Sexual Rights Activist Breaks Down Abortion Barriers

 “Who in here has an extra $500 dollars for an emergency? Raise your hand if you do.”

The audience waited. Nobody raised their hand.

“An abortion can cost between $500-700 in the first trimester. It goes up as the pregnancy goes on,” guest speaker Yamani Hernandez said. “And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

Hernandez, who spoke to a group of students at Pomona College on Tuesday, Feb. 28, is the executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, a network which helps low-income women remove financial and logistical barriers to abortion access.

The organization provides help with medical costs and offers transportation, safety escorts, and emotional support throughout the abortion process.  The network values intersectionality, compassion, autonomy, and collective power, and believes that people should be able to determine whether and when to have children, according to Hernandez.

“Part of the reason we have trouble talking about abortion is because we have trouble talking about sex,” Hernandez said. “Because of this, we often talk about abortion in a two-dimensional perspective. We consider cost, or whether it’s legal or moral. But we don’t take into consideration the complexity of what it actually takes for people to access care.”

From the moment someone finds out that they’re pregnant, depending on where they live, they might already face legal challenges, Hernandez said. The recent Ohio case, where the court tried to pass a six-week ban on abortion, “was actually a case of bait and switch,” she added.

“The six-week ban seemed inhumane, so they changed it to 20 weeks, which made it seem humane. But it’s not humane,” Hernandez said. “If you can’t afford your procedure from the moment you’re pregnant, the clock is ticking. It takes a while to raise the money you need … If you’re not prepared for that kind of expense, you’re probably not prepared for 18-20 years of expenses related to raising a family.”

The realities are that many people, especially those who are undocumented or low-income, face significant challenges when it comes to accessing abortion care. These challenges not only include the cost of the procedure, but also the legal paperwork, parental or judicial obstacles, and access to transportation, as not everyone can afford to travel out of state to have an abortion.

The network is a grassroots organization which is mostly volunteer-run, has offices across the country, and is currently in 38 states, as well as Ireland and Mexico. On their political side, they hope to repeal the Hyde Amendment, which prevents public insurers from covering abortion costs, end the criminalization of abortion, and repeal parental laws which prevent people under the age of 18 from getting an abortion without parental consent, among other things.

Laura Trost PZ ’19 said she particularly enjoyed “how Hernandez talked about the issue in a multidimensional context; it’s not all black and white.”

In an interview with TSL, Hernandez talked about how her drive to become an abortion activist began with an emotional encounter with a young girl in 2006.

“I was working with a 14-year-old girl who already had a baby. She found out she was pregnant again, so she tried to hire a bunch of students to beat her up so that she would miscarriage. She said it was easier to explain getting beat up than to have an abortion. It was life-changing to know that at that time people still felt that way about abortion. And nowadays, it seems like little has changed,” she said.

She also expressed how she hoped that the conversation about abortion would normalize with time.

“It’s a part of life, it’s part of sexual health; people should not be afraid to talk about it,” Hernandez said.

She hopes that students will get involved, even if not professionally.

“Volunteer. Fundraise. Call your senators. Be proactive,” she said. “The reality is that seven out of 10 Americans believe that no matter where you live you should be able to get abortion care. Don’t let the vocal minority win.”

To find out more, visit the network's website at abortionfunds.org.

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