We Testify Abortion Storytellers Rise Up for 45th Roe v. Wade Anniversary

At the National Network of Abortion Funds, we’ve always known that the Roe v. Wade decision didn’t make the right to an abortion a reality. Together, we are rising up and refusing to rewind to a past in which abortion was inaccessible. On January 16, 2018, We Testify Abortion Storytellers shared their truths and how they were impacted by financial and logistical barriers, as well as how reproductive justice intersects with immigration justice, queer liberation, racial and disability justice.

The recording is available here, and the full transcript is available below.

Alejandra Pablos, We Testify Abortion Storyteller, Arlington, VA

“I was born in Mexico and I am from America…Living in Arizona made it clear to me that families like mine weren’t safe, we weren’t guaranteed security. Every day I saw families being torn apart because of a piece of paper, documents they didn’t have. I saw parents being incarcerated and deported because there is no pathway to citizenship for most people. My views on reproductive justice and parenthood were informed by the sacrifices people made to flee their countries and risk their lives to come here for a better future. When I became pregnant, I knew the current political situation would devastate the family I would create. The same people who would force me to continue my pregnancy are the same people who would rip my baby from my arms and deport me because of my immigration status. I can’t ignore the irony of lawmakers whose only mission is to control a woman’s body, and refuse to support us in accessing childcare and livable wages for our families.”

Stephanie Loraine, We Testify Abortion Storyteller and board member, Central Florida Women’s Emergency Fund

“Everyone should have access to abortion regardless of their age or immigration status. I have been a Jane Doe before. When I was 17, I needed an abortion and was unable to tell my parents. Due to parental involvement laws in the state of Florida I was not able to get an abortion without the notification and presence of my parents. I was forced to seek out a judicial bypass, which is the process of having a judge decide the fate of your abortion…As a teenager I worked as a waitress, I saved up enough money to pay for my abortion during the 3 weeks I waited for the judicial bypass to process. I was lucky to be early enough in my pregnancy that waiting 3 weeks for the judicial bypass to be approved and saving money at work did not impact my ability to legally access an abortion in Florida…Young people face a double edged sword of stigma with their reproductive health care; if they continue their pregnancies they are unsupported and deemed irresponsible, and if they pursue an abortion we are stigmatized, forced to deal with laws that present barriers denying us our constitutional right to an abortion.

 

Sheila Desai, We Testify Abortion Storyteller and board member, New York Abortion Access Fund

“When I was in my early 20s, I found out I was pregnant. I was living in India, where much of my family is, and also where sex and abortion are deeply stigmatized. I was living in a small town—the kind where everyone knows your business. I knew I wanted an abortion, but I had little to no money saved. I had aspirations of becoming a midwife or a scientist, but mostly, I wasn’t ready to become a parent. I didn’t know how to navigate the health system or where to seek services. And I was too afraid to ask for help for fear of being shamed for my decisions. So, in secret and on my own, I tried to have an abortion. Several weeks later, I traveled back to the U.S.—to New York—where I learned that the abortion hadn’t worked and I needed to get care quickly. I didn’t have health insurance or much money, and I was still too afraid to ask for help, fearing the blame that could result. Frankly, I didn’t know who to ask. Growing up and even today, it is rare to see South Asians represented among those who have had abortions. So when I needed to have my own, I didn’t see myself in anyone I knew. Instead, with courage and in quiet, I walked into a Planned Parenthood and had my abortion. To this day, I give thanks for access to safe abortion services. My abortion provided me the power and freedom to shape my own life and build my own future. But I never want others seeking an abortion to feel as alone as I did”

 

Holly Bland, We Testify Abortion Storyteller, Cleveland, OH

“I was privileged to have health insurance provided by my father’s job which covered some of the costs, like the mandatory ultrasound to test for a fetal heartbeat although it was already confirmed by a pregnancy test I was pregnant. Unfortunately, like many private health insurances, it wouldn’t pay for my abortion because it wasn’t due to a documented case of rape or incest. It’s problematic that the insurance company would only cover the abortion in certain circumstances, and validated only by police reports. Even though some of the weight was lifted off my bill from my insurance covering the ultrasound, I still paid nearly $600 for my abortion at 7 weeks…For me, having had access to an abortion, when I needed it, allowed me to regain control of my life and health. I’m bipolar and have polycystic ovaries, both illnesses have significant strains over my day-to-day life, and make it difficult for me to carry a pregnancy to term. It takes a lot to care for myself, and even looking back, I would choose an abortion again because I still don’t have things under control. It was the best decision for my life.”

