“No woman can call herself free who does not own and control her body. No woman can call herself free until she can choose consciously whether she will or will not be a mother.” — Margaret Sanger
“Make no mistake, this battle is about self-determination by women of the direction and course of their lives and their family’s lives. Abortion is about women’s hopes and dreams. Abortion is a matter of survival for women.” – George R. Tiller, M.D.
Because I can’t resist an excuse to make a fool of myself for a good cause, I’ll be attempting to bowl for the Third Annual National Abortion Access Bowl-a-Thon. Although I had definitely heard of the National Network of Abortion Funds before (an umbrella organization for the over 100 local, independent, grassroots groups running in more than 40 states, Canada, Mexico City, and the UK that provide direct financial assistance to women seeking abortions), the Bowl-a-Thon event was new to me (thanks to Feministing.com for the link!).
The Bowl-a-Thon’s goals mirror the National Network’s in that short-term fundraising (led by the individual bowlers and teams) will be directed towards the obvious reproductive needs of low-income women (emergency contraception, abortion procedures themselves) and the not-so-obvious ones (transportation to and from a clinic, child care during the procedure, options counseling, follow-up care, etc.). Long-term, the Bowl-a-Thon is a platform for various local chapters (such as my hometown of Chicago’s “Chicago Abortion Fund”) to discuss their political goals – such as striking (see what they did there with the bowling jargon) down the Hyde Amendment, a 1977 law that banned Medicaid (the federal health-care program for low-income individuals) coverage of abortion.
And even if you’re not on Medicaid, even if you don’t identify with any of the heartbreaking stories of real women on the National Network’s website: an abortion costs an average of $451 in the first trimester and up to $3000 further along in the pregnancy/depending on complications. Do you have enough money in your checking account to cover those costs? Let me put it another way. Do you have enough money in your checking account to cover those costs and rent and food and your utilities bills and your prescriptions and . . . Do you even know where your nearest clinic is that could provide you with abortion services? If you have children already, do you have someone you trust to watch them while you see the doctor? These aren’t abstract, ‘big-picture’ type of questions. Women have to come up with the answers to them every day. And they shouldn’t be alone while they’re doing so.
Monetary assistance for abortion services is only one part of the solution, and the National Network understands that, as do its chapters. I’m proud to say that the Chicago Abortion Fund is currently being highlighted on the National Network’s website for its “My Voice, My Choice” leadership program, which provides young women who have received funding (who are primarily young women of color) with leadership development, public speaking training, and community organizing skills – all of which they use in education and advocacy roles, often sharing their personal stories on platforms like the “My Voice, My Choice” monthly talk show. The group also connects these women to the support services they will need in their lives on a more long-term basis (daycare, housing, job search opportunities).
This kind of community building is likewise reflected in the Bowl-a-Thon’s 2012 national sponsor: 4000 Years For Choice, an art project that aims to celebrate the history of reproductive control and emphasize its inherent position in human society through visual narrative.
I must have convinced you by now, right? So, stand up for accessible abortion and sponsor my own bowling (thank you, thank you, thank you in advance!) or register for the Bowl-a-Thon yourself and send me the link to your fundraising page (I promise to donate to as many as I can) because, at this time of a undeniable War Against Women, every dollar counts in the trenches.