Get To Know Our New President

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.

Tell us a little about yourself.

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.

What inspires your volunteer work with DCAF (or, what makes you DCAF?)

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.

What are you most looking forward to accomplishing in your time as president?

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.

How do you stay optimistic in unfriendly political climates?

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.

What advice do you have for new volunteers or those looking for ways to get involved in the fight for reproductive justice?

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.

Kiara* needs your help today.

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.

We have committed to making sure Kiara can make her appointment, but we need your help to cover the cost. Can you pitch in $15, $25, $50, or whatever you can afford?

No one should have to travel hundreds of miles just to face burdensome financial barriers to access abortion care.

Please give whatever you can today.

*Name has been changed for privacy

Why I DCAF

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.

No CHIP Funding? Not a Good Look for Reproductive Health

The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is on shaky ground.

Part of my daytime job is to monitor and report out all the latest news on CHIP, and let me tell you, it’s not always a pretty picture. Since running out of funding earlier this fall, the health coverage of 9 million kids and teens under 19 years old is now up in the air.* Despite promises to extend CHIP, Jimmy Kimmel’s heartfelt pleas, and tons and tons of research showing the impact of inaction, several states are now warning families that, hey, they might need to look elsewhere for their children’s routine check-ups, immunizations, and prescriptions.

It’s not a good look to begin with: throwing vulnerable communities into a lurch and deepening their hole into poverty as things like rent and utility bills and groceries are traded in just to get the essential health care services they absolutely deserve.

Is that a bleak picture for you? Well, it gets a little worse. Did you know CHIP also plays an extremely important role in reproductive health care for these low-income kids and teens?

In the United States, nearly all of teen pregnancies are unplanned. One report from the Guttmacher Institute has the number as high as 75 percent! (And even more harrowing, teens in the low-income brackets are more likely to become pregnant, which is the exact demographic CHIP covers.) But through initiatives like CHIP, all teens—regardless of income—can have access to the reproductive health services they need. Which, in my view, is really awesome.

It’s a well known fact that women who decide to become pregnant and have access to quality family planning information are better prepared for the demands of a pregnancy. But let’s face it: not all things can be carefully planned. That’s where prevention comes in. Sadly, low-income kids, teens, and their families are more often than not the ones who cannot afford access to reproductive health care and the resources to prevent unintended pregnancies. But CHIP helps to bridge that gap!

From routine gynecologic exams to sexuality education and pregnancy testing to pregnancy care, CHIP helps prevent pregnancies in the first place, and, if they happen, helps these teens have better delivery, healthier babies, and healthier lives. Ultimately, it’s a win-win: reducing the rates of unintended pregnancies for teens in low-income communities leads to huge net public savings. For example, in 2010, publicly funded family planning services saved over $15 billion bucks.

With all these amazing things that CHIP does, it’s mind-boggling that funding hasn’t been extended. If our elected officials can’t reach agreement on extending funding for CHIP, they are taking away low-income adolescents’ access to basic reproductive health services. Again, not a good look.

*CHIP covers 9 million uninsured, low-income children whose parents earn too much for Medicaid, but not enough to afford other types of private coverage. Learn more about CHIP.

By volunteer Kaitlyn B.
Kaitlyn is the Communications Specialist at Georgetown University’s Center for Children and Families.

Give the gift of hope.

Happy holidays!

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.

We need to keep this momentum going into 2018. Now, more than ever, we need your help to continue our work to help patients access the abortion care they need.

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.

Give the gift of hope and justice this holiday season. Help us bridge the gap between what a patient can afford and the cost of her abortion.

Partners in Choice: Catholics for Choice

Editor’s Note: Catholics for Choice is a sponsor for our Peace, Joy, and Choice holiday party. Thank you to the entire Catholics for Choice team for your work and your support. All answers below are attributed to Glenn Northern, Director of the Domestic Program at Catholics for Choice.

What is the mission of Catholics for Choice?

As the new Director of the Domestic Program at Catholics for Choice working here has been a dream come true. I have spent my adult professional life working in the field of reproductive health rights and justice, and I am incredibly proud to work towards helping make sure that every woman is able to exercise her conscience.