 

Cazembe Murphy Jackson, We Testify Abortion Storyteller, Atlanta, GA

“As a working class Black transmasculine person getting an abortion in the southern United States, I faced many barriers to getting an abortion, particularly financial ones. First of all, the abortion was $300, and I struggled for weeks to find the money to pay for it because I was a college student and had no extra money for anything other than food and clothes. Eventually, I took out a high interest payday loan, which took me about year to pay off…Another barrier, that I would be remiss in not mentioning is homophobia and transphobia also acted as barriers to me receiving care. Being in a masculine body and needing an abortion meant I had to make sure I was respected by the people taking care of my body, even those working at the clinic. Including pronouns, but also explaining that I was the one needing the abortion was frustrating and disheartening. It is so important for trans people to be included in the conversations about reproductive justice. Everyone that has the ability to create and terminate pregnancies should feel welcome, whether we identify as women or not. This is why it’s essential that we talk about people of all genders needing access to safe and legal abortion care.

 

Moderator: Renee Bracey Sherman, Senior Public Affairs Manager, National Network of Abortion Funds

“Callers were deeply impacted economically when seeking an abortion, particularly as anti-choice restrictions spread across the country. Over the years, those who received funding pledges anticipated traveling over 140 miles on average to access abortion. However, the distance to be traveled doubled for callers to the Tiller Fund from 2010 to 2014. People seeking second trimester procedures traveled three times farther than people in their first term to access the procedure. These increases in travel distance suggests that abortion access in these geographic regions is becoming more difficult as policy based restrictions continue to build. Out of nearly 2,000 people who called the Tiller Fund and gave geographic information, we learned that the majority of pledges are made to residents of states without expanded Medicaid access to abortion and states that have private insurance restrictions on abortion coverage. Most of the people who were funded were residents of the South followed by residents of the Midwest. Fortunately, we have made significant strides in 2017 to rise up, and reverse the tide crippling Roe. Last summer, Oregon bucked the national trend of eliminating public and private funding of abortion by signing the Reproductive Health Equity Act into law, and ensuring insurance companies cover all options pregnancy care, including abortion, at no additional cost, for all people, regardless of their immigration status…We also saw Illinois rise up for Roe last September when Republican Governor Bruce Rauner signed HB40, expanding abortion access to those enrolled in Medicaid insurance and State Employees Health Insurance, and ensuring that abortion will remain legal should Roe v. Wade be overturned.

 

Rise Up for Roe Press Call Announcement

RENEE BRACEY SHERMAN, SENIOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS MANAGER, NATIONAL NETWORK OF ABORTION FUNDS: Thank you for joining us for the Rise Up for Roe press call with the We Testify Abortion Storytellers. My name is Renee Bracey Sherman and I am the Senior Public Affairs Manager at the National Network of Abortion Funds, a network of over 70 member organizations who are funding abortion and building power to fight for cultural and political change. NNAF provides technical support and infrastructure for our member funds on the ground, and runs its own abortion funds, the Dr. George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund and the Dr. Willie Parker Fund, supporting people accessing abortion care in the Southeast United States. I run We Testify a program dedicated to increasing the spectrum of abortion storytellers in the public sphere and shifting the way the media understands the context and complexity of accessing abortion care. We Testify seeks to build the power and leadership of abortion storytellers, particularly those of color, those from rural and conservative communities, those who are queer identified, those with varying abilities and citizenship statuses, and those who needed support when navigating barriers while accessing abortion care.

