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Help us fight Texas’s omnibus anti-abortion bill

This afternoon, the Texas Senate will hold a hearing on a single omnibus bill that regulates abortion procedures and facilities to the point that only five clinics will exist in our state. We urge our followers and supporters to come out to the hearing at 3:45 in the Senate Chamber (floor 2 of the Texas Capitol, east wing). The hearing will likely last late into the evening, so although earlier is better, you can stop by at any time.

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Lilith Fund’s statement on the Texas omnibus anti-abortion bill

The provisions of this bill are extreme. A majority of Texans will not agree with this bill and will not support its passage. Only 15 percent of Texans are completely against abortion. In comparison, 81% of Texans, as recently as February 2013, said abortion should be legal in some or all cases. Even Texans who would never choose an abortion for themselves or their family understand that access to abortion is important – and would characterize this bill as extreme and hurtful.

Women who have an abortion do not do so lightly. No woman gets pregnant so she can have an abortion. Sometimes families end up needing to terminate a pregnancy when they never thought they would.

Abortion doesn’t just happen. When abortion occurs, it is part of a woman’s health history across her entire lifespan. During her lifetime, she may go through parenthood, abortion, adoption, miscarriage, stillbirth or any other experience on the spectrum of reproduction. In fact, 61% of women who obtain abortions in the United States are already mothers, so when we talk about abortion we have to talk about families’ values and their plans and goals for themselves.

Most American families want two children. To achieve this, the average woman spends about five years of her life trying to get pregnant, actually pregnant, or immediately postpartum. But on average an American woman spends three quarters of the time she’s fertile and able to reproduce – about thirty years – trying to avoid unintended pregnancy.

Despite families’ best efforts, half of all pregnancies in the United States each year are unintended. This means – if unintended pregnancy keeps happening at current rates, more than half of American women will have an unintended pregnancy by age 45.

In Texas, 53% of all pregnancies were unintended in 2006. That was 309,000 pregnancies. Of all births in Texas in 2006, 45% – nearly half – resulted from unintended pregnancies. Unintended pregnancy has devastating economic consequences for our state. In 2006, the state government spent $507 million paying for births that resulted from unintended pregnancy.

And in 2008, family planning centers helped prevent 98,700 unintended pregnancies – saving the federal and state government $348.2 million in Medicaid costs for pregnancy care and newborn care. The state’s economic burden continues long after birth – unintended pregnancy costs the state, from increased crime and welfare participation to reduced high-school completion and labor force participation.

This omnibus abortion bill is also likely to be challenged in the courts, causing an enormous waste of valuable tax dollars and state resources. We have seen this in other states. North Dakota has already set aside $400,000 in taxpayer funds to defend legal challenges to the state’s unconstitutional abortion ban. It should be noted that North Dakota courts have already temporarily blocked the anti-abortion legislation. And this spring Kansas enacted legislation that effectively banned abortion in the state. The Kansas Attorney General’s Office spent over $1 million over the past two years to defend senseless, wasteful, and shameful anti-abortion legislation. Are Texas legislators and taxpayers prepared to spend the hundreds of thousands of dollars, if not millions of dollars, required to defend this legislation?

It is not just unintended pregnancies that end in abortion. Because of unforeseen circumstances, women also choose to terminate planned and very much wanted pregnancies. Regardless of her circumstances, when a woman is pregnant, she needs to have abortion as an option. Being denied abortion causes negative health and well-being outcomes for women, children and families.

Women who want an abortion but are ultimately unable to access it suffer negative consequences. Women denied abortion are three times as likely to end up below the federal poverty line two years later. Babies born out of unintended pregnancies are less likely to have good prenatal care and less likely to be breastfed – both of which lead to less successful outcomes throughout the child’s life. Marriages and cohabitation relationships are more likely to dissolve after an unintended first birth than after an intended first birth.

No matter what a woman’s circumstances are, politicians should not interfere with a her ability to make her own healthcare decisions. The decision to terminate a pregnancy is private and the state does not need to be involved in it.

This omnibus bill has extreme consequences. Because of its extremism, a majority of Texans will not support it. The bill will close all but 5 clinics in Texas. These clinics are located in Houston, Dallas, Austin and San Antonio. There will be no abortion providers west of I-35 in Texas.

Under this bill, the abortion pill, which is safe and rarely results in complications, will require a before and an after appointment with a doctor. Remember, there are only four cities where clinics will stay open, so women will be taking two long round trips. For example, a woman from the Rio Grande Valley will travel 1,000 miles – it’s 250 miles from Harlingen to San Antonio.

