Opportunities for All: Why I Went to the Hill to Advocate for Abortion Coverage

From coast to coast, we all deserve the same opportunities. That was reason I had for coming to Washington, D.C. as a member of Momentum Alliance – a part of the BRAVE coalition for reproductive justice. I was eager to join the campaign to end the Hyde Amendment and overturn bans on abortion coverage in insurance plans, wanting every person to have the same resources I have back at home.

I came to D.C. from Portland, Oregon, where I was recently recruited to build a network of young professionals and youth, partnering them with coaches to help them build leadership skills and develop the tools they need to serve on local boards and committees. Organizations in Oregon are looking for young leaders who can add diversity to their boards, and through our work at Leveraging Momentum we can offer a resource for both organizations and young people to find each other.

Young Americans need skills and opportunities in order to succeed and thrive, both in the professional world and in their personal lives. However, those opportunities aren’t always available for younger women when they find themselves unexpectedly pregnant. They may still be finishing school, or just starting their careers, and not at a place where they can take the time to recover or parent after giving birth, or deal with the physical challenges that come along with an unwanted pregnancy.

During my time in non-profits, I’ve developed a passion for youth advocacy. Many people always say youth are the future. I say, no, we are not the future, we are the present. We have unique perspectives on a variety of issues, from education to transportation. But young women can’t participate fully if they don’t have have the full range of options when they have the additional challenges of raising an unexpected child. Yet if they don’t have the financial means to obtain an abortion, they often don’t have any other option. 

Young people are more likely not to have access to health insurance either because they are unemployed or they are in a job that does not offer benefits. Even in some cases where they do have insurance, not every plan covers an abortion and for those who are lower income the cost is just too much. I have many friends who weren’t able to afford it, and they are now still struggling financially because raising a kid is a lot of responsibility for a young person.

On the other hand, for someone who wants an abortion and can access it, it doesn’t just change their lives, but the lives of all of those who come into contact with her in the future.

I think a lot of politicians who aren’t solidly pro-choice have a hard time understanding how exactly an abortion can be beneficial for a woman, or to those who are a part of her life. As I went to Capitol Hill this week as part of the Hill Education Day event sponsored by All Above All*, I was eager to share the story of my mentor at the Momentum Alliance, who had an abortion when she was 17. If it wasn’t for that abortion, she wouldn’t be where she is right now, but I also wouldn’t be in the position I am in, here, having been brought to the organization by her. She has come a long way because of her decision, and if she had had a baby, that would have had impact not just on her, but on everyone around her.

Now, because she was able to define her life because of her abortion, she does advocacy work on immigration issues and she has produced a number of documentaries. These projects she has created then continue to affect even more policies and more people’s lives. If she hadn’t had an abortion, the lives of so many people would be different. It has a ripple effect on all our lives.

Going to the Hill for me this week was an act of solidarity for my sisters in other states who are not getting this same help, who are not getting assistance through their insurance, and who are not getting access to a lot of things we have the privilege to receive in the more progressive states.

In Washington, we have access to the most powerful decision makers in the country. We are targeting the most influential people in the nation and if we are able to change their minds, to convince them or tell them a compelling story about why abortion coverage is important. If we can change their minds and make them see why it is important to us, then they will be able to make a change in our federal policy so everyone in our nation has access to things we Oregonians take for granted.

Oregon is considered a progressive state, and on reproductive health care we’ve done a lot but we also have much work left to do. In our state, Medicaid can cover abortions because the Supreme Court ruled that otherwise the right to terminate a pregnancy isn’t a right that belongs to everyone. However, there are a lot of other women in our state and in others who are not getting the same privileges that Medicaid-covered Oregonians are getting. In Oregon, many women are excluded from Medicaid because of their immigration status. It should belong to everyone, regardless of your documentation or what state that person resides in, and that is why I went to The Hill this week. To be sure that every person’s reproductive health needs are met, regardless of who she is or where she lives.

Now I just have to hope that the politicians were listening.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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