We’re glad to have you here for this important conversation. Next week marks the 45th anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision which guaranteed the right to an abortion in the United States. Abortion is a common experience — 1 in 4 cisgender women will have an abortion by age 45, and over two thirds are already parents. The majority of people who have abortions are people of color, thus access to abortion care is a critical racial and reproductive justice issue. However, anti-choice politicians have passed law after law, not only chipping away at abortion access, but shutting down clinics and making abortion financially out of reach.

Last year, researchers analyzed data from the National Network of Abortion Funds’ own abortion fund, the Dr. George Tiller Memorial Abortion Fund. The research comprised of secondary data analyses of 3,999 Tiller Fund administrative cases, showing how the Tiller Fund has been used from 2010 to 2015. The report includes demographic information, circumstances at play in the lives of people who called the Tiller Fund for abortion funding, and changes over time that demonstrate how abortion restrictions are discriminatory, burdensome, and trauma-inducing. Callers were deeply impacted economically when seeking an abortion, particularly as anti-choice restrictions spread across the country. Over the years, those who received funding pledges anticipated traveling over 140 miles on average to access abortion. However, the distance to be traveled doubled for callers to the Tiller Fund from 2010 to 2014. People seeking second trimester procedures traveled three times farther than people in their first term to access the procedure. These increases in travel distance suggests that abortion access in these geographic regions is becoming more difficult as policy based restrictions continue to build. Out of nearly 2,000 people who called the Tiller Fund and gave geographic information, we learned that the majority of pledges are made to residents of states without expanded Medicaid access to abortion and states that have private insurance restrictions on abortion coverage. Most of the people who were funded were residents of the South followed by residents of the Midwest.

Fortunately, we have made significant strides in 2017 to rise up, and reverse the tide crippling Roe. Last summer, Oregon bucked the national trend of eliminating public and private funding of abortion by signing the Reproductive Health Equity Act into law, and ensuring insurance companies cover all options pregnancy care, including abortion, at no additional cost, for all people, regardless of their immigration status.

This landmark legislation ensures that all people are able to access healthcare through their insurance, knocking down one of the many barriers to abortion care. Prior to this law, insurance companies did not have to cover abortion care, leaving many people unable to use their health insurance to cover the full range of reproductive options. This forced them to pay for abortion care out-of-pocket, creating unnecessary financial barriers as they saved funds to pay for their abortion. When the cost of an abortion and distance needed to travel to get one increase, abortion becomes more inaccessible and care is delayed.

We also saw Illinois rise up for Roe last September when Republican Governor Bruce Rauner signed HB40, expanding abortion access to those enrolled in Medicaid insurance and State Employees Health Insurance, and ensuring that abortion will remain legal should Roe v. Wade be overturned. We know that this victory came because the people of Illinois spoke out. They called the governor’s office, showed up at the state fair with All* Above All, and made sure he heard them loud and clear. A number of Illinoisans, including We Testify storytellers, shared their abortion stories with the governor to remind him of the impact of his decision on their lives.

On this call, we’ll hear from abortion storytellers and abortion fund leaders about their abortion experiences and what the state of abortion access is in the United States. After our panelists make their remarks, we’ll open up the call for your questions. You can use the hashtag #RiseUp4Roe, that’s #RiseUp the number four Roe to join the conversation started by our friends at All* Above All on social media.

First, I’ll read a short statement from We Testify Abortion Storyteller Alejandra Pablos, who is unable to join us today because of an immigration court date that she is attending at this very moment. Then, we’ll hear from Stephanie Loraine, a We Testify storyteller and board member at the Central Florida Women’s Emergency Fund about the current Jane Doe cases and her experience as a young person obtaining a judicial bypass for an abortion. After Stephanie, we’ll hear from We Testify Abortion Storyteller Holly Bland, who will share her experience of trying to get an abortion in Ohio, where they’re racing to ban abortion and shutter the few clinics left. We’ll then hear from Sheila Desai, a We Testify abortion storyteller and board member at the New York Abortion Access Fund who will share her experience self-administering an abortion in India and the current landscape for access in New York. We’ll round out the call with Cazembe Murphy Jackson, a We Testify Abortion Storyteller based in Atlanta, Georgia, who will share his abortion story and experience seeking reproductive healthcare as a trans man.

