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
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
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.
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 women’s reproductive freedom. The coat hanger has long been a symbol of the reproductive justice 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 justice 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 women’s suffering when abortion is placed out of reach. It is a promise from reproductive justice advocates to never go back to the grotesque world our anti-choice opponents are striving for: a world WITHOUT safe access to abortion, where women 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.
More people should know about the efforts of the DC Abortion Fund and funds like it helping women across the country. In fact, we’re in the middle of our National Bowl-A-Thon Fundraising campaign, which you can join here. And if you want a silver coat hanger pendant, please become a monthly donor here.
In short? The coat hangers are not going anywhere, and neither are we.
Thanks for your interest in our work!
by Val Vilott
The House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution will hold a hearing Thursday on House bill H.R. 3803, which would ban abortions in the District of Columbia performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bill, introduced by Rep. Trent Franks (R-AZ), has no exceptions for cases of rape, incest, or fetal anomaly. The bill and hearing represent an attack on reproductive, legal, and budgetary autonomy for the District of Columbia and its residents.
DC Abortion Fund Board President Val Vilott issued the following statement in response:
“The decision to have an abortion is a personal one. The hearing today has nothing to do with a true concern for the District of Columbia and everything to do with anti-choice rhetoricians overstepping the bounds of personal privacy to pursue their own agenda above our nation’s values.
The rights of all women to make decisions about their health care, in private and with the care of a doctor, should be unalienable. For a country that prides itself on the right to privacy and individual autonomy, political interference of this sort is inexcusable. H.R. 3803 is particularly abhorrent, as it denies the right to choose from women who could be in tragic situations, without regard to instances of rape, incest, or fetal anomaly.
Unfortunately, this legislation represents more of the same that we have come to expect out of the vocal anti-choice contingent in Congress. We have seen repeated congressional attacks on women’s reproductive autonomy and a complete disregard for the District’s legal and budgetary autonomy.
In April 2011, the federal government reinstated the D.C. abortion ban to appease congressional leaders who threatened a government shutdown. The ban prevents the District of Columbia from using its own, locally-raised revenues to fund abortion care through Medicaid. Now, with H.R. 3803, the Congress is again singling out the women of D.C. Congress does not meddle this way in the affairs of any state, and should similarly refrain from interfering in the District’s local matters.
Representative Franks’ disregard for the autonomy of the District of Columbia is particularly egregious since District residents have no voting representation in Congress. By refusing to even allow Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton the opportunity to testify at today’s hearing, Representative Franks and the Subcommittee demonstrated that they prioritize their own political agenda over the rights and health of D.C. residents. In light of today’s hearing, we urge Congress to reject H.R. 3803 and all attempts to undermine abortion rights and the District’s autonomous right to self-rule.”
On Saturday, the Senate passed a House-approved a fiscal year 2012 spending bill that includes a policy rider known as the D.C. abortion ban. The D.C. abortion ban prohibits the District of Columbia from using locally-raised tax revenues to fund abortion services. The harmful rider was first reinstated in April in an eleventh-hour compromise to prevent the federal government from shutting down.
DC Abortion Fund (DCAF) Board President Val Vilott issued the following statement in response:
“Today’s vote to approve a spending bill that upholds the devastating D.C. abortion ban is a dangerous assault on the women of D.C. and the District’s autonomy. Since this reprehensible policy was reinstated, it has had heartbreaking implications for our clients. We saw an immediate spike in need within our community when the sudden drop-off of D.C. Medicaid support for abortion services last April left 28 residents without funding for their already-scheduled procedures—which we fortunately were able to step forward to fund.
“Since that time, the need for our help has increased steadily. We now receive over 20 calls a day from women, many of whom are D.C. residents whose rights were bargained away by Congress. By contrast, during the period of time when D.C. Medicaid dollars were able to go toward abortions, we saw a marked decrease in demand. From October to April, D.C. Medicaid was invoiced for $165,000 worth of abortion care, which underscores just how much need exists in our community.
“We already constantly sprint to keep up with ever-increasing need. Congress’ vote today to sustain this reckless policy is a slap in the face. Congress does not meddle in the affairs of any state, and the District deserves that same deference. D.C. revenues are not Congress’ money to begin with, and to intervene in the District’s autonomous use of those funds in this way is an egregious overstep.
“Congress’ vote today is a dangerous gamble that plays politics with women’s lives. In the absence of D.C. Medicaid funding, we will continue to dedicate ourselves to ensure that no low-income women seeking abortion care are turned away from clinics because of their inability to pay. We are now working feverishly to raise emergency funds to help meet this increased need over the longer term.
“We have been immensely grateful for the extraordinary outpouring of support from our allies in the months since the D.C. abortion ban was reinstated. We hope to turn our outrage over the continuation of the D.C. ban into resilience. We, and the clients we serve, need the support of our community more than ever as we adjust to this difficult new reality.”