Why the public funding debate could end abortion access all together

My latest column is up at RH Reality Check, reflecting on this 36th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, and why our movement’s decision not to go to battle for public funding for abortion is leading us down a slippery slope that could result in a total ban on abortion.

Sunday was the kind of anniversary you wish you didn’t have to celebrate: specifically, the 36th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, one of the most restrictive reproductive rights laws in recent history. It restricts the use of federal funds for abortion services, meaning that people on publicly-funded insurance programs like Medicaid and Medicare (the low-income and the disabled) have to pay for abortion services out of pocket. The vast majority of the women affected by this ban are low-income, and if you are poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, you aren’t likely to be able to shell out anywhere from $300 to $3000 for an abortion procedure.

Efforts to repeal the Hyde amendment are more often than not seen as unrealistic, and advocates work instead to maintain the status quo—low-income women denied access to abortion. Often the argument is that if we try and fight the public funding battle, we might lose ground in overall access to abortion. But I think that the exact opposite is true. If we don’t fight the public funding debate, we’re going to lose altogether.

Even though the real reason to fight these policies is that no one should be restricted access to a medical procedure just because they are poor–sometimes it’s also important to demonstrate how these policies actually put everyone’s access at risk, low-income or not. The reason is because we live in a classist society, and low-income people’s needs are not always represented in the agenda of big movements. So their needs get sold out in an effort to preserve access overall, but what I’m arguing is that overall access is being put at risk because of these concessions.

Read the whole thing here.


Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion

Thanks to Steph Herold on twitter, I found out that today is the Global Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion. A little more poking around and I learned that it’s a day that was inspired by activists in Latin America:

Spanish logo for 28th of september

September 28 Day of Action for Access to Safe and Legal Abortion has its origin in Latin America and the Caribbean where women’s groups have been mobilizing around September 28 the last two decades to demand their governments to decriminalize abortion, to provide access to safe and affordable abortion services and to end stigma and discrimination towards women who choose to have an abortion. The original name of the campaign in Latin America and the Caribbean is Campaña 28 de Septiember por la Despenalización del Aborto, which continues up to this day growing in force and commitment on the part of women’s rights activists in the region. The date – September 28 – was chosen in commemoration of the abolition of slavery in Brazil which is now remembered as the day of the “free womb” demanding for safe and legal abortion for all women.

While we face our own serious battles in the US, particularly around issues of access to abortion, it’s good to be reminded that internationally, in many countries, the situation is much worse. Countries where abortion is completely criminalized, where women who arrive at the hospital with bleeding or a miscarriage can be turned into the police.

We’re not so far from that reality in the US, either historically or in the potential future, but the struggles are distinct. Thinking globally reminds of us this fact, and encourages us to understand this is a worldwide struggle.

For me the battle for access to safe and legal abortion is indicative of a much larger struggle that goes way beyond this one procedure. It’s a struggle for autonomy, for respect, for trust in each of us as individuals to make the best choices for us. It’s a struggle against doctrine, politics and ideology that limits how we live our lives.

Check out actions for today’s event here.

NYC, DC and Chicago full spectrum doula program recruitment!

It’s gonna be a busy summer for all you aspiring full spectrum doulas!

Volunteer programs in NYC, DC and Chicago are all accepting applications for summer trainings.

More details after the jump!

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Video: Bianca Laureano on being an abortion doula

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Bianca made this video blog about being an abortion with the NYC based Doula project. She’s awesome, and her experience very much mirrors mine. Also, her earrings rock.

So what is an abortion doula?

Obviously this is a topic much discussed on this blog, but it is also a role that is ever evolving. The Doula Project of NYC has had a major role is shaping this work, so I’d thought I’d share a recent interview published by Abortion Gang with Leadership Circle member Kathleen Reutter.

The Doula Project of New York City is a non-profit providing support to people across the spectrum of pregnancy. It is volunteer-run and all of its services are free of charge. Since 2008, its 50 trained abortion and birth doulas have provided services to over 5,000 people in the New York City area. I talked with Kathleen, who has been a doula with the Project since 2009 and a member of the Leadership Circle for the past year and a half.

To start-off, could you first describe a little about what an abortion doula is?

An abortion doula provides emotional, physical, and informational support to people choosing abortion. As part of the Doula Project, our doulas also support people facing miscarriage, stillbirth, and fetal anomaly and provide birth doula services to low-income people and to people choosing adoption. All in all, our mission is to offer care and compassion to pregnant people making a variety of choices regarding their pregnancy and/or birth.

What does a day’s work for an abortion doula look like?

