Chicago Abortion Fund

Chicago Abortion Fund: Anti-Choice Billboards Shame Black Women

March 29, 2011

Chicago Abortion Fund Opposes Racist Anti-Choice Billboard Featuring Obama's Face, Chicago (anti-choice billboard image via Feministing) Third Wave grant partner Chicago Abortion Fund released this statement today, denouncing a new series of anti-choice billboards targeting communities of color -- this time, in their hometown Chicago:

Chicago Abortion Fund (CAF) is against the billboard being unveiled at 58th and State Streets on the South Side of Chicago on Tuesday, March 29, 2011. The ongoing anti-choice movement to target women of color in cities across the country is both despicable and deplorable. Not only is the ad attempting to shame black women but placing a picture of the President Obama alongside the message stoops to a new low. CAF demands that elected officials and community leaders immediately reject this racist billboard campaign. Life Always, the organization responsible for the billboard, is just one of the many anti-choice organizations seeking shock value through a message that many don’t believe. These organizations and their billboard campaigns fail to address the social conditions that create the need for abortions, including poverty and a lack of access to contraception and reproductive health care. Says Gaylon Alcaraz, executive director of the Chicago Abortion Fund, “These people who insist on shoving down our throats their anti-women messages through lies and misleading information should be ashamed of themselves. Women have a legal right to access abortion services and should not be shamed regarding the personal choices they make. Abortion is a personal decision, not a political discussion. We will not be moved by this anti-choice attempt to hijack our communities. Only we, women of color, can speak for our communities. Only we, women of color, know what is best for our families.”
Last year, similar billboards first began to appear in Georgia. Third Wave grant partner SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW successfully mobilized their community and allies in Atlanta to denounce the billboards and speak to the truth of black women's fight for reproductive freedom. For more on the network of anti-choice organizations funding these billboards, check out Miriam Zoila Pérez's investigation at Colorlines. Update (March 30, 2011): Gaylon Alcaraz on NBC Chicago, at yesterday's protest against the billboards:

Posted in: Actions, Ads, Chicago Abortion Fund, Reproductive Justice

How Anti-Choice Billboards & Crisis Pregnancy Centers Target Women of Color

April 13, 2011

Writing at RHRealityCheck.org, Chicago Abortion Fund's executive director Gaylon Alcaraz describes the scene at a protest against the new anti-abortion billboards in Chicago:

As black women gathered to protest and demand the removal of those signs, which were posted up in the darkness from the night before, black preachers and other Life Always representatives stood at the microphone explaining why they chose this neighborhood and the president’s image for their tag line: “Every 21 minutes our next possible leader is aborted.”  These three identical billboards placed side by side on a building that face evidence of poverty, neglect and despair is ironic.  The lot in which the press conference was held is littered with broken glass and garbage, with grass nowhere to be found.  It is this scene that provided the backdrop for this Houston-based group to advocate for “Life Always.”  Yet, these outsiders fail to see the irony in telling black women in this depressed neighborhood not to abort their ‘babies.’ By coming into poor communities of color in an effort to regulate and attempt to control women’s decisions about reproduction and reproductive health, the group is spreading fear, myths and falsehoods not only about abortion (one lonely woman of color stood on stage and talked about breast cancer and abortion) but also about what these anti-choice organizations actually do.  For example, one preacher yelled from the podium that they advocate for more crisis pregnancy centers that would help women.  Yet, we all know that these centers do not help women but attempt to shame through various tactics, such as propaganda films and shoving mutilated dolls in front of women. One of the women that sought funding from the Chicago Abortion Fund, Nicole Goss, found a crisis pregnancy center before she found our information.  She had this type of experience.  In fact, she stated that the center she found herself in attempted to do everything to force her not to have an abortion, even telling her she was too far along to have a procedure – which was not true!  These centers are deceitful but very dangerous as well.  Nicole had a second- trimester procedure which proved to be not only more risky but drastically more expensive  than if she had access to an earlier first-trimester abortion.  This is a clear example of the deceptive work of these centers for which the preachers are advocating.
Over on Chicago Abortion Fund's blog, their members shared their reactions to the billboards:
What Life Always should have done was invested the time, energy and funds they used to put up those billboards into these neighborhoods and their schools. Fund and advocate for comprehensive sex education in the schools. Provide us with employment resources. - Brittany
Abortion is a choice and i know everyone is entitled to the own opinion however i still being this billboard should be removed. growing up in this community many would be surprise to know what goes on and what woman have to endure so i feel that attempting to alter someone minds and choice is wrong. Allow these woman to make there own choices who knows a few years down the road they too could be the next possible leader.... - Dominique Perry
You can keep connected with Chicago Abortion Fund's work in support of reproductive justice on their blog, Twitter, and Facebook.

