Why I DCAF: Hyde Edition

affordableabortionThis week marks the 40th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, which bars Medicaid recipients from using their benefits to pay for abortion care in many states. Our volunteers are sharing the stories of why our work is vital in the face of these restrictions. Today, case manager Lauren W. shares what she sees on our helpline.

Abortions are expensive. Really, really expensive — in my time as a DC Abortion Fund volunteer, I have worked with patients whose procedures will cost anywhere from $300 to $18,000. Even the lowest-cost procedures at the earliest stages of pregnancy can pose an insurmountable burden for people with no incomes, people with other high-cost medical needs, and people who live paycheck-to-paycheck.

Now, most medical care is expensive. That’s why most people have or try to have health insurance, which is supposed to help cover the high cost of care so that people can stay healthy. For people who can’t afford health insurance, we have Medicaid, which has serious flaws but still provides an important safety net for people in difficult financial situations. Medicaid should be health insurance that people can rely on for their basic medical needs, including abortions. Thanks to Henry Hyde and other anti-choice politicians, however, they can’t.

Rep. Hyde created what it is now known as the Hyde Amendment, an unjust policy that has been in place for the past 40 years. This federal budget rider, and others like it, prevents Medicaid, CHIP, and Medicare enrollees; federal employees and their families; Peace Corps volunteers; members of the military and their families; users of the Indian Health Service; DC residents; and people held in federal jails, prisons, and immigration detention facilities from using their health insurance for abortion care.

When I learned about these unjust policies, I was angry. I wanted to stand in solidarity with people in the DC area, the community I love and call home, who could get the abortion care they needed if only their health insurance would cover it. That’s why I became a case manager for the DC Abortion Fund.

When I take my helpline shifts, I hear from my patients that they are frustrated and worried that they won’t be able to pull together the money they need to cover their abortion while still providing for their children, their family members, and their own basic needs, like food and housing. Recently, I worked with a patient who apologized to me for spending $15 on food for her children, and was short of the goal she had set for herself. She isn’t the one who should be apologizing — the members of Congress who support the Hyde Amendment every year are the ones in the wrong. If the Hyde Amendment weren’t in play, this mother could get the care she needed and provide adequate food for her young children. Instead, she’s forced to scrimp on food and spend many hours on the phone working to get the money together to pay for her abortion so she can end a pregnancy that isn’t right for her or her family.

No one should ever be forced to choose between the medical care they need and feeding their kids. That’s why I am a proud DCAF volunteer and why I support an end to the Hyde Amendment.

by volunteer Lauren W.

How Bans Affect Patients with Disabilities

disability_justice_repealhydeThis week marks the 40th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, which bars Medicaid recipients from using their benefits to pay for abortion care in many states. Our volunteers are sharing the stories of why our work is vital in the face of these restrictions. Today, case manager Meredith N. talks about how laws restricting abortion access disproportionately affect people with disabilities.

It’s that time of year where we wish the Hyde Amendment a happy unbirthday and continue to fight the good fight to end the ban(s) on abortion coverage. However, it is discouraging to see so many reproductive justice activists neglect to mention that people with disabilities are disproportionately impacted by the Hyde Amendment as well. The reality is that people with disabilities are more likely to be poor as well as rely on state insurance programs such as Medicaid and Medicare to meet our health care needs. I currently live in Maryland which both expanded Medicaid and is one of the 15 states where Medicaid covers abortion care.  Unfortunately, the lack of transparency surrounding how to access this benefit means that few are aware it does not apply to the Aged, Blind or Disabled Medicaid that SSI beneficiaries receive (perhaps because there is the false assumption we do not need it). In turn, repealing Hyde is a disability justice issue as well. At the same time, a world without Hyde means little as long as our society continues to look upon disabled sexuality with fear and disgust. A world with reproductive justice would affirm the diversity of body/minds in the world by recognizing that we, too, deserve full spectrum reproductive health care.

As a result, I DCAF because disabled people need abortion access, too. Neglecting to consider this hurts multiply marginalized disabled people the most. I DCAF because the seemingly insurmountable financial barriers to an abortion are compounded when you are turned away from clinics because you are considered a high risk patient, your accessibility needs cannot be met, or you must go without lifesaving medication in order to come up with gas money. I DCAF because too many people with disabilities remain isolated by an ableist world and I want to be a lifeline whom anyone facing an unplanned pregnancy can call when they have no one else to turn to. I DCAF because everyone deserves access to safe, accessible abortion care regardless of how much cash they have, regardless of whether or not society believes they “should be” having sex or not, regardless of whether or not they are “productive” enough, and whether or not their necessary accommodations are “reasonable” enough.