Moreover, since the pills used in a medication abortion can be purchased without prescription in Mexican pharmacies, Texas women will likely cross the border to buy the abortion pill and then self-induce an abortion at home. This will be much more affordable for them, even if it is less safe.

Under the omnibus anti-abortion bill, a doctor will be required to administer abortion medication. It is sufficient for a nurse practitioner to do this – and it can even be done via telemedicine; physician administration is unnecessary.

Additionally, for both surgical abortions and the abortion pill, doctors will face extreme regulation designed to put them out of business.

Lastly, under this bill, abortion after 20 weeks will be illegal. The bill states that women have adequate time to decide whether to have an abortion in the first 20 weeks – but that’s simply not true in every case.

The bottom line is this: this bill will make abortion harder to obtain and more expensive. As a result, we will see an increase in back-alley abortions, self-abortions, deaths among women seeking abortion, and unintended pregnancy carried to term – all of which directly create negative public health outcomes and a huge financial drain on the state of Texas. This is not what any of us want for our state, and for our women, children and families.

Join the REA Organizing Committee

The Lilith Fund is currently planning our Tenth Annual Reproductive Equity Awards (REA)! The REA is an appreciation event for our volunteers, donors and community partners and will take place in Austin in October.  

We are currently seeking volunteers interested in serving on the REA Organizing Committee. Time commitment required is 4-8 hours per month, June through October 2013. Planning meetings – some in person, some virtual – will be held every two weeks beginning in late June. We’re looking for people with skills or interest in event planning, sponsorships, fundraising, music and entertainment.

Contact info@lilithfund.org if you would like to join the REA Organizing Committee.

Seeking Spanish-speaking hotline volunteers

Did you know? As long as the Lilith Fund has been around, we have run a Spanish-language hotline for abortion patients who need help paying for their procedure.  And we are always looking for friendly and compassionate volunteers to help return our clients’ calls.

The Spanish-language hotline receives a lower volume of calls than the English-language hotline, about 4-6 calls per week.  Volunteers on the Spanish-language hotline are responsible for:

  • returning the approximately 4-6 weekly phone calls
  • talking callers through their funding options
  • providing referrals to other resources in the community when needed
  • granting funding vouchers to qualifying callers 

And don’t worry, we train you on all of this!  To help, all you need is a phone, internet access, and about 4 hours of free time during any given week.  Download our Spanish Language Hotline Volunteer job description here to see if this volunteer position is right for you.

Volunteer training is offered on a quarterly basis.  The next group training will be held on June 1, 2013 from noon to 4 p.m. in central Austin – further details will be announced to accepted applicants

To be accepted for training, please fill out our hotline volunteer application and email the completed form to kat@lilithfund.org.

Guest Post: Top Tips for Shaking People Down for the Cause

Andrea Greer is one of our top Houston fundraisers and blogs at nonsequiteuse. She wrote a helpful list to help bowlers reach, and exceed their goals.  She allowed us to cross-post this from her blog.

Thanks to the internet, we’re all fundraisers now. How can you stand out and make sure you bring in the big bucks?

Sisterhood Bowls Well

Here are some of the things I kept in mind while I rolled past my fundraising goal for this year’s Lilith Fund Bowl-a-Thon:

1. Give the first gift.
If you don’t believe in what you are doing enough to put your own cash on the line, why should anyone else? Not everyone likes to go first, and people are more likely to give once the pump has been primed, so put your money down at the start.

2. It’s about joy.
If you’re doing this for a cause, you are offering people the chance to invest in something they will enjoy supporting. They might believe in the cause and take joy in advancing it. They might believe in YOU, take joy in supporting you, and care nothing about the cause. Remember, you aren’t forcing someone to do something they don’t want to do. You’re creating an opportunity for them to feel great about taking part in something larger than themselves. Don’t be shy about creating opportunities for joy!

3. Ask early and often.
If you are using passive measures, like Facebook and Twitter posts, make sure you post often enough, and early enough, that people who check in at different times of day or on different days will see your messages. (If you wait until the last minute,  signal to people that you’re only going to be blanketing the airwaves only for the next 48 hours. Tell them you’ll stop posting and pinging once you hit your goal.)

4. Make’m say no to your face.
It is easy to ignore someone’s Facebook status. You can throw away a letter that comes in the mail. It is harder, however, to say no to someone when they call you on the phone to ask for help. And it is really hard to say no to someone’s face. If you are striking out in your passive asks and mass appeals, try asking people one on one. It may be hard, but you believe in what you are doing, right?

