We must take action to prevent and end sexual harassment

We are disappointed and disgusted to hear multiple, detailed reports of ongoing sexual harassment at the National Abortion Federation and the Hotline Fund (as outlined in Rewire.News).

Everyone deserves to be able to work in a safe environment free of discrimination and harassment. Reproductive rights organizations and progressive spaces must be the leaders in the fight against harassment — and too often they fall short. It’s critical that all organizations ensure that their employees feel safe at work by taking all complaints seriously, creating policies with clear reporting systems, paying workers a living wage, outlining fair hiring and firing practices, and building mechanisms for holding management accountable for addressing discrimination and harassment in all forms.

That is why DCAF also supports the organizing effort of NAF workers to unionize and get a seat at the table in the decision-making process. This is particularly critical for those workers who are in direct contact with clients on the NAF Hotline and reportedly are more likely to be people of color, women, and identify as LGBTQ. Neglecting the needs of case managers comes at a significant cost to the clients who call, the case managers, their colleagues, and the reproductive rights movement as a whole — in the forms of harmed mental and physical health and high turnover and burnout.

We encourage all organizations to take action to prevent and end sexual harassment in the workplace, as well as discrimination and harassment of all kinds.

Yes on 77

The DC Abortion Fund’s Board of Directors is proud to endorse Yes on 77, a ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage for tipped workers across all eight wards in the District of Columbia. DCAF patients face many barriers when it comes to accessing the care they need. While Initiative 77 will not eliminate all the barriers our patients face, we believe it’s an important step toward achieving true reproductive justice in our nation’s capital.  

For workers in D.C., a fair, reliable wage can mean the difference between being able to afford healthcare or going without. Inconsistent or low pay affects many of our patients—particularly women of color and those working in economically underserved parts of the District.

This means they may have to make difficult decisions about their reproductive healthcare needs, such as using birth control inconsistently, or forgoing basic necessities like food, rent, or utilities in order to save up enough funds to afford the abortion and other services they need. Fair, reliable wages will also help workers support the children they already have.

We believe, if enacted, Initiative 77 would help reduce the financial barriers many DCAF patients face, as well as take an important step toward achieving full reproductive justice for people across all eight wards. Reproductive justice will not be achieved until everyone has the resources they need to create and support the families they want.

We recognize that there are strong opinions on both sides of the issue, including within our own organization and within the service industry itself, but the DCAF Board of Directors believes that voting yes will advance reproductive justice.


Editor’s Note: the post below is by Monica Weeks, Campaign Manager for One Fair Wage DC.

On June 19, 2018, all DC voters will have the chance to vote on ballot initiative 77. As President of the DC National Organization for Women and Campaign Manager of the One Fair Wage DC campaign, I am asking you to vote YES on 77 on June 19th.

One Fair Wage DC is a campaign for better wages and better tips. It calls for employers to pay their workers the full minimum wage PLUS TIPS. The campaign is led by women and people of color who live and work in the District of Columbia as tipped professionals in the restaurant industry. Ballot initiative 77 will incrementally increase the tipped minimum wage by $1.50 per year, until it reaches $15 per hour in 2025. Currently, tipped workers in DC make only $3.33 per hour with that amount increasing to only $5 per hour by 2020. We believe restaurant professionals deserve professional wages plus tips.

You might be wondering “what does this ballot initiative have to do with abortions or reproductive justice?” Women tipped workers are twice as likely to live in poverty as men in tipped occupations and they are nearly three times more likely to live in poverty than the overall workforce. Servers and bartenders in DC experience a poverty rate of 19%.

On top of that, the restaurant and hospitality industry is the single-largest source of sexual harassment charges filed by women with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), with a rate twice that of the general workforce. That is because tipped workers have to put up with unwanted and inappropriate behavior from customers in order to make a good tip, because the customer pays their wage, not their employer. And “the customer is always right.” In DC, 92% of restaurant workers in the District report sexually harassing behavior at work.

A fair wage for tipped workers will decrease sexual harassment while also improving access to reproductive healthcare, including abortion, which low-income women in DC are forced to pay for out-of-pocket. For women in DC, a fair wage can mean the difference being able to afford health care or going without.

Seven states have already eliminated the subminimum wage for tipped workers. The restaurant industry is strong in those states, demonstrating that it is economically feasible to phase out the tipped minimum wage without harming restaurant jobs or sales. Wages, including tips, are unambiguously higher in these seven states than in the other 43 states. And sexual harassment claims to the EEOC are cut in half.

With One Fair Wage, restaurants do better and workers do better. Seven states have proven that and we are hoping to make DC the first east coast municipality to make One Fair Wage a reality. Vote Yes on 77 on June 19th and stand with tipped workers as we fight for economic, racial, and gender justice.

Meet Our New President: Jeryl!

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 volunteer@dcabortionfund.org for the exact location.