But first, I’ll read a short statement from Alejandra Pablos, who is unable to join us today because of an immigration court date that she is attending at this very moment. These are Alejandra Pablos’ words:

Hello, thank you for allowing me to still lift up my story even though I couldn’t be here, and have to be in court today. I was at a protest highlighting injustices at a clandestine detention processing center in Richmond, Virginia when I was arrested by the police. I am 32 years old from Arizona, living in Washington, DC. I am a community organizer, human rights advocate, and activist. I am a creator, a sister, an educator. I share the struggles of communities that are ignored. I am sharing my story today with you because we are under attack. Our human rights are under attack and it is my duty to share with you today why I had an abortion.

Last March, thanks to the Roe v Wade decision, I was able to make a personal decision about my own body. I exercised full autonomy over my future. When I first found out I was pregnant, I was conflicted. For a minute or two I smiled at the idea of being a mother. I quickly had a reality check and knew I couldn’t start a family here, right now. I do not want to be a mother because families are under attack. We have been resisting for a long time now. Women, members of the LGBTQ community, undocumented people, migrants, students, and working people are being oppressed. It’s like the decision was made for me. A few years ago, I lost my Legal Permanent Resident status after spending two years in a private immigration prison.

I was born in Mexico and I am from America. We are a mixed status family; some of us are legal permanent residents, some are citizens, most are born here. Our big family is made of restaurant owners, managers and young working students. My mom has owned a beauty salon for as long as I can remember. Living in Arizona made it clear to me that families like mine weren’t safe, we weren’t guaranteed security. Every day I saw families being torn apart because of a piece of paper, documents they didn’t have. I saw parents being incarcerated and deported because there is no pathway to citizenship for most people. My views on reproductive justice and parenthood were informed by the sacrifices people made to flee their countries and risk their lives to come here for a better future.

When I became pregnant, I knew the current political situation would devastate the family I would create. The same people who would force me to continue my pregnancy are the same people who would rip my baby from my arms and deport me because of my immigration status. I can’t ignore the irony of lawmakers whose only mission is to control a woman’s body, and refuse to support us in accessing childcare and livable wages for our families. The president is a known racist and encourages police to keep killing us instead of working towards a country that can begin transforming itself to be a place that truly is the best country in the world. Not all migrant people want to come have a baby here. America threatens my future.

If I had an opportunity to ask lawmakers why they want to overturn Roe, I would ask them, “What are your plans for this child after they are born and their mother is in the hands of the deportation machine? Will you send this baby to a prison, too?” I honestly don’t know how people even expect women to go through a pregnancy in a nation that’s proud to be deporting people and breaking families apart. It’s an injustice and a threat to reproductive justice and the promise of Roe. Thank you.

STEPHANIE LORAINE, WE TESTIFY ABORTION STORYTELLER AND BOARD MEMBER AT THE CENTRAL FLORIDA WOMEN’S EMERGENCY FUND: Thank you. As thankful as I am to be sharing my abortion story with you all today, I am saddened that the state of our nation’s broken and anti-family immigration policies means that Alejandra cannot be here. This is why immigration justice is core to reproductive justice.

