Reproductive Justice is an Economic Issue

Reproductive justice is a woman-of-color-created framework that defines “the human right to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities.” Unlike frameworks which center “choice” in discussions of reproductive issues, reproductive justice centers access, interrogating the power structures that oppress marginalized people and further deprive them of that access. Gender, race, and class economics all affect that analysis.

For decades, reproductive issues—abortion access, paid parental leave, birth control coverage—have been sidelined in politics as “women’s issues” and discussed in isolation. This has been done intentionally by those who oppose reproductive justice, and indirectly, by feminist groups who fail to use an intersectional lens. Firstly, the term “women’s issues” is cisnormative: women and people who can get pregnant are a Venn diagram—overlapping, but not the same category. And this framing also minimizes reproductive justice as a “social issue” which is supposedly disconnected from and less important than economic issues.

Because reproductive justice is rooted in the belief that individuals and communities should have the resources and power needed to make their own decisions about their families, bodies, and lives, reproductive justice requires (among other things), economic power. Having or not having a child is one of the largest economic changes in a person’s life. As of 2015, in the United States, the lifetime cost of having one child is nearly a quarter of a million dollars, making it one of the most costly life expenses possible. If you have a child, when you have children, and how many children you have are some of the biggest economic forks in the road of someone’s life. This isn’t necessary, or accidental: our privatized health care system ensures that pre-natal care, birth, and delivery are extremely expensive. And that’s before you get to the costs associated with childcare and education.

But the financial implications of pregnancy, childbirth and parenthood represent isn’t the whole story. Not everyone has the privilege to make those financial and/or reproductive decisions freely—unlike frameworks of “choice, reproductive justice acknowledges that reproduction is deeply linked with issues of class and socioeconomic inequity. Every reproductive issue, from access to birth control to the ability to raise a child safely, is heavily influenced (if not outright determined) by socioeconomic status. The same decision—to seek abortion services, for example—looks completely different to a wealthy person than to someone with much less money. A poor person is less likely to be able to take time off work, afford transportation to a clinic, pay for childcare during the procedure, and have health care coverage — and all of these come into play before figuring out how to pay for the abortion itself. 

Of course, health insurance coverage is defined by economics (and race) as well. In DC, “[n]early 1 in 7 Hispanic residents (13.5%) have no health insurance compared with 1 in 15 (11.8%) Black residents, and 1 in 30 (3.5%) White residents.” As for the little over 35% of DC residents who have public coverage, a majority are women and people of color, and are explicitly barred from abortion coverage by the Hyde amendment. These layers and layers of oppression come together to compound the inequities that reproductive justice intends to eradicate.

Additionally, in many areas in the U.S. where poverty is concentrated, those costs are exacerbated by anti-choice laws, like those that mandate waiting periods (requiring another visit to the clinic) or trans-vaginal ultrasounds (another procedure to pay for). Reproductive issues can’t be separated from economic ones.

As the reproductive justice framework states, reproductive issues and economics are inextricably connected. Socioeconomic status—as intensified by race, gender, and other identity factors—determines one’s ability to make reproductive choices with the freedom and autonomy everyone deserves. And not having the financial freedom to make decisions about birth control, abortion and parenthood in turn affects one’s finances, further trapping people in poverty. The reproductive justice framework sees, and seeks to dismantle, the entire interconnected system of oppression—not discuss one issue as though it exists in isolation.

– by volunteer Kate. This reflects the views of the author.

We believe Candice Russell

A few months ago, we were disgusted and appalled to read Candice Russell’s story where she described sexual misconduct by Dr. Willie Parker. 

We believe Candice Russell and extend our support and solidarity to all survivors — whether they choose to share their stories publicly or not. 

As a reproductive health organization striving to embody reproductive justice, we at DCAF believe that justice, care, and autonomy for survivors and safe environments for all are key components of actualizing reproductive justice. We feel strongly that it is up to our movement to embody the world that we want– where everyone is safe, supported, and cared for in the way that they feel is best for them. 