We do such important work at the nexus of religion and reproductive health because Catholics for Choice represents the vast majority of Catholics around the world who disagree with our church’s hierarchy on abortion, contraception, religious liberty and the role of religion in the public sphere. We lift up the lived expression of Catholicism as everyday Catholics around the world see it. Catholics for Choice trusts women and men to make their own moral decisions on important moral matters including reproductive health. We do so because the Catholic social justice tradition teaches us that each individual should have the right and the means to follow their conscience in moral decision making, and never denied the care they need based on how much money is in their pocket or because another’s beliefs impede it.

Why do you support the DC Abortion Fund?

Personally, I have given money to DCAF because it is important to me to make sure that every woman has the ability to make the choices that are best for her. It is wrong that someone should not be able to afford the healthcare that they need. It is wrong that someone should be denied an abortion because they cannot afford it. I, like my colleagues at Catholics for Choice, want to do my part to ensure that all women can exercise their right to choose.

From an organizational standpoint, Catholics for Choice is a proud sponsor of DCAF and has been from the beginning because DCAF instills the social justice values we at Catholics for Choice hold dear. Our staff has always been inspired by DCAF because they provide support, hope and resources for those who need an abortion. Because of DCAF, reproductive healthcare in the District is more equitable, and this is a goal that I think we can all get behind.

What did CFC do in 2017 of which you are most proud?

It’s so funny that you ask that! Just yesterday, I was talking with a partner about how even though I have been in reproductive rights for so long, one of our recent campaigns still managed to totally floor me. A lot of my drive for reproductive rights comes from working towards justice and dignity for all, and I think that our recent Abortion in Good Faith campaign was a particularly moving expression of both of these values that I hold close to my heart.

Abortion in Good Faith showcases the voices of Catholics from various walks of life who believe that all women deserve the right to equitable reproductive healthcare, including abortion access—no matter how much money they have, where they live or what they believe. This campaign loudly and unapologetically shows how public funding for abortion is a Catholic social justice value and why Catholics across the United States stand with women and their right to decide. We were able to feature everyday Catholics: a feisty but gentle grandmother, an earnest and thoughtful graduate student, a determined mother and former legislator and others, all of whom articulate why they, as Catholics, support public funding for abortion access.

These were all remarkable individuals, and I am proud to play a part in lifting their voices. Here are some examples to show you just why this campaign moved me so much.

    

More tangibly, the campaign played a role in the Illinois Governor signing HB 40 into law, lifting the state funding restrictions for abortion under Medicaid and the state employee’s health insurance program. It’s not every day that you get to see the direct, meaningful impact of your work, so this was a special moment for us.

Bringing it back to DCAF, Catholic social justice means we take care of our neighbors, especially those with fewer resources than we might have. This is the goal of ours through Abortion in Good Faith, and DCAF works every day to make that a reality for each and every woman who seeks their help. I am really proud to work for an organization that supports DCAF.

What are your reproductive rights resolutions for 2018?

My resolution is to continue fighting back—to do what seems difficult and prevail. This past year has been particularly difficult, but it’s said that it is always darkest in the middle of a tunnel, so I know that the light is on its way.

Personally, I am committing to use my heart, mind, skills and energy to make real a world where all people are able to exercise their conscience without coercion, stigma or financial barriers hindering their choice of what is best for them.

As a team, Catholics for Choice sees 2018 as an opportunity to win big for women’s autonomy. We will continue to offer thought leadership in Conscience magazine, expand our outreach both at home and abroad and serve as a voice for the majority of Catholics who are, in fact, prochoice. We’re ready to keep fighting.

Cheers to Choice!

It’s been quite the year of growth for the DC Abortion Fund! We provided funding for almost 1,400 patients, 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. And we have a new president!

Join us next month to toast our incredible community at our annual Peace, Joy, and Choice holiday party on Tuesday, Dec. 5!

Here are the details:

Who: You and the rest of the DCAF community
What: DCAF’s Peace, Joy, and Choice Holiday Party
When: Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 6:30 p.m.
Where: Town Danceboutique (2009 8th St., NW)

Get your early bird ticket for a suggested donation of $20 today! After November 20, the ticket price will go up to $25. Tickets will also be available at the door for a $30 donation.

If you or your organization are interested in sponsoring this year’s event, please click here to learn more about levels and packages. The funds raised for this event — like all donations to DCAF — will help to continue to make abortion accessible for all.

On Twitter or Instagram? Follow along on the hashtag #DCAFparty. We look forward to seeing you there!

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.