Nonetheless, abortion funds and other reproductive justice groups shouldn’t wait until Hyde is repealed to commit to this anti-ableism work! As someone who has funded abortions both locally and nationally, it is all too apparent that abortion funds are working with many disabled callers — regardless of whether or not these callers identify as such — but are poorly equipped to recognize our needs, much less accommodate them. I encourage you to consider how you can better incorporate dis/ability into your intersectional frameworks: whether that’s eliminating ableist language such as “crazy” or “lame” from your fund’s vocabulary or taking more extensive steps of disability solidarity.

by volunteer Meredith N. 

How Hyde Affects our Patients

Via Repeal Hyde Art ProjectThis week marks the 40th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, which bars Medicaid recipients from using their benefits to pay for abortion care in many states. Our volunteers are sharing the stories of why our work is vital in the face of these restrictions. Today, case manager Olivia C. shares what she sees on the help line.

When I ask a DC Abortion Fund patient if they have health insurance, I hold my breath. If the patient tells me they have Medicaid, I should be relieved. More often than not, however, I have to talk to my patients about how a program that’s supposed to provide healthcare won’t in this instance. Because of the Hyde Amendment, a sweeping federal restriction on funding for abortion, most of our patients on Medicaid can’t use it to pay for their abortion, leaving them to scramble for funds.

For almost 40 years, Hyde has made true reproductive choice a theory rather than a reality. Hyde bans the use of federal money for abortion except in the most limited circumstances: life endangerment, rape, and incest. A handful of states — 15, to be exact —  use their own funds to provide abortion to people enrolled in Medicaid, but 33 states don’t, and the District of Columbia can’tleaving 60 percent of women enrolled in Medicaid without abortion coverage. The patchwork of funding make abortion access a privilege based not just on income, but on ZIP code.

We see this play out every day at the DC Abortion Fund. Our Medicaid-enrolled patients in Maryland have abortion coverage up to 22 weeks of pregnancy, at least if they’re on the state’s primary Medicaid program (Maryland’s Children’s Health Insurance Program and family planning program don’t offer abortion coverage). Patients with Medicaid calling us from the District of Columbia, Virginia, and other states aren’t as lucky, nor are our patients who are federal employees or military service members or veterans who have insurance provided by the federal government.

Hyde hits the people who are most in need. Poor and low-income women are the most likely to experience an unplanned pregnancy and want an abortion. Because of social and economic inequality linked to racism and discrimination, Hyde disproportionately affects women of color (30 percent of black women and 24 percent of Hispanic women are enrolled in Medicaid), youth, immigrants, and transgender or gender non-conforming individuals, and people with disabilities. The result is that a program intended to promote equality in health care access perpetuates inequality instead.

At the DC Abortion Fund, we work with patients who experience this inequality first-hand. The average cost of an abortion can be more than one-third of a patient’s monthly income, and even more as a patient gets further into pregnancy. Without much money to spare, our patients may find themselves needing to divert funds from food, rent, and utilities to pay for their abortion. They might find themselves in a vicious cycle of fundraising, being unable to hit their target, and having to reschedule for a later, more costly appointment. While the DC Abortion Fund and our partners often can meet the need of our patients, there are other people for whom abortion is still financially out of reach, forcing them to carry an often unplanned, and often unwanted, pregnancy to term.

The DC Abortion Fund and our fellow funds exist to help patients fill the gap left by Hyde, but we can’t do it without our volunteers and donors. Moreover, we can’t meet the needs of every patient nationwide affected by abortion coverage restrictions. We need abortion coverage that doesn’t discriminate on wealth and address.

It’s high time to repeal Hyde. Advocates across the country are banding together to call on Congress and our next president to end restrictions on abortion funding. Join the DC Abortion Fund and send us a selfie telling us why you stand up against Hyde. Write to your Congressperson asking them to support the EACH Woman Act, which mandates abortion coverage in insurance. And on Sept. 30, the 40th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, be bold and shout your support for abortion access. It’s time for us to restore decision making to the people who need abortion and make choice a reality.

by volunteer Olivia C.

Partners in Choice: Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force

This is the first in an occasional series about other organizations doing good work to promote abortion access in the DC area.

10659075_10101568351932057_4769581443220887981_oAnti-choice protestors outside abortion clinics are nothing new. They also aren’t going to be like the harmless, ill-informed girl in the movie “Juno,” shouting inaccurate information about the fetus having fingernails. After the horrific tragedy at the Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs, matters of safety when seeking abortion care are more important than ever. The dedication and bravery of abortion providers, clinic staff, and clinic escorts across the country are helping women practice their right to choose at a time when anti-choice activists are making it exceptionally difficult.