Everyone deserves an environment free of discrimination and harassment. Reproductive health, rights, and justice organizations and progressive spaces must be the leaders in the fight against harassment — and too often they fall short.

The National Network of Abortion Funds wrote this well in their statement responding to the allegations:

“Every person in the abortion access movement holds responsibility for fostering an ethical environment, free from harassment, violence, and improper or unprofessional conduct, sexual and otherwise. We all hold this responsibility, whether we are an abortion funder, provider, volunteer, employee, or supporter. When one of us is accused of failing to live up to these standards, it is all of our responsibility to make space for victims to speak or be silent as they choose, and with values of autonomy, compassion, intersectionality, and collective power, move through accountability and restorative justice towards healing.”

We want to take this opportunity to lift up the incredible work that Candice Russell has brought to the movement. A powerful abortion storyteller with We Testify and board member of the NARAL Pro-Choice Texas, she has worked to bust abortion stigma. We thank her for her bravery in speaking truth to power.

-The DC Abortion Fund Board of Directors

What You Can Do

Last week was a rough one for many of us. But abortion funds across the country still here, and we’re not going anywhere. In spite of the unconstitutional and unjust bans being rolled out, abortion is still legal in all 50 states. But legal is not accessible. And at DCAF, we work hard every day to help people access the abortion care they need, regardless of what’s in their wallets or where they live. We’re committed to the fights ahead.

You’ve probably seen a lot of articles and Facebook posts floating around about what you can do to help patients in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Ohio, Louisiana, South Carolina, and other states who are considering or have passed restrictive abortion bans.

Here are some ideas:

Donate to a regional fund. Here are some:

Sign up to volunteer with your local fund. Whether that’s DCAF or a fund in another state or region, we’ll need to work together to make sure patients get the funds they need for abortion care.

Donate to your local abortion fund. Better yet, become a monthly donor to support their work year round. Abortion funds in areas where folks can still access this essential health care service will face a higher demand for their services as people travel further distances to get the care they need and deserve. We’ve already seen this trend at DCAF.

Share your abortion story. Viral campaigns like #YouKnowMe on social media, or more organization-specific storytelling efforts like DCAF’s are a great way to destigmatize abortion and highlight what we know: 1 in 4 women have abortions, and not only women need access to abortion services.

Study up on what’s next and deepen your own political commitment. Stay up on the news, learn more about reproductive justice and the fight for abortion rights and access by checking out Radical Reproductive Justice or Handbook for a Post-Roe America.

We do not know what the future holds, but we do know this: We need to take care of ourselves, and we need to take care of each other. We have work to do.

So-Called “Heartbeat Bills” Across the Country

Ohio, my home state, recently became the third this year alone to pass an extreme so-called “heartbeat” bill, which bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected — sometimes just  six weeks into a pregnancy. Ohio’s new governor, Mike DeWine, signed the bill into law earlier this month.

Former DCAF president Kersha Deibel, who is now President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southwest Ohio Region said it well:

“Politicians in the Ohio State Legislature just passed one of the most extreme abortion bans in the entire country. And they’re not stopping there –– after years of passing anti-abortion laws under the guise of protecting patient health and safety, they lay bare their true motives: to ban abortion in the state of Ohio. Politicians have no right to dictate personal medical decisions. Make no mistake –– these bills punish women. When politicians attack health care, they disproportionately impact people of color, women, the LGBTQ community and young people. We must work to ensure access to health care does not depend on who you are, where you live, or how much money you make.”

Versions of this dangerous “heartbeat bill” have also been passed in Georgia, Arkansas, Nebraska, Iowa, Kentucky, and Mississippi.

Let’s be honest here: most people don’t even know yet that they are pregnant at six weeks. That’s only two weeks after a missed period,  when the fetus is the size of a pea. Even more disturbing: the new Ohio law makes no exceptions for rape or incest.

