Once again, abortion access was on the ballot across the nation, and once again our country is left with an ever increasing divide of whose rights are protected and whose are not. As abortion funders, each election leaves us with more work to build a safety net for people seeking abortion and filling the gap in providing and funding access where the government falls short.
In West Virginia, voters passed a constitutional amendment denying the right to an abortion, leaving West Virginians enrolled in Medicaid and other state health insurance programs without protection to their rights to use their insurance to cover their abortion care. Similarly, in Alabama, voters approved rights for embryos which would ban abortion, could criminalize miscarriage, and could impact everyone’s access to in vitro fertilization (IVF), emergency contraception, and intrauterine devices (IUDs). In a win for strong organizing and political education campaigns, , voters in Oregon overwhelmingly voted to protect public funding for abortion care, including for undocumented immigrants.
Yamani Hernandez, Executive Director of the National Network of Abortion Funds:
The National Network of Abortion Funds recognizes the critical role elections play as an intervention in harmful policies that impact the people who live and work in this country. We celebrate the many victories that will help shape a progressive future and better reflect the full range of our identities and communities. We also share the disappointment and frustration of many of our communities across the country of where the democratic process has fallen short.
We know that elections are just one way that we can move the United States in a direction where we all have our human rights recognized and affirmed. We remain committed to the critical work of community organizing and direct service work no matter the political climate. We know that the work of abortion funds continues to be critical as long as accessing the right to an abortion depends on where you live and how much money you make. We work toward a world where no one is left behind.
The passage of the Alabama and West Virginia constitutional amendments leaves abortion vulnerable to far-right attacks and potential total criminalization in states where legislators have spoken frankly about their goals of prohibiting abortion. It is imperative that we come together to invest in abortion funds in these states, as well as the Southern and Midwestern funds that face similarly unrelenting threats to abortion access in their landscapes. In this moment we need to engage in the critical work of building and supporting the sustainability of abortion funds in states where abortion is ruthlessly and recklessly targeted while ensuring we are funding abortion in states that recognize the importance of accessible abortion. We must also commit to holistically fund travel, lodging, and all of the auxiliary costs that often prevent people from accessing abortion when they must leave home to cross state lines. Community support must be both deep and wide.
Amanda Reyes, Yellowhammer Fund of Alabama:
This amendment was about more than just abortion, but abortion stigma allowed it to gain popular support. Prosecutors in the state of Alabama have manipulated the law to allow the policing of pregnant people, and this bill will make that practice even more widespread in a state with one of the highest maternal and infant mortality rates in the world. Additionally, the Republican super-majority in the Alabama legislature will take the passage of Amendment 2 as a sign that voters want abortion to be more heavily regulated. Yellowhammer Fund rejects the criminalization and the deliberate resource impoverishment of our poor and working-class, African-American, Latinx, immigrant, and LGBTQ communities. Today, we renew our commitment to fighting abortion stigma to ensure that all Alabamians are able to make autonomous and liberating decisions about their bodies, sexualities, families, and lives.”
Margaret Chapman Pomponio, CEO of WV Free:
WV FREE stands ready to fight to protect access to abortion for the people of West Virginia. While we did not prevail against Amendment One, we are incredibly proud of the work of the Vote No on One coalition. What a team! The opposition won this fight by less than four points. Four points. It was narrow because we worked hard: we contacted 200,000 unique voters across West Virginia, ran TV ads in three major markets and reached nearly 150,000 voters via mail. Our targeted digital campaign communicated with over 200,000 voters. A fight to the finish, we won in urban and rural areas alike. This result is not a mandate. In fact, it should tell the extremists in the legislature loudly and clearly that they should stop their relentless government overreach.
We at WV FREE are now hard at work raising $350,000 to cover the costs of abortion care due to the loss of Medicaid funding. The Choice Fund has been in operation for more than 25 years and people will need it now more than ever. We are calling on supporters around the state and across the country to help support Appalachian women in this new harsh landscape. We are already heartened by the response!
Chela Barajas, co-director of Holler Health Justice of West Virginia:
“The passing of the recent anti-abortion constitutional amendment in West Virginia will only further hurt West Virginians who are already hurting the most by making possible further restrictions on abortion access. With one of the highest rates of poverty in the country and only one remaining abortion clinic in the state, West Virginians already face great obstacles in obtaining health care. This is sadly just another attack on poor West Virginians.
Support abortion funds and independent abortion providers – they’re the ones who have been and will continue ensuring access to abortion care for all folks. Have conversations about abortion with your family and friends. When speaking about abortion, be mindful to use language that does not further stigmatize.”
Voters in Oregon rejected a similar attack on abortion access by voting against changing the Oregon constitution to prohibit public funds for abortion. It’s important that we also celebrate the victories where our access to abortion care is protected and voters reaffirm access to abortion care as a deeply held value.
Samantha Gladu, Northwest Abortion Access Fund:
Oregon led the way with love for freedom and love for each other, with our anti-abortion ballot measure being overwhelmingly defeated and garnering more votes than anything else on the ballot.
The No Cuts To Care: No on Measure 106 campaign was truly groundbreaking. We raised over $3 million dollars to share the message that abortion is healthcare. The campaign printed “defend abortion access” on lawn signs that are posted in neighborhoods where folks may have never talked openly about abortion to each other. Any app that we opened had an ad that affirmed abortion access regardless of race, class, or immigration status. The papers are talked about it. Artists lent their brilliance. We are proud of the huge and diverse coalition built to defeat this measure and thankful for campaign staff.
Because of some anti-abortion extremists, we were given the opportunity to have a statewide conversation about how abortion is healthcare. Oregonians have a 40+ year tradition of providing abortion care through Medicaid and defeating attempts to control people’s reproductive freedom and dreams. That tradition continues.
More than anything, the 2018 midterm elections showed us what can happen when collective power and grassroots organizing are employed as essential strategies to make our voices heard. Even up against blatant voter disenfranchisement, galvanizing white supremacy through racist ideology, and sub-par voting situations set up in the communities that most represent us, the power of the people was felt in many victories. On Tuesday, voters from around the U.S. elected the first Palestinian-American woman and first Muslim women to the U.S. House of Representatives. Two Native American women were elected for the first time to Congress despite rampant and egregious disenfranchisement of Indigenous people. Massachusetts and Connecticut elected two African American women to Congress for the first time, and Texas is sending its first Latina Representatives. A mother who lost her child to racist violence was elected in Georgia. These midterms saw the election of representatives of communities who have for far too long been underrepresented in our legislative bodies.
The election delivered a clear public demand for steps forward on issues critical for justice for all. We are gratified that voters chose to raise minimum wages and expand Medicaid coverage in several states as we know there is no true reproductive justice without economic justice, and these measures will make a tangible difference in the lives of individuals and families. Election night brought stronger protections for the rights of transgender people in several states, acknowledging and rebuking the intersecting discriminations and elevated danger that makes the lives of many transgender and gender nonbinary people less safe and secure. And in many states, we see the victories of many people of color who ran on strong, grassroots platforms for reform and abolition of prison and court systems that unfairly target members of their communities. We see that organizing at the intersections of racial justice, economic justice, and reproductive justice works, and delivers real progress.
At the National Network of Abortion Funds, we commit to continuing in the struggle alongside so many who are targeted by discriminatory systems of injustice. We will hold elected officials of all parties accountable when they use our bodies as collateral damage to pass laws. We will leave no one behind, especially those people who are in the most danger, because we believe no one is expendable. Join this movement to fund abortion and build power with us today, and help fight for a more just future for us all.