In the DC metro area, we are lucky to have the Washington Area Clinic Defense Task Force to help keep anti-choice protesters at bay. This all-volunteer, non-violent group was founded in the 1980s to promote safe access to women’s health clinics in the area. Escorts work directly with the clinics and local law enforcement to counter and defuse potential problems with clinic protesters, and to provide support to patients and their companions while they seek access to abortion care.

WACDTF works hard to help women practice their right to control their own bodies and lives, and to keep clinics open and able to serve the women of the DC metropolitan area. You can find them each Saturday, rain or shine, between 7 and 11 a.m., depending on the clinic. They also mobilize around the January anniversary of Roe v. Wade, when anti-choice protesters descend upon DC each year.

If you are interested in learning more, you can visit the WACDTF website. They are currently scheduling the next escort training, which will be in January 2016. Trainings are a great introduction into the group, and to see if being a clinic escort is right for you.

By volunteer Carrie E. Image of badass DCAF and WACDTF volunteer Robyn S. keeping a safe passage for Planned Parenthood patients despite a throng of anti-choice protesters, courtesy Robyn. 

Meet our sibling funds

ImageAbortion funding takes teamwork. Often, putting together the money for a procedure is a collaborative process between patients, providers, and abortion funds. There are dozens of funds throughout the country that work in tandem to make sure that people can access safe and timely abortion care, regardless of cost. These funds serve as compassionate, confidential points-of-access for financial assistance, information, and support.

In addition to Washington, DC, the DC Abortion Fund serves the entire states of Maryland and Virginia, which means we have the opportunity to combine our funding with other incredible abortion funds in our region. We are constantly learning from what these funds accomplish, so in this post, we would like to give a huge shout-out to the funds we work with, who do amazing work in their service areas and deserve so much love! Here are a few of our neighbor funds:

Baltimore Abortion Fund (BAF)

The Baltimore Abortion Fund operates a confidential hotline that offers referrals, financial counseling, and financial assistance. In order to access these services, patients are asked to leave a detailed message with their name, phone number, information about how far along they are in a pregnancy, information about their appointment (if applicable), and whether or not it is safe to leave a return voicemail.

Recently, we received exciting news that BAF’s service area has expanded. Currently, BAF is able to offer financial assistance to residents of the following counties: Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Baltimore City, Carroll, Harford, Howard, and Frederick. However, all are welcome to call their line for referrals to other resources or financial counseling.

BAF’s hotline can be reached at (443) 297-9893. If you would like to get involved with BAF, click here. To donate, click here.

Blue Ridge Abortion Assistance Fund (BRAAF)

For patients in Virginia, the Blue Ridge Abortion Assistance Fund plays an important role in funding abortion care, ultrasounds, and travel. To access BRAAF’s services, patients are asked to state their name, phone number, location, whether or not it is safe to leave a return voicemail, and information about why they are calling.

Currently, BRAAF can help first-trimester patients in Albemarle, Greene, Orange, Louisa, Fluvanna, Nelson, Madison, Augusta, Buckingham, and Rockingham counties, and the cities of Charlottesville, Waynesboro, Staunton, and Harrisonburg and Culpeper. They also fund second-trimester abortions that are performed at Richmond clinics for patients who live anywhere in Virginia.

BRAAF’s hotline can be reached at (434) 963-0069. If you would like to get involved with BRAAF, clickhere. To donate to BRAAF, click here.

Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project (RRFP)

The Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project helps patients with funding for abortion care, transportation, lodging, meals, and ultrasounds. To access RRFP’s services, patients must be at least eight weeks pregnant. Patients are asked to leave a voicemail with their name, phone number, date of birth, information about how far along they are in a pregnancy, and information about their appointment. Currently, RRFP serves patients who are residents of Virginia or those who reside in a neighboring community and are having their procedure done in Virginia.

RRFP’s hotline can be reached at (888) 847-1593. If you would like to get involved with RRFP, click here. To donate to RRFP, click here.

Carolina Abortion Fund

The Carolina Abortion Fund provides assistance for patients who are residents of North Carolina, or people who are traveling to North Carolina for their procedure. To access their services, patients can leave a detailed message stating their name, the reason for their call, a callback number, whether or not it is safe to leave a return voicemail, and the date of their appointment.

