This fall, the DC Abortion Fund named Jeryl Hayes as our new president. We asked Jeryl a few questions so our volunteers and supporters can get to know our new leader a little better, and to get her thoughts on reproductive justice today.
I’ve lived in DC since 2011. I originally came to get my masters of law at American University after getting my J.D. from Washington University in St. Louis School of Law. As a policy wonk, I love living in our nation’s capital and have found some incredible communities here. In my spare time, I enjoy playing softball on the Mall with my rec team (Summer League champions for two years running!), exploring DC’s restaurants and bars with friends, and taking my pup Max to the dog park.
I have long admired the impressive abortion support work that DCAF provides for the DC, Maryland, and Virginia communities, particularly in utilizing an all-volunteer team to carry out DCAF’s goals. I’m excited for the opportunity to engage in the direct services of the policies for which I have spent my professional career advocating.
I’m looking forward to seeing the ways that DCAF can respond to the needs of our patients and our community. DCAF is about to implement a strategic plan that will further our goals and mission, and will find ways to serve more people and be able to continue to grow, despite the current political focus on rolling back reproductive rights.
Although our nation seems more divided than ever, I have been pleasantly surprised by people who have become engaged with the political process instead of being on the sidelines. The grassroot efforts to combat restrictions on health care generally, and abortion and contraceptive care specifically, have been incredibly inspirational. Hearing stories about folks who have put their legislators contact information on speed dial and regularly call their members of Congress has helped me stay optimistic in the face of the current political climate. Seeing people across the country, especially young people, women, and LGBTQ people decide to run for office or get involved with exciting candidates renews my faith that everything will be okay.
There are some incredible reproductive justice advocates working for amazing organizations all across the country and here in DC. Support as many grassroots organizations as you can, including donating to support the work on the ground they are pursuing, engaging and sharing their social media content, and educating yourself about the barriers that still remain in the fight for reproductive justice.
We need your help! One of our patients is facing a large funding gap.
Kiara* is a 15-year-old who decided she wasn’t ready to become a parent. But when she couldn’t find an abortion provider in her homestate of Georgia to take her, she had to look for other options. Kiara managed to secure an appointment in the DC area today, but she still faces a funding gap of $6,000 to access the care she needs. She has asked friends, family, and other abortion funds across the country for help, but she still faces a large medical bill she and her family cannot afford.
No one should have to travel hundreds of miles just to face burdensome financial barriers to access abortion care.
*Name has been changed for privacy
By the time I went to my first abortion fund volunteer training at the ACCESS Women’s Health Justice fund in California, where I used to live, I’d worked in sexual health for three years, not to mention the time I spent leading what was essentially a roving sex education collective in undergrad. Abortion rights have been important to me since I developed a political consciousness, and I was thrilled to have been accepted to volunteer. So, why was I so nervous when I walked into the first day of training?
Well, because I was pregnant. On purpose.
This felt like a contradiction. Or, rather, it seemed like it should feel like a contradiction. I didn’t know how to explain why I wanted to be there so badly, why I had started to feel even more strongly in favor of abortion access since I’d gotten pregnant. And if I couldn’t explain it, then would other people just see me as some kind of out-of-touch, wanna-be savior?
I disclosed my pregnancy during introductions, wanting to get it out of the way. But the skepticism I’d braced myself for never materialized. Everyone was warm and accepting. Over the course of the morning, I learned that five or six other people in the group of 20 were parents, including one of the trainers. Some of the volunteers had had abortions; others had not. A statistic I’d heard long ago in a lecture hall somewhere floated to the top of my mind: Most people seeking an abortion have at least one child. I think they knew why I was there even if I was still figuring out how to articulate it.
I thought I knew what reproductive justice meant. I’d read about it, hadn’t I? And I’d always understood sex education, my area of focus, to be about bodily autonomy, which is a key principle of reproductive justice. Yet I was still carrying around this damaging and false dichotomy in my head: Some people have abortions; some people have babies. Nothing could be further from the truth. I sat there thinking about just how much I had known, but failed to actually understand.
My pregnancy continued, and my understanding deepened. Strangers touched and commented on my body. Colleagues interrogated me. Doctors poked and prodded and issued strict prohibitions. Friends and family members lectured and judged me. Each of these interactions chipped away at me, and I realized that this invalidation of me—of my needs, my desires, my self-knowledge—in favor of my embryo is a different manifestation of the vitriol, shaming, and policy barriers that people seeking abortion face. In both cases, what the pregnant person wants, what they know about their bodies and their lives—none of that matters. In my case, I had the wherewithal to assert myself most of the time. But I knew that our clients didn’t.
So when I got my first volunteer assignment with ACCESS, I made it my mission to make my client feel like she mattered. I met her at a clinic after her appointment to give her a ride home. I showed up on time, offered her a bottle of water, drove cautiously. I listened to her talk about her day job and her plans for going back to school. As I dropped her off, she smiled and said, “I couldn’t have done this without you.” And I knew, then, that I was exactly where I was supposed to be, using my privilege (my car, my flexible schedule, my disposable income) to ensure someone else could access their right to an abortion. My job as a volunteer was to do my part to upend a series of intersecting systems that conspire against our bodies and our families, particularly those of marginalized communities. Seeing her get what she needed made me feel a little more free.
