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Impossible Choices: Observations from the Emergency Abortion Fund

Monday, August 8th, 2011

My name is Marianna Luna and this summer I am interning at the Third Wave Foundation through the RRASC program. The Reproductive Rights Activist Service Corps (RRASC) internship is a ten week internship that places undergraduate students from ten Western Massachusetts colleges at organizations that focus on reproductive rights and social justice. I am currently entering my second year at Hampshire College, and I have recently been introduced to the world of reproductive justice with the help of Civil Liberties and Public Policy program located in Hampshire College’s own campus. This summer I have been running the Emergency Abortion Fund here at Third Wave.

Let me just start by saying exactly why I became interested in reproductive justice. I am a Latina, 18 years old, and queer identified, so as a young woman from a low income area, I have seen and been affected by many things which many people would consider an injustice. I have always worked closely with my community in the Bronx and being a part of a very deprived area I’ve seen what people with no money have had to do in order to feed their families and receive certain “benefits” that other people easily take for granted. Now, I know plenty of women who have had abortions but I was never really able to grasp how difficult a process it was to actually pay for the procedure. Reproductive health affects everybody and so does abortion access, and it took me a while to actually understand why. Reproductive justice is largely affected by and tied to racial, economic, queer, and immigrant rights, as well as many other things; these are all things I feel personally connected to.

Since I’ve been here, I’ve had the opportunity to get an insight on women’s personal stories and talking to a lot of these women has made my frustrations on abortion access even stronger than they were before. All the women who call the fund deserve every penny available for their procedure but unfortunately they don’t get every penny of it. Health insurance doesn’t cover people, other people don’t have any health insurance, some are impoverished, others undocumented immigrants, and some just don’t have anything and found out too late and have to pay thousands of dollars for a procedure that they can only cover $100 of. The abortion fund helps alleviate some of the costs which is essential at this time because there are more and more attacks on reproductive health everyday. I do however believe that funds do not solve the structural problems with abortion access.

Funds are band aids on a cut and though I do believe that they are helpful, they can’t help everybody. It’s hard to be on the phone with women you know deserve funds just as much as anybody else but because there is a budget to work around, certain people just can’t be funded. Then you get asked why. Why can’t you fund me? And the answer is almost always the same: because we are looking for women that are further along. Well, to a lot of people that doesn’t make sense. The further along a woman is, the more expensive it is. So why not fund people in their early trimesters rather than their late trimesters? I don’t even have an answer for this, though I do understand why people further along are prioritized. Somebody who is 25 weeks can have to pay up to eight thousand dollars if not more for their procedure while somebody who is 10 weeks or less may only have to pay $600. For me personally $600 is a lot and I can imagine that it is a lot to other people who may only have about $50 for their procedure. See, it’s not easy coming up with reasons because the truth is, that we shouldn’t be coming up with reasons, these women should have their abortions covered by their insurance and if women don’t have insurance (though this is another issue around healthcare), they should not be turned away because of costs, and be forced into carrying their fetus to full term.