Story URL: http://news.medill.northwestern.edu/chicago/news.aspx?id=153926
Story Retrieval Date: 5/23/2013 11:40:24 PM CST
Abortion rights advocates and anti-abortion groups rarely agree on anything. But one Chicago abortion funder has incorporated into its program an element of its opponents’ approach.
The Chicago Abortion Fund has taken steps to provide emotional and educational support to women after they have received abortions.
“The pro-life side is good at putting out the message of supporting women,”
said Gaylon Alcaraz, executive director
of the Chicago Abortion Fund. She said her group’s resources give it leverage
to defend its controversial efforts.
Like many abortion rights advocacy groups, the fund assists low-income women in finding and funding safe abortion services. Three years ago the group added an advocacy component rare among abortion funders that emulates anti-abortion outreach services by educating women and providing emotional support.
“We bring the women that we’ve funded back to the organization and engage
them so they can go back out into their communities and advocate for
reproductive justice,” Alcaraz said.
“My Voice, My Choice,” launched in 2007, is a leadership group that provides training on birth control, domestic violence, emotional health and mental health.
“Most of the women we fund already have two children and are between 17 and 26 years-old,” Alcaraz said. Due to a lack of resources available to low-income communities – services and education that might prevent unwanted pregnancies – her organization offers support after the procedure.
“When you live in depressed, marginalized communities, the access to
resourceful information that is affordable is rare,” she said.
“Giving them the resources – plus a bus pass to get to the meetings and food so they can bring their kids and eat – engages the women that we say we support,” Alcaraz said. “We take [the women] to lobbies and they help us with clinic defense."
Faith-based groups and anti-abortion advocates like the Pro-Life Action
League have long provided support networks to pregnant women considering
abortion. They provide “handbooks of local pregnancy resources and get them
help,” said Eric Scheidler, the organization’s executive director.
Scheidler said women who choose to abort pregnancies suffer long-term effects. “It is unjust and ultimately harms the young mother,” he said.
“[Anti-abortion activists’] definition of emotional support may not be the same thing as ours,” said Steve Trombley, president of Planned Parenthood/Chicago Area. “They convince women they’ve done something wrong and need to be saved and use them as props in a campaign to prevent access to abortion services.”
Tension is particularly high among these groups as Congress reconciles health care proposals, which include amendments regarding abortion services.
“This piece of legislation will radically change the status quo,” Scheidler said.
Ensuring that women have choices is “reproductive justice,” Alcaraz said, or “the ability for women and girls to make sound and healthy decisions regarding their bodies and lives without restrictions and without punishment.”