCAF, but I wanted to take a moment to say hi! If you don’t know me, I am Dee, the incoming president of the DC Abortion Fund.

I’m no stranger to DCAF. I joined DCAF back in 2014, first serving as a case manager and then serving on the board for the past 3 years.

I do this work because I believe that people accessing abortion should be the primary decision makers of their lives, and I refuse to let systemic oppression get in the way of people accessing health care.

Abortion funds like DCAF redistribute resources to build a better world where access isn’t determined by what’s in your wallet or where you live.

The road ahead of us is long. Abortion continues to be marginalized in the health system. People continue to need to travel further and further for care. Those who access care and those who do this work continue to be met with opposition and vitriol. But together, we are a powerful network of volunteers and donors who are here for the people whose care is at risk, and we are not going anywhere.

DCAF’s work truly takes a village, and we appreciate all that you do to make sure our callers receive the care they deserve. This movement needs all of us to keep showing up, day after day, week after week.

If you’re as excited about the future of DCAF as I am — consider chipping in and becoming a monthly donor, or making a special one-time gift!

Reproductive Justice is an Economic Issue

Reproductive justice is a woman-of-color-created framework that defines “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” Unlike frameworks which center “choice” in discussions of reproductive issues, reproductive justice centers access, interrogating the power structures that oppress marginalized people and further deprive them of that access. Gender, race, and class economics all affect that analysis.

For decades, reproductive issues—abortion access, paid parental leave, birth control coverage—have been sidelined in politics as “women’s issues” and discussed in isolation. This has been done intentionally by those who oppose reproductive justice, and indirectly, by feminist groups who fail to use an intersectional lens. Firstly, the term “women’s issues” is cisnormative: women and people who can get pregnant are a Venn diagram—overlapping, but not the same category. And this framing also minimizes reproductive justice as a “social issue” which is supposedly disconnected from and less important than economic issues.

Because reproductive justice is rooted in the belief that individuals and communities should have the resources and power needed to make their own decisions about their families, bodies, and lives, reproductive justice requires (among other things), economic power. Having or not having a child is one of the largest economic changes in a person’s life. As of 2015, in the United States, the lifetime cost of having one child is nearly a quarter of a million dollars, making it one of the most costly life expenses possible. If you have a child, when you have children, and how many children you have are some of the biggest economic forks in the road of someone’s life. This isn’t necessary, or accidental: our privatized health care system ensures that pre-natal care, birth, and delivery are extremely expensive. And that’s before you get to the costs associated with childcare and education.

But the financial implications of pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood represent isn’t the whole story. Not everyone has the privilege to make those financial and/or reproductive decisions freely—unlike frameworks of “choice, reproductive justice acknowledges that reproduction is deeply linked with issues of class and socioeconomic inequity. Every reproductive issue, from access to birth control to the ability to raise a child safely, is heavily influenced (if not outright determined) by socioeconomic status. The same decision—to seek abortion services, for example—looks completely different to a wealthy person than to someone with much less money. A poor person is less likely to be able to take time off work, afford transportation to a clinic, pay for childcare during the procedure, and have health care coverage — and all of these come into play before figuring out how to pay for the abortion itself. 

Of course, health insurance coverage is defined by economics (and race) as well. In DC, “[n]early 1 in 7 Hispanic residents (13.5%) have no health insurance compared with 1 in 15 (11.8%) Black residents, and 1 in 30 (3.5%) White residents.” As for the little over 35% of DC residents who have public coverage, a majority are women and people of color, and are explicitly barred from abortion coverage by the Hyde amendment. These layers and layers of oppression come together to compound the inequities that reproductive justice intends to eradicate.

Additionally, in many areas in the U.S. where poverty is concentrated, those costs are exacerbated by anti-choice laws, like those that mandate waiting periods (requiring another visit to the clinic) or trans-vaginal ultrasounds (another procedure to pay for). Reproductive issues can’t be separated from economic ones.

As the reproductive justice framework states, reproductive issues and economics are inextricably connected. Socioeconomic status—as intensified by race, gender, and other identity factors—determines one’s ability to make reproductive choices with the freedom and autonomy everyone deserves. And not having the financial freedom to make decisions about birth control, abortion and parenthood in turn affects one’s finances, further trapping people in poverty. The reproductive justice framework sees, and seeks to dismantle, the entire interconnected system of oppression—not discuss one issue as though it exists in isolation.

– by volunteer Kate. This reflects the views of the author.

What You Can Do

Last week was a rough one for many of us. But abortion funds across the country still here, and we’re not going anywhere. In spite of the unconstitutional and unjust bans being rolled out, abortion is still legal in all 50 states. But legal is not accessible. And at DCAF, we work hard every day to help people access the abortion care they need, regardless of what’s in their wallets or where they live. We’re committed to the fights ahead.

You’ve probably seen a lot of articles and Facebook posts floating around about what you can do to help patients in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio, Louisiana, South Carolina, and other states who are considering or have passed restrictive abortion bans.

Here are some ideas:

Donate to a regional fund. Here are some:

Sign up to volunteer with your local fund. Whether that’s DCAF or a fund in another state or region, we’ll need to work together to make sure patients get the funds they need for abortion care.

Donate to your local abortion fund. Better yet, become a monthly donor to support their work year round. Abortion funds in areas where folks can still access this essential health care service will face a higher demand for their services as people travel further distances to get the care they need and deserve. We’ve already seen this trend at DCAF.

Share your abortion story. Viral campaigns like #YouKnowMe on social media, or more organization-specific storytelling efforts like DCAF’s are a great way to destigmatize abortion and highlight what we know: 1 in 4 women have abortions, and not only women need access to abortion services.

Study up on what’s next and deepen your own political commitment. Stay up on the news, learn more about reproductive justice and the fight for abortion rights and access by checking out Radical Reproductive Justice or Handbook for a Post-Roe America.

We do not know what the future holds, but we do know this: We need to take care of ourselves, and we need to take care of each other. We have work to do.