January 23, 2013
The National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) joins our allies in the reproductive health, rights, and justice movements in celebrating the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. In this landmark decision, the Supreme Court held that state abortion bans were unconstitutional—putting an end to the shameful era in which countless women risked their health, lives and freedom to obtain abortions.
But too many women are still prevented from accessing safe and legal abortions or experience severe hardship trying to obtain them. This is due in part to an aggressive right-wing effort to chip away at the right to reproductive freedom by imposing unnecessary restrictions on abortion care, which reached an unprecedented level in 2011 and 2012. It is also due to the Hyde Amendment, which bans the federal Medicaid program from covering abortion care with very narrow exceptions. Because of the Hyde Amendment, every year thousands of low-income families, including a disproportionate number of women of color, must risk eviction or utilities being cut off or sell basic household items to afford an abortion.
Because of such injustices, NCLR recently signed on to a letter from more than 70 diverse organizations to the Obama administration, asking him to omit all restrictions on coverage and funding for abortion services in his proposed 2014 budget. We joined our colleagues in the reproductive health, rights, and justice movement in opposing these funding bans because we know that reproductive freedom is an important issue for LGBT people. For example, due to the pressures created by discrimination, which may lead young lesbian and bisexual women to have unprotected heterosexual sex in order to hide their sexual orientation, studies show lesbian youth are significantly more likely to experience an unintended pregnancy than their straight peers. In addition, women who identify as lesbian or bisexual may have sexual relationships with men and are also just as vulnerable to sexual assault and exploitation as other women.
NCLR is proud to partner with the growing number of organizations who recognize the connection between reproductive justice and LGBT rights. For example, NCLR is a member of Forward Together, an organization dedicated to bringing together a diverse network of organizations to transform policy and culture to empower all people to make decisions about their lives, bodies, and families. The reproductive justice movement has given us critical new insights about the relationship between gender, race, class, sexual orientation, and reproduction. This includes recent essays and reports about trans women of color organizing for reproductive justice; the reproductive profiling of women of color; and the relationship between reproductive justice and voter suppression for women of color.
We are also proud to support our friends at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, who in honor of Roe’s 40th anniversary, are hosting an event focused on achieving health, dignity and justice for Latinas, titled: “Yo Te Apoyo” (“I Support You”).
Other champions in this work include Dr. Willie Parker, an abortion provider who has movingly written of how his conscience compels him to travel long distances to provide abortion care at the last abortion clinic in Mississippi, and Aspen Baker, who after having an abortion, discovered that there were very few resources for post-abortion emotional support (aside from those with anti-choice political agenda). Dr. Parker has described how he became an abortion provider by reflecting on the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., whose legacy we also celebrate this month. Baker founded Exhale, a national, multilingual after-abortion talkline that provides support for people who have had an abortion to discuss their feelings.
We are also proud to support the D.C. Abortion Fund, which was founded by volunteers at a rape crisis center who helped one of their clients raise money for her abortion. They used the leftover funds to provide financial assistance to more women who could not afford the full cost of an abortion (eventually joining the National Network of Abortion Funds). Now, the D.C. Abortion Fund—powered only by volunteers—raises and distributes more than $100,000 every year to women in the DC region who are unable to afford abortion care.
We celebrate Roe v. Wade and the extraordinary commitments that people have made to keep abortion safe, legal, and accessible. We also celebrate the everyday acts of empathy support that can be extraordinarily meaningful to people who need, or have had, an abortion—such as the Fargo, North Dakota art student who provides every patient at the Red River Woman’s Clinic with a handmade ceramic planter and a note from a supporter with messages like, “You are loved. You are beautiful. Today might have been a tough day for you, or it might have been a blessing. Just take it easy for a while.”
We applaud all those who do these things so that everyone who needs an abortion is fully loved and supported through the experience.
What will do to support someone this year?