“I had an abortion during the pandemic.”

Editor’s Note: the story below was submitted anonymously by someone who had an abortion in DC.

So, I had an abortion during a pandemic.

I’ll be honest. As someone who has fought for abortion access for most of my career, it still felt very surreal when I missed my period, felt like my body just felt “different,” and bought a pregnancy test. Let alone the anxiety feeling all of this during the COVID-19 pandemic.

I’ve never wanted to become a parent (except a parent of cute furry animals and plants), so I knew intimately what I would do if I ever was in this situation. I just never thought I would be.

I’ve always been safe. I have a loving, caring partner who has supported me being safe and is equally supportive of my decision not to have children. I have been lucky to have been educated by my parents, my school, and by the internet on how to avoid getting pregnant if you don’t want to be.

But still here I was, staring blankly at a positive pregnancy test. Not wanting it.

I was nervous to tell my partner. Not that I was afraid of what he’d think or say, but because it just felt so embarrassing. Even though I’d spent years telling people in this same position that they should not be ashamed or embarrassed at all. That it happens.

I took the positive test and threw it in the trash. And then I sat back on the couch to watch another few episodes of whatever mindless show we were watching. But my mind raced. I was on my iPhone, as always, except instead of stalking work email or Instagram stories, I was looking up local abortion centers with appointments available in the next few days, and if they were open during the pandemic.

I found one near me that was open and made an appointment for two days later.

I told my partner the day before my appointment, kind of in passing. “So, I’ve been late. I took a pregnancy test and it was positive. I made an appointment for tomorrow at an abortion center to take care of it.”

“Wait, how did that happen?” were his shocked words, followed by “and do you want me to come with you?”

“Nope. It’s a pandemic so you can’t… but also, this feels like my mistake. We’ve been safe. So I don’t know how it happened exactly.”

He corrected me: “Hey, it’s OUR mistake.”

We hugged.

A day later, I was in an Lyft to a DC abortion provider. Alone. Wearing a mask and feeling really awkward during the 20 minute ride. I didn’t tell too many people about what was happening, but most I told had offered rides. But this felt like my burden and I wanted to face it alone. Plus, the clinic said I couldn’t have anyone in the waiting room with me because of the pandemic.

I finally got to the clinic at long last, signed in, and waited. After what felt like 20 minutes but was more realistically 2, I met with a nurse and explained how I had been feeling. She asked a few questions and confirmed I was pregnant. Exactly 5 weeks pregnant, actually. She asked if I wanted to see it. “No way,” I said adamantly (though I snuck a glance after she left the room. It looked like a dot). She asked if I wanted to FaceTime my partner. “Nah, it’s ok,” I said, feeling like even if they could’ve joined me to this experience outside of COVID-19, it felt very much like my experience; not ours. It was my body, after all.

“You know, I do a lot of advocacy work for abortion and keeping clinics around the country open and accessible,” I said, feeling awkward. “Even so, I have to say that it feels weird when it happens to you.”

The nurse laughed through her mask. “Girl, it’s always different when it’s you. I know what you mean.”

About 30 minutes later, a few minutes into pill #1 and after learning that no, my “excellent” health insurance from the progressive organization I work for would not cover my abortion (which cost over $400), I was calling a car back to my apartment. I was armed with abortion pills I’d take 48 hours later and so grateful that I had more than $400 in my bank account to pay for this ordeal. I know that most Americans cannot afford an unexpected $400 expense. It’s one of the stats I rattle off all the time when people ask about abortion access.

Still wearing a mask in the car, I felt so much more free.

“How’s your day going, ma’am?” the driver asked.

“It’s not too bad, given everything,” I said dryly, pointing at our masks, the experience that bonded us all in 2020.

“I feel you, I feel you,” he laughed. We chatted through our masks for the next 20 minutes about the weather, Mayor Bowser’s response to COVID-19, and the Trump Administration’s ignorance with a lot of “sorry what?” “what was that?” punctuating our conversation through the muffling of fabric.

