This year I signed up to raise funds and bowl on team Strike Hyde & Bowl along with many other feminists at the 4th Annual New York Abortion Access Bowl-a-Thon. Amid debates over policies restricting and stigmatizing abortion access, abortion funds work to keep this legal medical procedure available to women.
Abortion is one of the most common surgical procedures in the U.S. but incredible challenges restrict access to this service in some parts of the country. The second highest reason for abortions after 16 weeks is difficulty with making arrangements for abortion (48%). As states such as North Dakota continue to make abortion even more difficult to obtain, women will be forced to cross state lines at later stages in their abortion and at a higher cost both financially and emotionally. Six in 10 women having abortions are already mothers.
The New York Abortion Access Fund (NYAAF) is one of over 100 abortion funds across the country working to provide funds directly to clinics on behalf of individuals in need of financial assistance for an abortion. As the fund explains, "New York City is a major destination for many people across the country seeking abortions for a number of reasons. Some people find that abortion is more affordable in NYC than in their home states, others come from areas where there are no abortion providers at all, and others come because they may be able to have procedures done in later stages of pregnancy." This year NYAAF is aiming to raise $100,000 to fund abortions in New York through the bowl-a-thon.
The international human rights community has responded to abortion restrictions and spoken out against the significant harm caused to those marginalized by this gender-based discrimination. In February of 2013 UN Special Rapporteur Juan E. Mendez reported to the Human Rights Council, "The Committee against Torture has repeatedly expressed concerns about restrictions on access to abortion and about absolute bans on abortion as violating the prohibition of torture and ill-treatment." The committee continues in their report, "For many rape survivors, access to a safe abortion procedure is made virtually impossible by a maze of administrative hurdles, and by official negligence and obstruction."
Across the country abortion access funds work to fill gaps in resources available for women who, despite a legal right, are unable to access reproductive health care they need. It's important to note the lowest abortion rates in the world are in Europe where abortion is safe and legal.
I'm raising money for NYAAF because the all-volunteer organization is providing a necessary service for New Yorkers and those coming to New York unable to pay fully for an abortion on their own. But the responsibility to provide reproductive health care services shouldn’t fall on the shoulders of men and women willing and able to fundraise in their free time. Abortion funds such as NYAFF highlight a troubling failure in our health care system. American women deserve their legal and human right to accessible and affordable abortion services.