The Carolina Abortion Fund hotline can be reached at 855-518-4603. If you would like to get involved with the Carolina Abortion Fund, click here. To donate, click here.

Of course, there are tons of other amazing abortion funds all over the country fighting the good fight for access to care. The National Network of Abortion Funds has a pretty sweet list of funds that you can learn more about! For abortion funds, raising money is an uphill battle, but fundraising is a huge part of the fight for reproductive justice and being able to provide financial support for the people that call. We hope you’ll consider volunteering with or donating to DCAF or your local abortion fund in order to help make choice a meaningful reality for all.

By volunteer Dee S.

Shout Your Abortion

I’ve never been one to live quietly. When I had an abortion six years ago, I started talking about it pretty soon afterward. I don’t generally shy away from taboo topics, and as a longtime activist and clinic escort, I knew there was nothing to be ashamed of – abortion is simply part of women’s reproductive lives. It always has been.

One afternoon last week, I started seeing tweets tagged #ShoutYourAbortion come through my timeline. The hashtag was started by writer Lindy West and activist Amelia Bonow in response to Congress’ attacks on and vote to defund Planned Parenthood. The idea was to say that abortions shouldn’t be discussed in hushed tones. They’re nothing to whisper about. We should shout our stories. So I shouted mine. I didn’t actually include any details about why I’d had an abortion, as others did. I’ve long since stopped trying to make my reasons palatable enough to those who think some reasons are better than others. Rather, I wrote this:

 “I’m proud to have had an abortion. Was a time I respected my life, relationship & body enough to do what was right for me #shoutyourabortion”

 Then the trolls found it.

 “My trusty Skankatron 5000 tramp-detector just blew up.”

“You killed your helpless child.”

“I’m sitting here running my fingers through my toddler’s hair, and I’m shaking in anger at these whores.”

“You’re a disgusting, degenerate baby-murdering whore. You are everything that is wrong with the world. You are sick.”

“Murdering cunt.”

 The harassment started rolling in around 8 p.m. Over the next 12 hours, I was @-mentioned in more than one hundred gendered insult-laden tweets. Over and over again, these harassers called me a whore. Overall, I received one tweet from a woman who begged me to repent and said she’d pray for me, and the rest were filled with profanity and misogyny.

And that’s how it works, isn’t it? When push comes to shove, there’s no real concern for children’s lives, or for women’s safety. Just plain misogyny and violence, laid bare for all to see.

And we do all see it. The people who write these vicious comments have family members, friends, co-workers, congregants, and neighbors. The people who see these insults have kids that play with the commenters’ kids, or stand next to the commenters at choir rehearsal. One in three women in the US will have an abortion by age 45. That’s one in three daughters, sisters, girlfriends, mothers, cousins, wives, friends, colleagues, women next to you in the pew, teachers at your kids’ school, friendly cashiers at the supermarket, nurses at your parent’s retirement home, celebrities you read about in magazines.

That’s one-third of all women hearing themselves called irresponsible, selfish whores who are unfit to be mothers at all, even though sixty percent of women who access abortion care are already mothers.

And every one of those one in three women responds differently. Some of us get mad and resolve to speak out louder. Some of us retreat into ourselves, vowing never to tell anyone because that one time we did tell someone we were attacked.

Personally, I’ve just gotten numb. It’s hard to feel much of anything after one of those trolls takes it upon himself to find your home address, and threaten to give you a hysterectomy with a rusty knife (yes, I called the police. No, they didn’t do anything). A barrage of trolls calling me a “selfish whore” and “murdering cunt” makes me roll my eyes, proclaim that they’re pathetic, and hit the block button. I know not everyone can shrug them off. But to me, those insults get old – it’s the same story over and over and over again.

Because they’re the same go-to violent misogynistic insults each and every time, after watching these tweets roll in all night, I decided to make a word cloud, to represent the frequency with which certain words were hurled at me. The cloud includes all the harassing tweets I received from 8 p.m. on Sept. 22 to 9:30 a.m. on Sept. 23 (except “murdering cunt” – I missed that one, since the account was suspended before I made the cloud. Darn).

That’s what it looks like to share my truth – that I had an abortion, and I’m not sorry about it.

I’ve been trying to come up with ways to turn this hatred into something productive, so I have one simple request for you: help other people get abortions when they need them. There are clearly enough societal barriers to accessing abortion care, but we can stand up to the trolls and knock down the economic ones. The DC Abortion Fund is on the front lines of eliminating stigma and supporting folks that need help accessing abortion care.

So don’t feed the trolls. Instead, feed DCAF.

By volunteer Robyn S.