Six-week bans were once considered extreme even by some anti-abortion groups, and Ohio’s previous governor, Republican John Kasich, called the ban “blatantly unconstitutional” after vetoing it twice.

But with the recent dramatic right turn of the Supreme Court, Roe vs. Wade is in greater danger than ever of being overturned entirely. Anti-abortion groups have been emboldened by the Trump administration, especially radical Vice President Mike Pence, who vowed to see the end of legal abortion “in our time.” At a time when countries like Ireland are expanding  abortion access, the United States is rapidly turning back the clock on reproductive rights, along with threatening the LGBT community, people of color, and Indigenous peoples.

The new law will, of course, be challenged in court, subjecting the taxpayers of Ohio to lengthy and expensive legal battles. The ACLU and Ohio abortion providers are already planning to sue the state. But, with anti-choice judges such as Brett Kavanaugh now in lifetime appointments, taking this battle all the way to the Supreme Court is exactly what many anti-choice extremists are hoping for.

With the far right fighting against better sex education and increased access to birth control, along with the shrinking number of healthcare centers that offer abortion services (for example, Ohio has 8, down from 17 in 2014), a perfect storm is brewing that will prove disastrous for families around the country.

That is why I’m proud to be a DCAF volunteer. We will continue to help provide support for pregnant people in our community and the increasing number of people who must travel to the DC area to seek abortions. No matter what happens.

By volunteer Molly C.  This blog reflects the views of the author.

Game on for Abortion Access!

It’s DCAF Game-a-Thon time and that means it’s time to help us raise money for people seeking abortion care in the DC area!

Hold on, what’s a Game-a-Thon? It’s our annual peer-to-peer fundraiser which concludes with an afternoon of our community coming together to play board games, jenga, cornhole, and more to celebrate raising tons of money for abortions.

Why is this important? We don’t need to tell you how many state and national restrictions we face under this Administration — 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.

What can I do? 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. Then come hang with the coolest pro-choice people in town to celebrate! Easy, right?

But, fundraising for abortion is…not something I’ve done before.You won’t be alone! We’ll regularly provide you with tips and tricks to make sure you have what you need.

What if I can’t make it to the celebratory wrapup event?We’ll miss you! But that doesn’t mean you can’t be part of a team and fundraise for DCAF! A great deal is done online, so as long as you have an Internet connection, you can help out.

Let’s rock this year’s Game-a-Thon together as we work to make abortion accessible — and have a blast while doing it! Sign up now to get started.

And save the date for our community celebration to mark the end of the fundraising period: the afternoon of Saturday, Apr. 27 (location details will follow, but it will be metro-accessible).

Have questions? Don’t hesitate to ask us at

Special thanks to our many sponsors who made this event possible, including Maggie Germano Financial Consulting and The Bar Method in Bethesda.

Hope for the Future

2018 was a big year for DCAF. Under a new administration that has already proven itself to be hostile toward reproductive rights, it was also a year that DCAF supporters increased their support of access to abortion care for patients in the DC, Maryland, and Virginia areas.

Your support made a direct impact in meeting the needs of patients.

You can view our FY18 annual report here.

I’m so proud of DCAF’s leadership team and all the work done as part of this incredible organization.

I can’t wait to see what we can do together in 2019 and beyond!

by Jeryl Hayes, DCAF President

We Must Continue to Fight Together for Equitable Abortion Access

Editor’s Note: Catholics for Choice is a sponsor for our 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.

I’ve spent a decades-long career protecting access to reproductive health—and I know firsthand that although abortion is a fundamental right, access to abortion care is far from equal. I recall my early days when I was a hotline operator at the National Abortion Federation (NAF) when they deployed only two operators for the whole country. We received many calls from women who were not able to pull together the money to fund their abortions and it was heartbreaking. Very few places existed to help at that time.