Young people with vulnerable immigration statuses face even further danger if they are trying to seek abortion care while in immigration detention. Around the country, there have been countless Jane Does who are pregnant while in immigration detention and like incarcerated people all across the country are denied access to abortion. Just yesterday, a fourth Jane Doe, known as Jane Moe, was released from the custody of the Office of Refugee Resettlement and should be able to access the abortion she desires, thanks to the work of the ACLU. She was denied an abortion for two weeks. Another Jane, in September, was delayed nearly 30 days. These delays are unconstitutional, and force the Janes to endure a slightly more complicated procedure, that’s more expensive, simply because they had to wait. We will not stop until we have #JusticeforJane, and all Janes. Young immigrants are being denied the ability to access an abortion by the Trump administration, an injustice and human rights violation. As we have seen in immigration detention centers and jails, like former Sheriff Arpaio’s, young women who are forced to continue the pregnancies they don’t want to continue are forced to give birth in shackles and then separated from their babies once they are born. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton filed an amicus brief in the case of the Texas Jane Doe who was denied an abortion after receiving her judicial bypass waiver in September. Attorney General Paxton stated “Texas must not become a sanctuary state for abortions.” He couldn’t be further from the truth, and more inhumane in his denial of healthcare for immigrants. Fearing deportation, many undocumented people forgo life-saving medical care in hospitals and doctors offices. In places like Texas, immigration officers have followed patients needing major surgery just to serve them with deportation orders and Notices to Appear while they are fighting for their lives. With this hostile climate towards undocumented people are choosing not to grow their family.

Everyone should have access to abortion regardless of their age or immigration status. I have been a Jane Doe before. When I was 17, I needed an abortion and was unable to tell my parents. Due to parental involvement laws in the state of Florida I was not able to get an abortion without the notification and presence of my parents. I was forced to seek out a judicial bypass, which is the process of having a judge decide the fate of your abortion. The judge had to make a determination whether I was capable of making my own decision to have an abortion or not, and I had to prove I was in significant danger if I told my parents. As a teenager I worked as a waitress, I saved up enough money to pay for my abortion during the 3 weeks I waited for the judicial bypass to process. I was lucky to be early enough in my pregnancy that waiting 3 weeks for the judicial bypass to be approved and saving money at work did not impact my ability to legally access an abortion in Florida. At the time, I was not aware of abortion funds or any support organizations for people seeking abortions.

I met with my pro-bono attorney several times, visited and paid the clinic for an ultrasound, wrote an essay about why I needed the judicial bypass, presented my school records showing my advanced school class schedule, and finally had my plea directly to the judge in chambers. The day I plead the my case to the judge, I became Jane Doe. This experience was only possible because I had access to consistent transportation, a job to pay the cost of my abortion, the ability to navigate the confusing, complicated legal system and a pro-bono attorney who supported my decision. Being able to access an abortion paved my way to become a strong advocate for my clients as a social worker and as a passionate fighter for reproductive justice. It gave me my bodily autonomy and changed my life.

Young people face a double edged sword of stigma with their reproductive health care; if they continue their pregnancies they are unsupported and deemed irresponsible, and if they pursue an abortion we are stigmatized, forced to deal with laws that present barriers denying us our constitutional right to an abortion.

Barriers to abortion access are magnified for young people and immigrants. Trying to find a ride to a clinic, affording an abortion, and getting legal access can be impossible. According to the National Network of Abortion Funds, of the people who received funding for their abortions, young people were less likely to have access to birth control (61.8 percent), and more likely to become pregnant as a result of rape (16.7 percent), than their adult counterparts (41.6 percent and 7 percent, respectively). Researchers also found the cost to obtain an abortion was significantly higher for young people than for adults, due to barriers like delays in obtaining money to pay for the abortion and traveling to a clinic far away.

Becoming Jane Doe changed my life and has turned me into the fierce abortion advocate I am today. Everyone deserves access to abortion regardless of their age or immigration status. This is why I now volunteer with the Central Florida Women’s Emergency Fund which provides financial support to around 300 pregnant people seeking abortions in Central Florida and has expanded to provide support across the state of Florida and in Puerto Rico. As you know, the hurricanes have left Puerto Rico largely without power, to this day, so people are unable to get the healthcare they need, and are scrambling to travel to the mainland to access care, including abortions. People seeking abortions in Florida face financial barriers, access to reliable transportation, and lack of elective abortion coverage by private health insurance and Medicaid. So-called “elective abortion” is not covered by Medicaid insurance, only abortions in the cases of life endangerment, rape, or incest. As I experienced, minors seeking abortions must notify parents before it’s provided. And abortions are largely not accessible after 24 weeks. Florida requires pregnant people seeking abortions to undergo an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion and the provider must offer the option to view the image. Just the other day, a judge struck down the government mandated waiting period, which is a huge win in access — this means we don’t have to visit a clinic twice unnecessarily. This is often a challenge for people who don’t have sick or vacation days, or flexible work schedules, family obligations, and for those who are forced to travel several hours to the nearest abortion clinic. It’s an injustice no one should face. Though Roe v. Wade protects the constitutional right to have an abortion, it has not always meant it’s accessible. States have chipped away at the ability to access an abortion under the guise of “protecting” people from their own decisions. Laws like waiting periods undermine the ability of people making decisions involving their bodies.

