“Thirty-seven years after the Hyde Amendment…the movement is back on offense.”

Today marks 37 years since the Hyde Amendment first stripped poor women of Medicaid coverage for abortion. Stephanie Poggi of the National Network of Abortion Funds has a piece in The Nation about the new coalition of grassroots activists committed taking a pro-active stand against Hyde.

I see urgency sweeping reproductive rights and justice groups—and a new commitment to put the lives of poor women, women of color, and young women center stage in a way that was unthinkable a few years ago. A movement that was primarily focused on not losing more ground is now setting its sights on ensuring that every woman can make and carry out her own decision about abortion.

Why is the moment ripe now, when abortion access has been a too-often neglected front in the struggle for reproductive rights since Hyde was first passed?

Over the past few years, a changing political climate has presented new possibilities for the abortion funding fight. The rising electorate of people of color, young people and white unmarried women, along with the Occupy movement, has shifted the terrain and crystallized national unease with steadily deepening inequality—and brought into stark relief the disconnect between having a legal right, and having the resources to exercise it.

Check out NNAF’s new video after the jump and join Poggi for a Twitter chat happening now (at 2 pm ET) on the work of abortion funds–and how we can build a “future where no one needs to call an abortion fund to get the basic health care they need.” Because the status quo is absolutely unjust


I was inspired by my own experience. When I was 19 years old I had an abortion and I felt like I was alone in the world. I never knew another woman that had had an abortion and it was very scary and intimidating to go through that process completely alone. And I never wanted another woman to have to go through that in the way that I did. 

I called a woman and I asked, Is it ok for you to talk right now? And she said, Not really, but I need to. And I said, Is someone around that you can’t talk about it? And she said, Yes. And I said, Are you able to leave the room? And she said, No. So I said, Would it be ok with you if I tried to complete the intake using yes and no questions? And she said, Yes, so we just kinda did the intake that way, and when it came to like the financial things, she said, Oh around 110th street. You know, like, to give me the numbers. I mean, it was just like we had to be creative to get that done. But I was just really glad I was able to help her. Because her procedure was like the next day. So that one really sticks out in mind as having to be creative to get someone what they need.

In my day job, I’m a teacher. So the stories that are always personal to me and one that really sticks with me because I picture maybe some of my students in the same situation, but a high school senior calls us. She was excited that she’d just gotten into college and found out she was pregnant. Her boyfriend was telling her that he really loved her and that, you know, they’d make it work and her intelligence and no-nonsense about it…the fact that she said, My boyfriend loves me and he’s trying to do the best that he can do but I know that this is going to be really and I know that this is going to be a situation that changes my life and I’m not ready to do that. Her wherewithal to get the funds together and do everything that she could, talk to her family. She really went all out and all she needed was that little bit of extra. And those are the things that stick with me. That girl will be in college this fall and that makes me feel good and that’s why we keep doing these things. 

One of the stories that has touched me the most is of a woman I’ll call Nicky. She had to drive 2 hours for her abortion and in our state we have a 24-hour waiting period, which requires 2 visits. So she had to drive 2 trips over 2 days, miss 2 days of work and pay for 2 days of childcare. And she had saved up everything she had and she could afford her abortion. And when she got to the clinic on the second day she was 15 dollars short because she had had to pay for some gas because of all the driving to and from the clinic. And when she got there she was 15 dollars short and we funded her the last 15 dollars so that she wouldn’t be turned away. And that is one of the stories that has stayed with me the most. 

I was on the hotline and I got a call from a woman who about 21 weeks and she was in Houston, Texas. She had been chronically homeless and living out of her car with her 2 children and had not found out she was pregnant until much later on than most of the women who called our hotline. Because of how far along she was in the procedure, she had limited resources and was going to need to travel to get the abortion. She really opened up on the phone and was really thankful to have someone to listen to her and affirm for her that there were no judgements in the decision she was making and that I trusted her to make the best decision for herself and her family. And I’m tearing up now because that story really has stuck with me over the years. I was just very moved by what this woman had been through and what she wanted to do and that she had literally no support in her life to do it. 

Whether it’s the really desperate cases, you know, the family that’s heartbroken because something has gone terribly wrong with the fetus or the mother’s health is in danger so they have to terminate a wanted pregnancy. Or the 12 year old who is sexually assaulted by a relative. Those are of course really compelling. But even more so, it’s just the ordinary. The woman who just doesn’t want to be pregnant or it’s not the right time in her life or she wants to be able to provide for the children that she does have. Those stories are the ones that really…there’s so many of those stories, far more than the really extreme cases, that you realize just how much this affects so many people. And not just those who are seeking the abortions but everyone else in their lives, their families. It touches them as well.

There are some really challenging stories that bring us to tears at the end of the day. And then there are some stories that bring us joy as women are empowered to make the choices that are best for themselves and their families. So it runs the gamut of the emotions we feel as humans. And those personal stories are what’s so important.

St. Paul, MN

Maya Dusenbery is executive director in charge of editorial at Feministing. She is the author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm: The Truth About How Bad Medicine and Lazy Science Leave Women Dismissed, Misdiagnosed, and Sick (HarperOne, March 2018). She has been a fellow at Mother Jones magazine and a columnist at Pacific Standard magazine. Her work has appeared in publications like Cosmopolitan.com, TheAtlantic.com, Bitch Magazine, as well as the anthology The Feminist Utopia Project. Before become a full-time journalist, she worked at the National Institute for Reproductive Health. A Minnesota native, she received her B.A. from Carleton College in 2008. After living in Brooklyn, Oakland, and Atlanta, she is currently based in the Twin Cities.

Maya Dusenbery is an executive director of Feministing and author of the forthcoming book Doing Harm on sexism in medicine.

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