You can reach Jeryl at president@dcabortionfund.org.

You are not alone. We support you.

“The Trump administration’s decision to end Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) leaves 800,000 DREAMers and immigrant youth who call the US home at risk of deportation. For many of them, the US is the only home they’ve ever known. Without DACA, they don’t know what their futures hold or if they will be able to stay in this country. The DACA program provided peace of mind and a voice, including things that many of us take for granted, such as the ability to pursue higher education and hold a driver’s license.

“Rescinding DACA is yet another act of white supremacy. It is rooted in racism. The same systems that pardon people like Joe Arpaio and orchestrate mass deportations are the ones that are putting our ability to access health care at risk. We all deserve protection, health, and freedom no matter our immigration status.

“We at DCAF believe that borders shouldn’t get in the way of people’s health, education, livelihood, or family. We condemn the administration’s actions and are holding our community close during this time.

“Our community is stronger when we stand together. We will continue to serve our patients, regardless of immigration status. To our patients, volunteers, and community members who are impacted by this uncertainty: You are not alone. We support you.

“We encourage everyone to visit weareheretostay.org for resources and opportunities to take action now.”

by DC Abortion Fund Board of Directors

In Solidarity with Purvi Patel

Reproductive Justice sign #freepurvi

On July 22, the Indiana Court of Appeals issued its decision to vacate the feticide conviction of Purvi Patel. The DC Abortion Fund is in solidarity with Purvi. No one should fear punishment for trying to access reproductive health care.

We can do better as a society than criminalizing and ostracizing those who seek an abortion. In fact, we should do all we can to make reproductive health care – including abortion – available and accessible. Too often we fail people in this regard, and too often anti-abortion legislation disproportionately impacts low-income people and people of color.

We at the DC Abortion Fund will continue to do all we can to create a world where people have the support and access they need to make the pregnancy decisions that are best for them, without fear or judgment.

photo credit: Charlotte Cooper via Flickr

Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt

Whole Women's Health SCOTUS rally #StoptheSham

On June 27, the U.S. Supreme Court handed down a decision that affirms a person’s right to access abortion care. The 5-3 decision in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt struck down two provisions in a Texas law, one that required admitting privileges for doctors who perform abortions, and one that mandated all clinics offering abortion services meet the standards of an ambulatory surgical center. While, at first, these may sound like benign safety measures, they have no sound medical basis and do nothing to make clinics or patients safer. In fact, as the Court ruled, they do the opposite. These measures only serve to shut down clinics, making it harder to access abortion care. As Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the majority opinion:

“We conclude that neither of these provisions offers medical benefits sufficient to justify the burdens upon access that each imposes. Each places a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a previability abortion, each constitutes an undue burden on abortion access … and each violates the Federal Constitution.”

As an abortion fund, we hear from patients who face a litany of obstacles to care. By striking down this law, we move one step closer to giving everyone the access to health care that they deserve. As Justice Breyer also noted, abortion is safer than childbirth, safer than a colonoscopy, and something that we have a constitutional right to. We applaud the Court for upholding a person’s right to abortion, regardless of ZIP code.

Furthermore, we hope that this ruling is the beginning of what will undoubtedly be a long journey to repealing the nearly 300 abortion restrictions that have been enacted in the last few years. Indeed, some have already been challenged. Much work remains however, and this ruling sends a clear message that a person’s right to access abortion care cannot be met with an undue burden, and furthermore that any proposed restrictions must be based in evidence, not ideology.

We look forward to the day when we can go beyond challenging laws that burden reproductive choice to taking affirmative steps, such as repealing the Hyde Amendment, which restricts abortion funding. Until that time, we’ll be here, providing the funds that provide a much-needed bridge to access and doing all we can to make choice a reality.

photo credit: Lori Shaull via Flickr

In Solidarity with Dr. Horvath-Cosper

Keep Abortion Safe and Legal sign
One of the things we try to be mindful of as members of the abortion rights community is the importance of speaking up for our patients and our work. As an all-volunteer abortion fund, we are limited in our capacity to tackle all aspects of reproductive health and justice. But wherever possible, we try to stand in solidarity with those who are fighting these fights. A provider who we work with, Dr. Horvath-Cosper, has been a vocal and active member of the community and reports that she has recently been asked to tone down her outward support of abortion rights. While we cannot speak to the details of her case, we do want to extend our gratitude to her for being a trusted and proud provider, as well as a supporter of DCAF.

We recognize that each provider and member of the abortion rights community needs to decide for themselves how vocal and public they can and want to be, and we applaud those who speak up and push back against abortion stigma. That stigma is very real and has harmful effects. It forces supporters into silence, leaving too much room for anti-choice forces to control the conversation.

As a fund in the D.C. area, we are relatively free from attacks. Still, even here, in a city that overwhelmingly supports abortion care, we have been targeted. We’ve had events crashed by anti-choice extremists and we were attacked online for a coat hanger pendant we offer as a gift to monthly donors. Indeed, in a world that is increasingly lived online, attacks can come from anywhere, regardless of your ZIP code.