As we arrived at my apartment building, we exchanged a look.

“Good luck, ma’am!”

“You too! Thank you!” like I’d normally say to a Lyft driver. Like I was just coming home from work, or the movies, or a night out with friends. Things none of us have done in months because of the pandemic.

And then I took the elevator up to my apartment. I knew I was going to be just fine. But all I could think of was the many, many patients who would struggle to get the pills I just had gotten. Who would experience real hardship paying $400 out of pocket. Who might have kids already to feed and care for. Who might be in abusive relationships. Or who just might not have a clinic near them.

I felt more than grateful. And more determined than ever to fight for abortion to be accessible for everyone.

June Medical Services v. Russo and Abortion Access

Some positive news! Yesterday’s Supreme Court decision in June Medical Services v. Russo means Louisiana’s clinics will remain open, despite anti-abortion efforts to shut them down.

The Court ruled that the state’s abortion restriction – which is almost identical to one it struck down a few years ago in the 2016 Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt Supreme Court decision – cannot stand.

We know these laws that masquerade as “protecting our health” don’t have any backing in safe abortion care. Full stop. And that even with this setback to their plans, anti-abortion groups will continue to stop at nothing to make it harder and harder for people to access abortion care.

Even with yesterday’s decision, abortion remains out of reach for many – especially Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC), people who face documentation barriers, transgender and gender nonconforming people, and other people who are routinely denied access to health care in Louisiana and in many other states across the country. And these barriers are compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in places that are already impacted by harsh abortion restrictions, delayed access to health care, and economic instability.

Defending against anti-abortion restrictions is not enough when the reality is that abortion is accessible only to people who have resources.

DC Abortion Fund is committed to ensuring abortion is available to all who need it, regardless of how much money they have or where they live.

We regularly work with other abortion funds across the country, including Southern funds, to ensure callers can access the abortion care they need. Take action today by supporting abortion access in states like Louisiana, where so many barriers still remain, or here in the DC area, where many people travel for their abortion care because of the abortion restrictions in their home state.

This movement needs all of us to keep showing up, day after day, week after week, and calling out all the ways abortion is inaccessible for the people calling abortion funds like DCAF.

It is unacceptable to remain silent.

We’ve been overloaded with information about so many violent, terrible things, in the midst of a global pandemic that’s creating uncertainty about what life will look like days, weeks, months from now. This week, we’re reminded that the same hands that built the systems that caused George Floyd and Eric Garner and so many others to not be able to breathe at the hands of racist police violence, built the one that makes it so COVID-19 disproportionately infects and kills Black people so that they literally cannot access their bodily, human need to breathe.

This same system still, is the one that creates barriers to reproductive access that makes it so that so many Black people cannot breathe easy and make autonomous, attainable choices about their health.

It’s the one that makes it impossible for many to breathe easy as they walk in a public park or go for a run. Breathing is central to telling a story that captures a room, taking a walk in a safe neighborhood, sleeping well at night because you and yours are taken care of…it’s everything.

We must say their names.

George Floyd
Ahmaud Arbery
Aiyana Stanley-Jones
Alton Sterling
Amadou Diallo
Atatiana Jefferson
Botham Jean
Breonna Taylor
Claude Reese
Clifford Glover
Corey Jones
Darnisha Harris
Eric Garner
Freddie Gray
John Crawford
Jonathan Ferrell
Jordan Edwards
Kathryn Johnston
Keith Scott
Kendra James
Korryn Gaines
Mike Brown
Malissa Williams
Nina Pop
Oscar Grant
Pamela Turner
Philando Castile
Randolph Evans
Rekia Boyd
Samuel DuBose
Sandra Bland
Sean Bell
Shantel Davis
Shelley Frey
Stephon Clark
Tamir Rice
Tarika Wilson
Terrence Crutcher
Tony McDade
Tyisha Miller
Walter Scott
Yvonne Smallwood

And so many more known and unknown.

