Trinity Progressives, women and gender studies department talk reproductive justice


illustration by Andrea Nebhut

Trinity Progressives (T-Prog) hosted “Reproductive Justice 101” on Feb. 20, as the club addresses reproductive health, access and justice. About 20 people attended the discussion, which was co-sponsored by the women and gender studies (WAGS) department.

The event primarily focused on the Lilith Fund, a volunteer organization founded in 2001 that funds abortions, advocates for social change and provides information to those in need.

Maddie Kennedy, junior co-president of T-Prog, introduced the Lilith Fund. Three representatives from the group — Holly Benavides, Erin Madden and Misty Garcia — started the event off with a presentation addressing reproductive justice.

They explained that the Lilith Fund is part of the national network of abortion funds, one of several in Texas, alongside the Texas Equal Access Fund, West Fund and Frontera Fund. These organizations provide support to those seeking additional resources when attempting to access abortion facilities.

“Practical support is really important because if you can’t get to the clinic, then what point is there in having a choice,” Benavides said. “If you’re a poor woman or person and don’t have a reliable car or vehicle, that makes it really difficult to get an abortion.”

Support networks and access are specifically issues in Texas. In the past decade, the number of clinics available in the state has drastically decreased. According to the group, there were 40 available locations in July 2013, but that number had dropped to six clinics by September 2014.

Madden explained this has been the result of Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws, which created restrictions on the medical practices and practitioners in an attempt to shut down locations across the state.

In addition to geographic barriers, Benavides explained that women in need often experience economic obstacles. Federal funds cannot go towards funding abortions, and most insurance companies also won’t cover them, making it an even more difficult process for those in poor economic circumstances.

“In the first trimester, abortions tend to cost $550, and then that number drastically increases,” Garcia said. “Access is a lot of it because if they don’t have that $550 right away, then that can delay it.”

Most of the late-term abortions that the Lilith Fund sees occur primarily because of health-related or medical reasons. The members presented two letters that had been addressed to the organization about people who had struggled with finding the resources to receive a late-term abortion due to medical circumstances.

In the face of these regulations, the representatives noted the importance of organizations like theirs that attempt to provide information and access to those in need.

“[The Lilith Fund is] mostly grassroots funded, so that means we get a lot of small donations — under $50 is where most of our donations come from,” Benavides said. “And then grants — there are a lot of organization out there that want to secretly fund [us].”

In addition to providing information and access to women seeking abortions, the Lilith Fund also supports education initiatives aimed at policy makers and schools. Part of the reason for this is that the organization supports reproductive health and reproductive justice. Benavides explained the difference.

“When you think of Planned Parenthood, and you think of where I could get birth control, where I could get a pap — that’s what reproductive health is. Reproductive rights are where your legal rights fit in. Think about your legal right to chose,” Benavides said. “[Reproductive justice] takes into account the larger social forces.”

As the group had mentioned earlier in its discussion of practical support, reproductive justice focused on what prevents people from getting an abortion. This includes addressing geographic obstacles, such as transportation, as well as representation in reproductive legislation, specifically for people of color.

“Reproductive justice is responding to reproductive oppression and its history with race and class,” Madden said. “It focuses on when the choices that people want are taken away from them.”

Examples include the history of sterilization of Native Americans, deportation and immigration laws that have broken up families and the lack of LGBTQ+ competency in sex education.

Following the group’s presentation, Lilith Fund representatives passed out a handout outlining reproductive health access scenarios and asked attendees to think about the support, resources, barriers and actions involved in obtaining abortions.

The cases offered were examined, participants identified lack of monetary resources, inadequate information, transportation, social support, stigma and insufficient policy and insurance measures as barriers to reproductive health.

For those interested in supporting this organization, Lilith Fund will be hosting an online fundraiser, called Roll-A-Thon, that all are invited to participate in.

“In case you were wondering how to help Lilith Fund, the biggest thing is giving us money. … This is a significant fundraiser every year,” Garcia said. “Everyone gets a page. After you raise $100, you come out to a rollerskating party.”

In addition to supporting their case for equal access, the group also stressed that simply posting information about and participating in fundraisers is a big step towards normalizing abortion. Talking about this issue publicly can help spur activism in your own social networks.

After the event, Kennedy reflected on the importance of contributing to local organizations such as RAICES, Fiesta Youth and THRIVE, other social-justice oriented groups mentioned throughout the discussion.

“A lot of time Trinity students hold very strong principles, and principles are great, and talking about those principles is also great, but in San Antonio especially there are a lot of organizations that really do the work,” Kennedy said. “I think it’s really important if you have progressive principles that you find ways to make those into concrete action.”