As soon as I moved back to DC this fall, I knew I had to join the DC Abortion Fund to continue the work that’s made me a better, smarter, more committed advocate. I know, now, what reproductive justice looks like in practice and what my role in achieving it can be. And I know it’s not weird that I feel more committed than ever to abortion access now that I’ve been pregnant and become a parent. I’m grateful to both of the funds I’ve worked with for giving me a way to express that and an opportunity to do the necessary work of building a more just society. I have a lot to learn about case management, but I’m ready to get started—because I recognize that my own liberation is bound up in our clients’, and we’ll get free together, or not at all.
By volunteer Hannah S.
It’s been quite the year of growth for DCAF! Despite 2017’s challenges, we have provided funding for more patients than ever before. And more than 400 volunteers stepped up this year to answer calls from patients, stuff envelopes, fundraise and host events, and advocate for the right for everyone to be able to access abortion care.
The question of whether to get an abortion is a question for only one person: the pregnant person. No one else should get to decide that—not a room full of politicians, not a partner, not economic circumstances.
We’re excited to welcome Jeryl Hayes as DCAF’s new president. A longtime advocate for social justice and reproductive rights and an experienced health policy lawyer, Jeryl has worked in coalition with many DC-based reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations. She officially starts her term today and we’re ecstatic to have her on board as we continue to grow as an organization.
“I am thrilled to serve as the next president of DCAF. I have long admired the impressive abortion support that DCAF provides for the DC, Maryland, and Virginia communities, particularly as an all-volunteer team. It will be a great honor to work with both the DCAF Board and volunteers to help patients access abortion care services. I look forward to engaging in the direct services linked to the policies for which I have spent my professional career advocating.” – Jeryl
You can meet Jeryl this Friday at a volunteer happy hour around City Center. Please email email@example.com for the exact location.
You can reach Jeryl at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We got some hard news this week.
Two abortion clinics in Maryland — Prince George’s Reproductive Health Services and Germantown Reproductive Health Services — will be closing because the property owners decided to sell the facilities.
Dr. LeRoy Carhart, one of the few abortion providers in the country who provides later abortions, has worked at the Germantown clinic since 2010 and has faced opposition from anti-choice protesters demanding that the clinic close. His clinic was the only place on the East Coast where patients seeking later abortion (after 26 weeks of pregnancy) could access care. The next closest clinics that serve these later cases are in Boulder, Colorado, and Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Dr. Carhart said he is determined to open his own practice to continue providing care to patients who need it. But in the meantime, the old clinic is under contract to be purchased by an anti-choice group that worked for many years to shut it down.
Painful, to say the least. But anti-choicers won’t stop us.
Last week, we hosted our annual Taco or Beer Challenge fundraiser and raised over $4,000 to help patients access the abortion care they need. And when protesters showed up, our passionate supporters drowned them out and restaurant patrons unrelated to our happy hour donated to show their solidarity with us.
To the DC Abortion Fund Community:
After one and half amazing years serving as the President of the DCAF, I will be stepping down from my role at the end of August. Serving DCAF has truly been one of the most rewarding experiences to me both professionally and personally.
I’m in constant awe of the endless dedication and passion of our volunteers, case managers and donors, the tireless work of the brilliant Board of Directors, and the strength and conviction of our patients. It is because of you all that I am able to move in a different direction knowing that this board and this community will continue to fight, continue to win, and continue to provide abortion unapologetically.
As we move forward through challenging and difficult times in this country, I hope that the DC Abortion Fund continues to affirm that we’re in solidarity with our volunteers, donors, and patients of color, challenges the intricate and intersectional systems that keep our patients from accessing the care that they need, and centers the patients’ lived experiences in our work with the community.
I will always remain an avid supporter (and donor) of the DC Abortion Fund. I hope you’ll join me in celebrating the successes of the board and the years ahead by coming to our Taco or Beer Challenge events on August 21 at 6 p.m. at El Camino (Bloomingdale) and on August 25 at 6 p.m. at Mission (Dupont).
by Kersha Deibel
We all deserve to feel safe in our communities.
We are heartbroken by the racist events led by white supremacists last weekend in Charlottesville. We’re standing strong in solidarity with the Blue Ridge Abortion Assistance Fund, clinics, and patients in the area.
As an organization, we work hard each day to help patients access the abortion care they need. And we know this fight for reproductive freedom is intrinsically intersectional — issues of economic justice, religion, the environment, criminal justice, immigrants’ rights, racial discrimination, and a host of other concerns directly affect pregnant people and their decisions.
When white supremacists engage in these public displays of hate and violence, it’s critical that we speak out and make it clear that it won’t be tolerated. Now, more than ever, it is unacceptable to remain silent. We encourage you, as a DC Abortion Fund supporter, to speak up against hate at events in the community, and support our work to make abortion access possible for everyone.
by DCAF’s Board of Directors