Sharing my abortion story has been cathartic and helped me find my voice. At this point in my life I carry a lot of privilege as someone who has a career, am financially independent and as a US citizen don’t face the injustice of having my immigration status targeted for my activism. Roe v. Wade protects our constitutional right to have an abortion. It gave me my freedom to live my life on my own terms free from the expectations of society as a Latina, my religion, and my family. Thank you for listening.

RBS: Thank you, Stephanie. Next, we’ll hear from Holly Bland, a We Testify abortion storyteller based in Ashtabula, Ohio. Go ahead, Holly.

HOLLY BLAND, WE TESTIFY ABORTION STORYTELLER: When I was 19, I found myself pregnant and desperate for an abortion. I live in Ohio, a state notoriously restrictive on abortion access, and began jumping through hoops to retrieve a legal medical procedure. I had my abortion in 2014 and even in that short amount of time, Ohio has broken new ground in pushing some of the most restrictive anti-abortion laws since Roe v. Wade legalized abortion.

For me, making the decision to have an abortion was easier than obtaining it because of all the state sanctioned road blocks put between people seeking abortion care. Northeast Ohio is served by few abortion clinics, so I had to travel over an hour to a facility that would see me. Because of the 24 hour waiting period for mandatory counseling that must be completed in person designed to discourage folks from having an abortion, I had to take two trips from my home in Ashtabula to Cleveland, which meant calling off of work twice, and waiting a week between my initial visit and procedure date. This put a strain on my life as a working college student at a part-time, minimum wage job.

I was privileged to have health insurance provided by my father’s job which covered some of the costs, like the mandatory ultrasound to test for a fetal heartbeat although it was already confirmed by a pregnancy test I was pregnant. Unfortunately, like many private health insurances, it wouldn’t pay for my abortion because it wasn’t due to a documented case of rape or incest. It’s problematic that the insurance company would only cover the abortion in certain circumstances, and validated only by police reports.

Even though some of the weight was lifted off my bill from my insurance covering the ultrasound, I still paid nearly $600 for my abortion at 7 weeks. This was both a challenge and a privilege for me. Although I still had the security of living with my parents, I was paying my way through college and didn’t have any form of emergency savings. To gather enough money, I delayed paying my car insurance bill, and maxed out my credit cards to cover groceries and gas. I underestimated how far it would set me back financially. But in the same breath, I am privileged to even have the ability to pay for it. I didn’t have the best job, or financial support from my family, but I was able to access care. I know several of the We Testify abortion storytellers, my friends, who were forced to continue a pregnancy to term because they couldn’t afford an abortion at the time.

For me, having had access to an abortion, when I needed it, allowed me to regain control of my life and health. I’m bipolar and have polycystic ovaries, both illnesses have significant strains over my day-to-day life, and make it difficult for me to carry a pregnancy to term. It takes a lot to care for myself, and even looking back, I would choose an abortion again because I still don’t have things under control. It was the best decision for my life.

This is why those of us who need an abortion should be able to access it. We’re the experts in our lives and our health situations. Unfortunately, the ability to access care hasn’t changed for some communities since Roe. Depending on our race, class, gender identity, ability, immigration status, age, sexuality, and more, we face different barriers to care. Access to an abortion should be just like any other form of healthcare, and healthcare should be a right, not a privilege.

RBS: Thank you, Holly. If you have questions, you can put them into the chatbox. Next, we’ll hear from Sheila Desai, a We Testify abortion storyteller and board member at the New York Abortion Access Fund. Okay, please go ahead, Sheila Desai.