5. Don’t take no personally.
Well, I guess you can take it personally if someone says they would have given except for the fact that it is you asking. But otherwise, remember, it isn’t about you. The timing may not be right, or the cause may not be one that interests the person. Some highly organized people have a budget and stick to it, so they can’t accommodate your request.

6. Offer incentives IF you can do so without creating havoc.
Heed the example of Kickstarter—don’t offer an incentive that will cost you more (in time or money) to fulfill than you can handle.

7. You don’t need to offer incentives.
Don’t think that people are really going to give because of your incentive. Think about it. If you really needed a coffee mug or tote bag, you’d buy one. You wouldn’t wait for the public radio pledge drive. Sure, 1 time in 100, someone is giving for the incentive, and it can be a nice touch, but people give because they care about you and they care about the cause.

8. Say thank you.
As I type that, I am terrified that I did not acknowledge all of the donors to my most recent fundraising project. A quick thank you via email, a shout-out on Twitter, whatever form it takes, get on it. It makes the person feel appreciated, and it reminds other people that they, too, could give.

9. Make it easy for people to give.
Create a short-link to your fundraising page. Print some cards with your name & pitch & short-link that you can hand out to people when you talk to them about it. Have the page book-marked on your iPad so someone can give right then & there while you’re talking about it. Don’t make people hunt for the details.

10. Offer other ways to help.
If someone tells you they’d like to donate, but can’t, ask if they might post a link on their Facebook page, or RT you, or hand out your cards. Who knows who they know that you don’t?

Coming Out

Coming out as an Abortion Fundraiser
by Lilith Fund board member Sarah

Supporting the idea of abortion access is one thing. But asking friends to write a check to fund abortion? That feels like a pretty big step. As if talking about abortion wasn’t already one of the top three socially awkward topics of all time – now you want to talk about money?  Asking for money from friends is hard even with the most adorable causes (Puppies! DOESN’T EVERYONE LOVE PUPPIES?! Send Money!) But abortion… well that is a whole other cup of tea.  As one of my close friends said “I’m *fine* with the idea of abortion…but I’m really not comfortable writing a check…”

Here are the steps I use to raise money, not go crazy, and not alienate *too* many people (and if this alienates them, it probably wasn’t meant to be….)

1) Get your brave on.  Usually I start with my core group of progressive loonies.  You know who you are. The ones who leap out of their seats to help. They might not have ever heard about an abortion fund before, but they’ll always hit the picket line with you.  They might only be able to give $5, but they’ll give. This step builds a bit of your confidence, and lets you find your money-raising sea legs. Write a note from your heart – Why is it that you’re raising money for the Lilith Fund? Is it because you think that everyone deserves the right to make choices about their bodies? Maybe you or a close friend had an experience you want to share. Or maybe because you’re sick and tired of the slut-shaming.

2) You’ve raised some money! It is intoxicating! Take that momentum and go to town. Feeling super brave? Post on facebook or twitter. (I call this a filtering post. This is where all those far right acquaintances from elementary school unfriend me. :D Whoops.) Write a quick paragraph about why you’re bowling for abortion. If a public post seems too terrifying, target a slightly larger circle from your core group.  Old friends from college, people who you *suspect* might be supportive and probably won’t actively yell at you. Make the circle a little bigger than is comfortable and give people a chance to surprise you. They will. It is astounding.  One of my biggest donors this year was an old acquaintance from graduate school who I never would have targeted. He saw my facebook page, and gave. Those surprises are the best.

3) Here comes the hard part. Follow up. I KNOW. Isn’t that horrifying? Not only have you asked for money? YOU SHOULD ASK AGAIN. You know those endless emails you get from whatever group you signed a petition for that one time? You know why they send them? Because it works. Even if only one or two people follow up. You might have just caught someone sitting with their wallet open for something else. Or they meant to give the first time, but the baby cried and they got distracted. Give everyone another chance.

4) Celebrate your awesomeness.  Remember that every dollar you raise makes a big difference for the Lilith Fund, and for our clients. Do a little dance. You did great

5) Say thank you. You know your friends, so figure out how and when you want to thank them. Write a note, drop them an email, throw a party.  Let them know how fantastic it feels to support a good cause.

Thanks to all of you for raising money. Thanks to your hard work we’ve raised even more money than last year – money that goes directly to helping clients on our hotline every week.

Lilith Fund 2013 Bowl-a-Thons!

Lilith’s 4th annual 2013 Bowl-a-thon Fundraisers have begun! Sign up to bowl with us in Austin, San Antonio, and Houston.  