Depending on the site, our doulas work with between four and 15 abortion clients per day.  When I work with an abortion client, I try to help her feel safe and at ease. Any medical procedure can be scary, but facing an abortion can be especially frightening for some because of the wealth of inaccurate information and the stigma surrounding the procedure. Before the abortion begins I try to help my client feel comfortable by answering her questions and chatting. I’m usually with her as she meets the doctor and the nursing staff.

Being awake during an abortion is very doable but is sometimes painful. During the procedure I may help her breathe through uncomfortable moments, explain what’s happening, squeeze her hand, stroke her forehead, and distract her with conversation about her favorite TV show or her weekend plans. Afterwards I help her get settled in the recovery room. I may give her a hot pack to place on her abdomen to help with cramps and put cool cloths on her forehead and back of her neck if she’s overheated. Some of my clients want to talk a lot in the recovery room, others are quieter. If my client is settled and seems to be feeling okay, I often sit quietly in a chair close by, ready to engage if and when she chooses.

Read the full interview over at Abortion Gang. And for more about my experiences as an abortion doula, check out my Abortion Doula Diaries series.

Abortion Doula Diaries: Advice for supporting a friend

There was a post on Jezebel last week that tackled the question of how to help a friend through an abortion. It was a follow-up to a similar post about helping a friend through a miscarriage. Both posts are worth checking out, as they give good advice to friends and support people.

The main takeaway from both, which happens to be my main tactic as an abortion doula, is listen and don’t assume.

Most of the time people looking for support really just want to be heard and to have their feelings validated. They don’t want to be told they should feel differently than they do, or even necessarily helped to cheer up. Think about it next time you are struggling–what do you really need?

Because pregnancy, and especially abortion, are such hot-button political issues, we’ve all got an opinion about it. We’ve all got the latest anti-abortion injustice on our minds.

People are often surprised when I tell them that my work as an abortion doula is mostly about listening, and hand-holding. Not a lot of talking, or educating, or even really doing. A lot of smiling, a lot of encouragement to breath and relax, and a whole lot of listening.

With friends and family members the temptation to give advice is really strong, because we know them and their life and might think that means we know what is best for them. But unless someone is asking us for advice, or asking questions, the best thing we can do is listen and validate how they are feeling. The reality is we don’t know what’s best for anyone other than ourselves.

This is something I’m working hard to apply to my everyday life, but it definitely applies in the context of abortion or miscarriage support.

The only correction I’ll provide to the Jezebel post is to this part:

Baumgardner notes that abortion doulas can offer support to women going through the procedure — you can help her figure out if a doula is right for her, or help her locate one.

While abortion doulas do obviously exist, I know of no programs where individual people can seek out and bring a doula along with them to a clinic. Most of the abortion doula programs partner with clinics directly, so if you went to one of those clinics, you’d most likely encounter a doula there who would accompany you.

What the article references is more like a birth doula situation. It’s possible that abortion doulas will shift to that model some day, but for now it’s primarily clinic partnerships. If there is an abortion doula group in your area (I have a list here, any programs with asterisks) you could get in touch with them to see what clinics they serve, and choose your provider that way.

Got a few dollars to spare for The Doula Project?

An organization near and dear to my heart is doing it’s first big end of the year fundraising push. The Doula Project, a group I helped to found, which provides full spectrum doula care to people around New York City.

I know I’m biased, since I’ve been involved since the beginning, but I think the Doula Project is really rad.

First of all, it’s mission is pretty amazing: provide volunteer doula care to people across the spectrum of pregnancy: from abortions and miscarriages to adoptions and births. All of it is done at no cost to the pregnant person–it’s a volunteer operation that is now a 501-C3 (hence the fundraiser!).

I’ve chronicled some of my experiences working with the project in my Abortion Doula Diaries series. In short I think it’s pretty rad, and has helped spark a national movement of similar organizations around the country providing this type of comprehensive doula support.

Some official language from the project:

We are a volunteer led and run non-profit organization offering free doula care to women across the full spectrum of pregnancy options. The Doula Project works to connect the choices, needs, and experiences of people across this spectrum and to provide on-site support for our clients no matter what their choices may be. Since 2008, our 50 trained abortion and birth doulas have provided physical, emotional, and informational support to more than 5,000 women in New York City who have faced birth, abortion, miscarriage, stillbirth induction, and adoption.

5,000 people! That’s incredible.

If you’re feeling generous, your support would be appreciated. Funds will go to expanding services to serve more people, as well as further training and expansion of this really amazing model. Donate here.