SHEILA DESAI, WE TESTIFY ABORTION STORYTELLER AND BOARD MEMBER AT THE NEW YORK ABORTION ACCESS FUND: Hi all. As Renee mentioned, my name is Sheila and I am both a WeTestify Abortion Storyteller and Board Member with the New York Abortion Access Fund, or NYAAF. I am grateful to be part of this conversation, not only to commemorate this 45th anniversary, but also to share a deeper picture of what access and barriers to abortion look like—through my own experience, as well as of those who we support through NYAAF.

When I was in my early 20s, I found out I was pregnant. I was living in India, where much of my family is, and also where sex and abortion are deeply stigmatized. I was living in a small town—the kind where everyone knows your business. I knew I wanted an abortion, but I had little to no money saved. I had aspirations of becoming a midwife or a scientist, but mostly, I wasn’t ready to become a parent. I didn’t know how to navigate the health system or where to seek services. And I was too afraid to ask for help for fear of being shamed for my decisions. So, in secret and on my own, I tried to have an abortion.

Several weeks later, I traveled back to the U.S.—to New York—where I learned that the abortion hadn’t worked and I needed to get care quickly. I didn’t have health insurance or much money, and I was still too afraid to ask for help, fearing the blame that could result. Frankly, I didn’t know who to ask. Growing up and even today, it is rare to see South Asians represented among those who have had abortions. So when I needed to have my own, I didn’t see myself in anyone I knew. Instead, with courage and in quiet, I walked into a Planned Parenthood and had my abortion.

To this day, I give thanks for access to safe abortion services. My abortion provided me the power and freedom to shape my own life and build my own future. But I never want others seeking an abortion to feel as alone as I did.

Which is perhaps what brought me to the New York Abortion Access Fund. NYAAF is a grassroots organization that supports anyone who is unable to pay fully for an abortion and is living in or traveling to New York State by providing financial assistance and connections to other resources. Although New York is a relatively progressive state, where the Medicaid program covers abortion for eligible individuals, each year, NYAAF still supports hundreds of people who neither qualify for Medicaid nor have the funds necessary to pay for an abortion.

The average age of our callers is 26, over half are already parents, one-third has no health insurance, and over 60% are people of color. More than a third of our callers travel from other states into New York to obtain services, primarily because abortion restrictions in neighboring states limit access. For many of our clients, the challenges related to obtaining an abortion extend beyond cost to receiving fair wages, having safe housing, coordinating child care, documentation status and so on. And so for NYAAF, while we see our main priority as funding abortions, we are increasingly working with local partners to build power across reproductive, racial, immigrant and economic justice—because where these movements meet, access for all can truly be achieved.

Looking forward, in New York, we are focused on turning the tide and encouraging our elected officials to codify Roe v. Wade into state law, to support the Reproductive Health Act, which takes abortion out of the criminal code, and to support the Comprehensive Contraceptive Coverage Act, which upholds cost-free access to contraception. But in addition to advocating for improved access to sexual and reproductive health care, we are also looking to our electeds to prioritize policies in areas that most affect our callers’ lives—to ensure all New Yorkers are adequately paid, do not fear deportation, and have access to the resources they need to build the families they want, safely and with dignity.

Today, as I reflect on the Roe vs Wade decision, I am grateful for its expansion of abortion rights in this country. Without it, I would not have been able to have the abortion I needed. But even 45 years since Roe, we know that abortion access is not a reality for many. There is still much work ahead to create a world in which families can thrive without fear of violence, all people are able to choose when and whether to parent, and reproductive justice can truly be achieved. It is our duty not only to commemorate Roe, but to continue to rise up and fight for a world in which abortion access becomes a reality for all and we are each able to freely, safely, and with joy lead the lives we want for ourselves, our families, and our communities.

Thank you to the National Network of Abortion Funds, my incredible co-panelists, and others joining today’s call for the opportunity to share NYAAF’s work, to speak my own truth, and to rise up for Roe.

