Here in the US, where Americans spend an average of $110 million on fast food each year, some will spend $10,000 for breast implants, and still others will drop $90 on yoga pants, somehow covering the costs of an abortion is one of the most lavish and morally egregious things you can do. Recently, I completed my first shift as a hotline advocate for the CAIR Project, where we proudly do just that.
The CAIR Project is a volunteer-run non-profit abortion fund, which provides financial help to women seeking abortions. It is part of the National Network of Abortion Funds. Women call us from Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, and Washington and we help them with small grants of $50 to $200 (vouchers are faxed directly to the clinic, so no money changes hands).
If you want to witness the collision of poverty in America, sexual health stigma, and the fissures in our healthcare system, volunteer for an abortion fund. Granting money is a privilege, and doing it for something so critical as abortion access – so heavily under assault in this country – is an honor. And if you want to counteract anti-women sentiment and policies in this country, donate to one. Abortion may be legal, but if you cannot afford it, it is not accessible.
For a week, I fielded about six calls a day from women across the Pacific Northwest. These were women in tight spots: in high school, homeless, unemployed, undocumented, disabled, down on their luck, about to head into the army, just found out their wanted pregnancy had a fatal defect, rape survivors, or just having a hard time pulling together several hundreds of dollars in a few days. It really ran the gamut.
To say abortion is stigmatized in this country is to state the obvious. But we have a special brand of taboo that we foist atop even that stigma, which is the taboo of having someone else pay for a service you need – especially if it’s an abortion. Three years after Roe v. Wade, the Hyde Amendment was passed in 1976, prohibiting federal Medicaid coverage of abortion, in most circumstances. It was in this spirit that the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act was passed last year. And if you think the US would only limit financial support for women seeking abortions in the US, you’re wrong. The Helms Amendment, passed in 1973, makes sure that not a dime of US foreign aid goes toward abortion services in other countries – even if it’s legal and even if unsafe abortion is a leading cause of maternal death. In fact, the failure to provide funding and program support for those conditions for which even Helms allows exceptions means that women who have been raped -- such as victims of rape in war -- and those whose lives are threatened by pregnancies gone terribly wrong are denied support by U.S.-funded programs.
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