Along with our sister abortion funds nationwide, we’re raising money online for reproductive access and capping it all off with bowling parties in Austin, San Antonio and Houston in April. If you participated last year, you know the Bowl-A-Thons are a fundraiser like no other. In 2012, we raised over $23,000 for the Lilith Fund. Join us this year to help us beat our goal of $25,000!

Bowl-A-Thon FAQ:

*How do I participate?* 

To register as a team captain — all it takes is* 6* awesome people who like to bowl and care about reproductive justice. Each gutterball queen or king will commit to raise *$100* for the Lilith Fund. As a team captain, you will rally your team to be the best that they can be. Don’t worry, we’ll give you tips and tools to raise above and beyond. Think about it — I’m sure you know 4 people who would surely donate a mere $25, and just like that, you’ve met your goal!

*How will **my** awesomeness compare to the awesomeness of the other participants?*

We’re using a totally swank online fundraising system that promises to make your online tracking of donations super simple.

There is also a brand-new points system that we will use to award prizes to participants who collect them! You get points for captaining a team, logging into the website, raising money, and sharing your page with friends on Twitter, Facebook, and via email.

*What if I don’t have a team?*

Contact us at info@lilithfund.org and we will hook you up with teams looking for bowlers, and bowlers looking for teams. Think about all the awesome like-minded Hyde Strikers you could meet!

*What if I am an amateur bowler and not a bowling rock star?*

The best part is… Bowling is completely optional! Your team can choose not to bowl. You can come to the Bowl-a-Thon and cheer. You cheer for the bowlers. You cheer for prizes. You cheer for reproductive justice. You cheer, or just drink or consume delicious bowling alley enchiladas, it’s your call.

Other opportunities to support Lilith at events:

  • Help plan and host upcoming events and fundraisers

Whether it’s the annual Reproductive Equity Awards, house parties throughout Texas, or book signings featuring prominent authors, the Lilith Fund usually has an event in the works. We need volunteers to help with all aspects of organizing these events and fundraisers.

  • Host your own benefit event

We’ll happily support your house party, happy hour, Twitter fundraiser or other benefit event. Just let us know your plans and we’ll help ensure that your event is a success. Whether you collect $20 in lieu of birthday gifts or raise $2,000 at a giant neighborhood yard sale – every event helps!

Email info@lilithfund.org to get involved.

Read Amy Hagstrom Miller’s REA speech

Every year, the Lilith Fund honors a community partner demonstrating outstanding commitment to reproductive rights and abortion access.  In 2012, we honored Amy Hagstrom Miller, the Founder, President and CEO of the Whole Woman’s Health network, for her unfailing dedication to safe, affordable and stigma-free abortion access in Texas and beyond.  Here is an excerpt of her incredibly moving award acceptance speech:

For me, abortion care is a calling.

Sometimes I introduce myself as someone who works in women’s health, in other circles I say I am an abortion provider, but really, the business I see myself in is The Identity Examination Self Esteem Boosting Stigma Eradication business.

Abortion involves all the big things in life – sex, death, life, religion, family, money. Providing abortion gives me the opportunity to have heart-to-heart conversations about these things every single day. I get to sit with a woman as she examines what she believes – as she looks at what matters most to her. What are her intentions? What are her dreams? Abortion is a rite of passage for many women – it is often one of the first times where women take a look at the values that they have inherited from their family/church/culture/education and decide which ones are applicable or meaningful to them, and which ones are not.

As you know, in Texas we have endured more than our fair share of legislation targeting abortion providers. These laws are seldom in the true interest of the health and safety of women and are one of the most damaging products of abortion stigma. These regulations arise out of a political agenda designed to make abortion almost impossible for practitioners to provide and for women to access. They make false assumptions about a woman’s capacity to understand what it means to be pregnant,  and to make a sound moral choice on her own.

We know that women are the right and moral decision makers for the most fundamental of choices – whether or not to give birth and whether or not to parent. Throughout time women have made decisions to control their own fertility. Women have always had abortions. Sometimes the available choices are safe, sometimes they are not. With these greater restrictions we see women take matters into their own hands – we see street use of Cytotec – in fact we have seen women come to the clinic with an entire bottle of 50 pills inserted into their vagina. We hear about things like the baseball bat incident in Michigan – where a teenager asked her boyfriend to hit her with a baseball bat to induce a miscarriage so she could avoid the parental consent law. These incidents are the byproducts of legislative restrictions. This is what happens as a direct result of the silence and stigma around abortion in this country. Unsafe abortion is back.

Many Americans have no idea what abortion care providers go through on a daily basis to ensure that women have access to the care they deserve. The harassment we face is profound, and it is constant, like a slow rolling boil. The fact that it is tolerated by law enforcement and the general population is very directly related to abortion stigma.