DCAF has rewritten the script for many women enabling them to get the care they need and Catholics for Choice supports that work of DCAF because we believe that every woman should be able follow her conscience with regard to very consequential decisions around pregnancy. No one should have to choose between whether or not her family eats or whether she can get an abortion.

At the time, NAF resided in the very same building as Catholics for Choice where I now go to work each morning to safeguard those rights. At Catholics for Choice I am privileged to represent and amplify the voices of prochoice Catholics. 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 abortion and motherhood, important moral matters including reproductive health. For me it’s a dream living out two crucial parts of my identity as a feminist and Catholic. I could not be more proud of the work we do to ensure that every woman is able to follow her conscience and make whatever decisions about her pregnancy are right for her.

That is why we launched an Abortion in Good Faith pledge to lift up the voices of others, like me, who believe social justice means ensuring everyone can access the reproductive care they need.

Most recently we saw how Oregon reaffirmed its commitment as a model of progress by defeating measure 106 and maintaining protections so that all Oregonians, including those on Medicaid insurance, can get abortion care. Catholics for Choice joined the No Cuts to Care Campaign to defeat the ballot. We helped organize Catholics and give them the space to talk about why their values of compassion and social justice compelled them to support equitable and comprehensive reproductive care for all.

Together with our partners, we wrote editorials, ran English and Spanish language ads in local papers and radio stations, and spoke up on social media to lift up these voices and stop attacks to strip care from those with the least resources to fight back. We reached out to immigrant Catholics who were going to be disproportionately impacted by these cuts to care.

On Tuesday, November 6, 2018 we won. The Coalition handily defeated Ballot Measure 106. In fact support for equitable abortion access received more total votes than any statewide candidate or initiative on the ballot in Oregon. 

Growing up Catholic in NY I always knew I wanted to help people, that I was called to a life of social justice. This latest victory exemplifies the reasons that drove me to this work in the first place, and sustain me now.

We were proud to be a part of that campaign. We are always proud to stand up for the rights and conscience-based decisions of women.

That is why we are proud to stand with and support DCAF and its work. We are both grounded in the critical work of lifting up the conscience based decisions women make about pregnancy. Freedom itself is inextricably linked to the ability to exercise one’s conscience and determine one’s future including one’s reproductive future. That is why we remain as committed as ever and count our blessings in partners like DCAF who help put the justice and choice back into prochoice for the lives they touch.

Rise Up for Roe!

January 22, 1973 is an important day for reproductive rights. It was the day the Supreme Court announced its decision in the Roe vs. Wade caseits decision to legalize abortion in the U.S.

However, Roe has not completely protected the right to choose. Since 1973, anti-choice politicians have introduced and passed laws that roll back reproductive rights across the country, and clinics, doctors, and patients continue to be targets of harassment and violence. Far too many people still have their access to abortion delayed or denied due to their income or insurance status.

Roe Day provides us with an opportunity to reflect on the implications of Roe and the strides we have made together as a movement. It is also a time to recognize that this constitutionally protected healthcare service remains out of reach for many people because of political and economic barriers—barriers that disproportionately impact people with lower incomes  and people of color.

Join DCAF for two events this month:

Robin Marty presents Handbook for a Post-Roe America

We’ll be attending an event at Upshur Street Books with author and reporter Robin Marty. This event is free and open to the public, but you can pre-purchase a copy to reserve your seat!

Friday, January 18, 2019 at 7 PM – 8 PM

Upshur Street Books, 827 Upshur St NW, Washington, District of Columbia 20011

RSVP here

Roe Revisited? The Future of Reproductive Justice

Join the Washington, DC Lawyer Chapter of the American Constitution Society, the Constitutional Accountability Center, and the DC Abortion Fund for a discussion of the legal threats to reproductive justice and the future of Roe v. Wade under the new U.S. Supreme Court.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

6:30 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. ET

RSVP here