Posted in: Chicago Abortion Fund, Healthcare, Media, Reproductive Justice

Medicaid Is No Band-Aid: When Hospitals Discriminate

October 25, 2010

We're excited to have this guest post from Dashaya Craig of Chicago Abortion Fund, a 3W grant partner. There is a real scarcity of clinics in my community that are available to provide reproductive health care to poor people. The City of Chicago does have public health clinics that were designed to serve people that can't afford health care and don't have a private insurance or Medicaid. There are three public health centers on the south side of Chicago, but it usually takes months for someone to get an appointment. When a person does get an appointment it takes an entire day to get seen which could possibly be a day that they have to miss at work. Those conditions cause poor people to not utilize the public health centers and just not go to see a doctor. Now due to the current economical situation the City of Chicago is "cutting the budget" and two of those three clinics are going to close. So they are referring people to just one clinic and because they can't accommodate the overflow of people they are just turning people around. Other than the public health clinics there are no other in our community to provide health care for the poor and uninsured. This is one of the main reasons that poor communities are plagued with high rates of STI's, HIV/AIDS, and unplanned pregnancies. People in poor communities are not properly educated about sexual health, and they don't have equal access to reproductive health care. Until there is access to reproductive health care available in poor communities there will be a continuous increase in sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies. I know a young single mother of two who was pregnant with her third child. She was reliant on Medicaid because she lost her job. The hospital in her neighborhood was a very prestigious and well known hospital in Chicago. It was blocks away from her house -- she had both of her older children there, and it was a great facility. When she made her first appointment they were under the assumption that she still had private insurance. However, when she arrived at her appointment and presented her state Medicaid card she was refused service, and referred to another hospital that wasn't nearly as prestigious and far away from her house. This hospital in particular is constantly turning women away that don't have private insurance. It's not that they don't have any insurance at all -- it's just not private insurance. That is another form of discrimination, because the only people that have Medicaid insurance are poor people. So this could lead you to believe that particular hospital didn't want to serve the people in the community they’re in. Regardless if a person is poor or don't have insurance they shouldn't be refused health care in their own community, especially when they are pregnant. This young mother with two children ended up not even getting proper health care, because she couldn't make it to her appointments. This isn't just her story -- this is the story of many poor women of color.