We providers know about the continuum of violence – and that if the small infractions – like sign ordinances or trespassing – are not addressed quickly and formally by law enforcement then the anti abortion forces are empowered and they act out even more.

In the United States since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 there have been over 47 million women who have chosen to have safe, legal abortions. 38% of women, that is more than 1 out of 3,   in the USA will have an abortion by the age of 45. And nearly all those women have one or more loved one support them through their abortion. That is a lot of people.

So, why is stigma around abortion so successful? Why does the shame persist and silence pervade when so many people share the abortion experience?

Most of the time these 47 million women are silent. Most of the time the loved ones who helped them with their abortion don’t talk about it either. Most of the time abortion providers and workers are silent once they leave the clinic. In fact, the pro-choice majority is often silent.

Most of the people talking about abortion in our society are anti-abortion.

As abortion providers, we often feel and are looked at as the “radical fringe of the pro-choice movement” – even among our friends and supporters. In fact some of the most judgmental and stigma filled comments (therefore the ones that hurt the most) I have heard over the years are from people who claim to be supportive or pro-choice.

We providers do the “dirty work” of abortion – we deal with the blood and the fetuses, we handle the money, we deal with the emergencies – all the things pro-choice people don’t want to talk about and that the anti’s love.

When I talk about my work in the mainstream world people are often pretty quiet. Eventually, when they feel comfortable enough with me I am often asked, “so, why abortion care?” or “how can you do this work?” Even by supporters, by pro-choice people I see this question on their face or experience the silence or separation when I talk about providing abortions. When the theory of abortion rights collides with the messy medical and challenging emotional issues that bubble up in the reality of provision our movement is very challenged.  Fetuses, blood, emergencies are not glamorous. Neither is repeat abortion or sex selection abortion or regret after abortion or patients who worry about killing and murder.

I EXPEREINCE stigma all the time in my work; the hospital will not give privileges to our physicians, we can’t secure local back up doctors, we can’t get anyone to provide us with bottled water or replace our tile floors or replace our roof or resurface our parking lot.

I HEAR stigma everywhere:

“Abortion should be rare”
“Abortion is a tragedy”
“Abortion is only 3% of our budget”
“I am pro-choice but I’d never have an abortion”
“I am not like those other women”
“I don’t believe in abortion as birth control”

You may have heard these statements. You may have said these words yourselves. You may have thought these thoughts.

The reality is, however, that without us there is no choice. Without providers, the right to abortion is just an idea – it is just something on paper that means nothing to women in actuality.

So, what does it take to keep 47 million women and their loved ones silent? You have to spend millions of dollars to shame them – to tell them they are murderers over and over until they believe it themselves. And you must threaten and intimidate and ultimately murder those who provide them this care. For over 35 years abortion providers have been the buffer between the anti-abortion movement and the women who have abortions.  We have tried to protect women and shield them from the hostility of the antis as well as provide them with impeccable medical care. This is not working.

To me, eradicating stigma is the single most important thing we can do for abortion rights in this country and it is my life’s work.

I believe my work is to honor women. Making an abortion decision is a time when a woman acts with intention. When she chooses a path for her life and the direction she will travel. I want to NOTICE that moment of acting with intention and hold it up high for the woman to notice and to feel and own as hers. I invite her to experience her life as though she were in charge of it. There are many times in a woman’s life where “life happens to them” and abortion stands out as a time when I can support a woman to be the actor in her own life – the chooser – not a victim but an intentional, deliberate and ethical person choosing what is best for them.

Sitting with a woman as she examines her abortion decision provides me an opportunity to plant seeds that will change the world. I can invite a woman to look at her life differently than she may have before she came to my clinic. I have a moment to affirm that she is good, to affirm that she is moral and kind, and to affirm that she is not selfish. I can witness her dreams and her desires and affirm that she is put on this Earth to see them out and to act on her own gifts, not just to receive the lot that has been dealt to her. I have an opportunity to shine some light on her situation and turn on a light bulb or two in her thinking – especially about what is possible, what she is capable of, etc.

Whole Woman’s Health clinics offer an oasis from the stigma and shame surrounding abortion in our culture, from the voices and the judgments of others that often make it difficult to sit quietly and contemplate a big decision.

The opportunity to invite women to accept themselves and to live out their dreams is a byproduct of abortion care to some people, but to me it IS abortion care. I can make a contribution that matters – I can truly change the world one woman at a time, simply by sitting next to a woman, listening to her story, witnessing her experience and gently nudging her to be all that she can be.

This changes the world.

And this is why I provide abortions.