Everyone perpetuates and internalizes white supremacy. We all can and must do the work every day to dismantle systemic anti-Black racism — with people with white privilege taking on the majority of the work.

It is unacceptable to remain silent while we continue to see Black women, Black men, Black youth, Black children, and Black trans and nonbinary people experience violence at the hands of police. We will not be silent.

We encourage you, as a DC Abortion Fund supporter and friend, to support and follow Black-run organizations in Minneapolis, Atlanta, and D.C. like Black Vision Collective and Reclaim the Block, local ones in DC doing the work like BYP100, Collective Action for Safe Spaces, Black Lives Matter DC, and the DC chapter of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (Cash app account: $dmviwoc), and national organizations like The National Bailout.

And especially to our non-Black supporters and supporters with white privilege, there are some great resources to help you start or continue your journey at being anti-racist.

If you have never taken action, now is the time to speak out, learn more, donate, and critically, join an organization and do the work.

In solidarity,
DCAF Board of Directors

DC Cash Assistance

Editor’s Note: The DC Abortion Fund Board of Directors drafted the statement below, urging Mayor Bowser and the DC Council to work quickly to make cash assistance available to those who are unable to access federal assistance or unemployment benefits.

We call on Mayor Bowser and the DC Council to make cash assistance available to the tens of thousands of District residents who will not be able to access federal assistance or unemployment benefits, including undocumented immigrants, sex workers, street vendors, and others who are a key part of our community and who deserve to be protected.

DC residents who most urgently need cash assistance are disproportionately Black and brown people with low incomes. Unfortunately, pervasive discrimination in employment, health care, education, housing, and adjusting one’s immigration status has led to many DC residents needing to seek income from excluded areas of work under the new program. “Excluded workers” from the cash assistance program are not only the ones who encounter the brunt of systemic discrimination, but also who bear the brunt of the health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic itself. While we recognize that the District is not the sole responder, it is a necessity that the labor of all of our residents is valued and recognized by both local and federal governments. 

Prior to the COVID-19 national emergency, these communities already experienced systemic barriers to economic stability. DCAF’s callers face a myriad of obstacles when it comes to accessing the care they need, especially our callers whose livelihood falls under “excluded” categories. Since the pandemic began, we have heard firsthand accounts from our callers and volunteers about the additional barriers to abortion access they face, such as added logistical barriers like the lack of transportation and child care, and economic barriers such as a reduction in income or job loss. Cash assistance will allow our callers to meet their basic needs, including access to abortion care.

DCAF stands with the District’s “excluded” workers. During this unprecedented pandemic, it is more important than ever that people can keep themselves safe and healthy and are given what they need to survive. We feel strongly that investing in our community is what we need to navigate and eventually emerge from these trying times with strength and resilience. 

We urge Mayor Bowser and the DC Council to work quickly to make cash assistance available to those who are unable to access federal assistance or unemployment benefits in order to promote the health and wellbeing of everyone in our community so that all DC residents can meet their basic needs.

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

People continue to need access to abortion

We are in unprecedented times, and our hearts go out to everyone right now.

Many of us are processing feelings of fear, isolation, confusion, anger, and sadness.

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.

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

At DC Abortion Fund, we have been practicing responsible social distancing, and our work is mostly done by volunteers remotely, so not too much has changed in our day-to-day operations because of COVID-19. We will continue to monitor the situation, act in the best interest of our callers and follow the lead of our partner clinics, and follow any relevant CDC guidance.

For now, 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 don’t need to tell you how many state and national restrictions we face these days — designed specifically to deny access to abortion, especially for people of color and people with lower incomes.

And now, 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.

If you are able, please create an online fundraising page and commit to raising as much money as you can by asking your friends and family to donate. (We are working on messaging that you can use in this difficult time.)

As we practice social distancing to limit the spread of the coronavirus, it’s more important than ever for us to take care of each other.

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.