Posted in: Chicago Abortion Fund, Community, Healthcare, Reproductive Justice

Reflections on Third Wave Grant Partner Reports, Part II

June 12, 2012

I am currently an intern at Third Wave Foundation, and this is a continuation of my reflections after reading through 2010 end of year grant reports. All of the groups funded by Third Wave are doing groundbreaking and inspirational things. But I was also struck by the kinds of challenges Third Wave's grant partners are facing. To me, these challenges are significant because they represent the fact that grant partners are doing truly revolutionary, as opposed to popular, work. This lack of "popularity" also underscores the necessity of Third Wave's support, since funding for many of these issues and approaches is hard to come by. One challenge is public perception of issues related to sex and gender, as well as the way these issues are (or are not) represented in the media.  St. James Infirmary tried to get their media campaign posted on billboards and was turned down by CBS Outdoor and Clear Channel because the use of the words “sex work” and “sex worker” was deemed “not family friendly.” Different Avenues also reports that they have to stay away from mentioning “sex work” when interacting with many funders.  This also seems to be an issue with many of our groups fighting to bring comprehensive sexual education into schools.  Conservative school boards have put up many barriers, leaving our grant partners frustrated. Another challenge is navigating the changing fads in philanthropy. Because some issues are hot topics, it is easier for them to get funding. Meanwhile, other equally important issues get overlooked. For instance, many funders are more interested in boys in the system than in girls in the system.  This means they don't want to invest in groups like Different Avenues.  Young Women’s Empowerment Project reports being approached by those who have caught onto the anti-trafficking fad and want to speak with “trafficked victims.” They have difficulty expressing how the trafficking framework does not feel relevant for most of the girls who are a part of YWEP. Rather, “Girls Do What They Have to Do to Survive,” according to the title of their report on the participatory action research they did with street youth in Chicago. Within the context of prison reform, Justice Now reports on the realignment movement in California and the push for “gender responsive prison reforms.” At first glance, these proposed changes may appear to be improvements.  They are certainly getting plenty of support.  But Justice Now explains how they are, in fact, a regression. They are fighting for substantial changes to make the prison system more humane and for a movement towards decarceration. Third Wave grant partners tend to look at issues of reproductive health and justice as they affect and are relevant to under-served communities. It can be a challenge for them to appeal to funders working within a mainstream reproductive rights framework (which can seem focused on providing white women with access to abortions). This framework tends to ignore the ways in which gender, class, and racial privileges intersect. Choice USA, the Chicago Abortion Fund, SPARK Reproductive Justice Now, and New Voices Pittsburgh, are all fighting for a woman’s right to choose and for access to safe, empowering, and affordable reproductive healthcare.  New Voices Pittsburgh organized Pennsylvanians to rally against Senate Bill 732, the Health Care Facilities Act, which would close almost all free-standing or non-hospital affiliated clinics in Pennsylvania.  Despite their success as an organization, they report "resistance to our leadership as young women of color"(NVP 2010 report).  These groups recognize that the reproductive rights of people of color are especially under attack. For example, over the past few year, anti-choice billboards around the country have been equating a black woman’s decision not to have a child with the genocide of black people.  Recently, there have been similar billboards aimed at Latina women.  SPARK, Chicago Abortion Fund, and local chapters of Choice USA (at University of Georgia and University of Missouri) have all mobilized against this assault on women of color. Meanwhile, groups such as COLOR and Kalpulli Izkalli report that many of their constituents are very religious, and have views about abortions that differ from the views of many others fighting for reproductive health and justice. They face the challenge of understanding this fight in different ideological contexts.  COLOR reports: “The conservative religious sentiment in the community drives people to ask how we manage to navigate the relationship between strong cultural religion and reproductive freedoms”(COLOR 2010 report). Kalpulli Izkalli has found it necessary to separate the polarizing issue of “abortion” from the broader issues of reproductive justice, such as reproductive healthcare access.  Working from another angle, Young Women United is supporting young parents, recognizing their accomplishments and expertise, and fighting the stigmatization of teen parenting. All of these groups are negotiating what may seem from the outside to be ideological incompatibilities, and challenging the idea that reproductive justice means only “abortion.” They are working to forward reproductive health and justice in a way that makes sense within their communities, leaving constituents informed and empowered to make the decisions that feel right for them. To me, the very fact that our grant partners are running up against these kinds of obstacles to their work is a sign that they are doing something right.  It also reinforces my appreciation of Third Wave as a grantmaker.  Third Wave seeks out those doing crucial work, even if it is "unpopular," and especially when other sources of funding are hard to access.  

Posted in: Blog, Chicago Abortion Fund, COLOR, Comprehensive Sex Ed, Different Avenues, Grant Partners, Media, New Voices Pittsburgh, Organizing & Advocacy, Reproductive Justice, SPARK, St. James Infirmary, Young Women United, Youth Organizing, YWEP

What Happens After Your Abortion?

August 4, 2010

I say "this is Em from CAF, that's C-A-F, calling about your procedure in (month)" and it can take a minute- I like to wait for the moment of remembrance before I go on, just in case. Sometimes they get terse once the realize who it is. Sometimes they get excited. Most times, they just don't know what to expect. I don't blame them. Most of the women we help are used to uncaring workers or ridiculously bureaucratic government processes that aim to get them out of programs, not really to help them.

Vegan_Em at the Chicago Abortion Fund, a Third Wave grant partner, shares what it's like to get back in touch with the young folks the Fund has given emergency grants to for abortion procedures. How have their lives changed? What do they have to say about the process? She blogs it here.

Posted in: Chicago Abortion Fund, Reproductive Justice