We will continue to speak out and be a voice for abortion rights, and we thank Dr. Horvath-Cosper for doing the same. Abortion providers face stigma on multiple fronts — not to mention outright attacks. For those who choose to speak out, to share their personal stories and their expertise, and be publicly proud of their work, we salute you. And we stand with you in your efforts to demystify abortion and combat the unnecessary and harmful stigma that has for too long cloaked abortion in the words and actions of those who oppose it.

Together we can change the conversation. Thank you to Dr. Horvath-Cosper and everyone who is working toward a healthier, more accurate, and more supportive world for the reproductive health community.

photo credit: Colleen C.

The Coat Hanger as a Symbol, and Why Abortion Access Matters

October 2018 Update: Attacks on the right to bear children, have children, or raise children, if and when we desire, are not new — and reproductive rights activists have long noted the lengths that people will go to when they cannot access safe abortion care. From unidentifiable pills and herbal remedies to ingesting Lysol and yes, to inserting a coat hanger into one’s cervix to induce abortion, it is no secret that desperate measures are sometimes taken when there seems to be no other option. The image of the coat hanger thus became a popular symbol of what the world was like in the US before Roe v. Wade. In fact, DC Abortion Fund used to give tiny silver coat hangers to our monthly donors.

But times change and movements shift.

While it is certainly scary to consider that pre-Roe world, much about the landscape has changed. Medication abortion now allows for a self-managed process that can be much safer than ones our ancestors took. And though it is crucial that we acknowledge even access to this is dependent upon and limited by geography, finances, and information access, it is unhelpful to cast the tone of “dark and desperate choices” when referring to what the future holds for most, even as abortion access wanes in this country.  Because of this, we no longer give out hanger pendants, but do still believe in fighting like hell to ensure that we do not return to a world where the only options for people seeking abortion care are silence, stigma, shame, and unsafe conditions.

We also recognize that for many, particularly people who are lower income, live in rural areas, and/or are people of color, abortion rights have been rolled back and restricted even as Roe v. Wade remains on the books. Often, these people are our patients. And every donation we get helps our all-volunteer led and run organization contribute to covering the cost of abortion for these patients. Along with other funds across the country, we are facing increases in need as distance between providers grow, costs are driven up, and states and the federal government refuse to ensure abortion care for all who need it. In the face of this, we continue to do the radical work of funding abortion care for those in DC , Maryland, and Virginia who need it. You can donate to that work here.

Brooke Butler, Movement Building Director

It’s said that those who forget the past are doomed to repeat it. Lately, it seems there’s been a lot of forgetfulness about the history of reproductive freedom. The coat hanger has long been a symbol of the reproductive rights movement. The DC Abortion Fund – contrary to recent conservative media reports – has for many years given away a silver coat hanger pendant to our monthly supporters.

The pendant is nothing new or even particularly newsworthy. Anyone who wants a pendant today can sign up here to become a monthly donor for as little as $10 a month. If you do, please consider this my personal thanks. Welcome to a wonderful community of dedicated, compassionate abortion access supporters – we’re glad to have you!

What does your donation go to? Helping women in need. DCAF is a small, all-volunteer organization that gives out grants to women and girls in DC, Maryland, and Virginia who can’t afford the full cost of abortion care. We are no stranger to opposition, but we do this work because we know what the stakes are if we don’t. Due to distance, cost, and other state-imposed burdens, it is increasingly difficult to access safe abortion care here in the DC metro area and around the country. As a result, we – and many other funds around the country – have seen demand for our help increase steadily, with more and more women calling us for help.

Why is the coat hanger a symbol of the reproductive rights movement? Because lack of access to abortion causes women to go to desperate lengths to terminate a pregnancy, similar to those undertaken in the pre-Roe v Wade era. At that time, consuming Lysol and household poisons was not uncommon to instigate abortion. Nor was inserting knitting needles, Coke bottles, and – yes – wire coat hangers into their cervices.

It might make you cringe to imagine just how desperate one must be to go to these lengths. But here at DCAF, I don’t have to imagine. We hear from women every day who are that desperate, with no one else to turn to. With our help, they access quality, safe abortion care – no wire coat hangers needed.

The coat hanger is a reminder of patient’s suffering when abortion is placed out of reach. It is a promise from reproductive rights advocates to never go back to the grotesque world our anti-choice opponents are striving for: a world WITHOUT safe access to abortion, where people might have to resort to horrific alternatives like a coat hanger. That’s why our supporters love the pendants and wear them as a point of pride.

While we were surprised by the conservative media’s ignorance of the history of the coat hanger’s symbolism, we certainly welcome the spotlight on our efforts to help women.

In short? The coat hangers are not going anywhere, and neither are we.

by Val Vilott