RBS: Thank you Sheila. Finally, we’ll hear from Cazembe Murphy Jackson, a We Testify abortion storyteller based in Atlanta, Georgia. Afterwards, we’ll open the line for questions from the press and audience. If you have any questions ready, feel free to write them in the chat box. Please welcome Cazembe.

CAZEMBE MURPHY JACKSON, WE TESTIFY ABORTION STORYTELLER: My name is Cazembe Murphy Jackson. And I am a black Souther trans man that lives in Georgia. I am also a community organizer. And I am really glad to be here today. I do also want to say that because of the system that we talk about, the prison industrial complex and the way that it criminalizes Black mothers, I have some kids that weren’t expected to be here running around, so if you hear them, please excuse me and excuse them.

Growing up, my mother taught my sister and I about Roe v. Wade, and it was a legal decision that would play a big role in not only my life, but also my sister and my mother. My mother is a southern, Black, Christian woman who, in most cases is super conservative, but still really understood the importance of everyone having access to abortion care. The decision is deeply important to me because legal abortions really do save lives. Including lives like mine. A person who doesn’t want to be pregnant is always find ways to terminate their pregnancy, so the ability to access safe and legal care is essential. I know this, because it was essential. It sure was to me.

Having access to abortion care meant that I was able to choose when and how to create my family. I was sexually assaulted my junior year in college and became pregnant as a result.

As a working class Black transmasculine person getting an abortion in the southern United States, I faced many barriers to getting an abortion, particularly financial ones. First of all, the abortion was $300, and I struggled for weeks to find the money to pay for it because I was a college student and had no extra money for anything other than food and clothes. Eventually, I took out a high interest payday loan, which took me about year to pay off. At the time I didn’t know about abortion funds, so I didn’t know I could get financial support for my abortion.

Throughout the rural South, getting an abortion sometimes means a day of traveling to a bigger city. We need a car, gas money, and possibly a place to stay because of mandatory waiting periods that prevent us from obtaining an abortion in the same day. This makes abortion accessible to a small few who have money and time to be away from work. These days, I am so glad Access Reproductive Care – Southeast (ARC-Southeast) exists help people struggling like I did. They ensure people have funding, rides, meals, and housing when traveling for their abortions.

Another barrier, that I would be remiss in not mentioning is homophobia and transphobia also acted as barriers to me receiving care. Being in a masculine body and needing an abortion meant I had to make sure I was respected by the people taking care of my body, even those working at the clinic. Including pronouns, but also explaining that I was the one needing the abortion was frustrating and disheartening. It is so important for trans people to be included in the conversations about reproductive justice. Everyone that has the ability to create and terminate pregnancies should feel welcome, whether we identify as women or not. This is why it’s essential that we talk about people of all genders needing access to safe and legal abortion care.

Another big barriers that was in the clinic was protesters in front of the clinic were a physical barrier to me being able to access the clinic with ease. Their shouting and harassing made me feel uncomfortable in a moment when I was trying to prepare myself for an important medical procedure. I can still hear them. Often, protesters give out medically inaccurate pamphlets to patients as they enter the clinic, trying to dissuade people from having an abortion. This further confuses folks, many who don’t have access to comprehensive sexual health information or healthcare, and I think it’s a disservice and public health hazard. I think one thing that folks don’t understand is that by the time a person has decided to get an abortion, we have likely had all of the conversation with ourselves about pros and cons of having the procedure. It is a choice that I made on my own, and for that last 17 years I have been the one to live with that, not them. We don’t need other people telling us about their opinions about our choices.

Being able to go to the clinic to get medically accurate information, support, and ultimately an abortion gave me the opportunity to live my life according to what I think is best for myself. I am now planning to start my family on my own terms. To me, this is how it should be. This is reproductive justice. All of us should have the ability to decide if, when, and how to become a parent, on our own terms. I believe this is at the core of reproductive justice: In order for any of us to have a taste of reproductive justice, it must be available to all of us.

RBS: Thank you for sharing your story, Cazembe.

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