In a 2017 survey – long before COVID-19 made socially distanced medical care a national necessity – abortion funds ranked “increasing access to medication abortion” as their second highest policy priority, right after “repealing the Hyde Amendment”.
NNAF’s inaugural Policy Cohort grew from the seeds of that survey. Offered for the first time in 2018, this pilot program supports abortion funds and NNAF individual members as they further develop their leadership in the policy arena. In the words of Policy Cohort member-leader Danielle Brewster, of Women in Need-California, “We want to do policy work that doesn’t leave our communities behind.”
Twenty-two member-leaders from nine states joined the first cohort. Participants brought their on-the-ground organizing expertise and deep knowledge of their communities; NNAF staff offered support in the form of coaching calls, convenings, and shared resources.
Over two years, initial ideas blossomed into collaborative projects. For example, Northwest Abortion Access Fund developed a zine describing the typical process for accessing a medication abortion in Idaho. Chicago Abortion Fund is developing educational resources around self-managed abortion for their website. Carolina Abortion Fund, with leadership from an individual member, is crafting self-managed abortion trainings and soundbath healing sessions for volunteers. Each project was developed with a specific audience in mind: neighbors, family members, friends, loved ones. Some plans have shifted in light of the pandemic, but the need for this work has only increased. The factors that made access to medication abortion a priority in 2017—lack of paid sick leave, childcare and shift work schedules, privacy in abusive situations, inability to go to multiple state-ordered appointments in a clinic—have been exacerbated by the global pandemic. Ongoing support from cohort members, the NNAF Policy Team, and individual donors like you means that this work will continue and evolve to meet community needs.
Policy Work that Centers Communities, not Compromise
The Policy Cohort model is part of NNAF’s commitment to a political and cultural agenda guided by abortion funds and callers. After years of confronting – and conquering – callers’ legal, financial, and logistical barriers, funds have deep expertise and sharp analysis to offer when it comes to expanding access to abortion. Decades of compromise and middle ground laws have not moved us closer to our goal of abortion without hassle or hustle, stigma or shame. Now is the time to act boldly, centering those most affected by barriers to abortion.
Read more about medication abortion here: https://sandbox.abortionfunds.org/medication-abortion/
Read more from the 2020 Fall Newsletter here.