Spring 2005
The Quarterly E-Newsletter of ACCESS

Dear Friend,
President's Day is right around the corner, and this year President Bush plans to celebrate by reducing funding for much-needed social programs--especially those related to health, women, and family planning.

On this President's Day, we're asking you to send Bush a message--he's not giving women and children everywhere the resources they need, but you will!

Support reproductive freedom, access to health care, and abortion rights with a donation to ACCESS! Your donations will do the job that our president and government aren't doing--providing women and men with accurate and respectful information, referrals, support, and advocacy on all of their sexual and reproductive health care needs.

So, what's the president doing with your money?

  • Abstinence-Only Education could receive $206 million/year under Bush's proposed budget
  • Prohibitions on funding needed for family planning and HIV/AIDS services abroad are being expanded under the Global Gag Rule
  • A funding "freeze" has been placed on Title X family planning services in the U.S.

For every contribution we receive over the next few weeks, ACCESS will send the president a postcard on your behalf with a loud and clear message:

Mr. President--
My money is going towards reproductive freedom, access to health care, and abortion rights because you're not giving women the resources they deserve!

We hope you enjoy this month's e-newsletter, and thank you for supporting ACCESS!

Click here to make an on-line donation...

Reflections on Roe
Volunteer Voices
Choose to Act
Making Choice a Reality...Haciendo Realidad La Opcion
Choose to Shop

Reflections on Roe & the future of reproductive choice
By (Jennifer) Parker
On Saturday, January 22nd, the 32nd anniversary of Roe v. Wade, anti-abortion groups organized a 'Walk for Life' in San Francisco to demonstrate against legal abortion. Emboldened by the current political climate - the unapologetic attacks on women and reproductive rights by our federal government, and the weak-kneed (if any) response from moderates and progressives - these anti-abortion, anti-gay, anti-women's rights groups decided to bring their 'no- choice' message to the virtual capitol of progressive values, our own City of San Francisco.

Aware of the challenges inherent in coming to San Francisco, the anti-choicers did their best to present a moderate image. Marchers were told to leave their traditional gory signs and baby-killer rhetoric at home, instead focusing on the message that 'abortion hurts women' and 'women deserve better' than abortion.

Outraged by the boldness of the antis and the deceitful messages of the Walk for Life, a diverse coalition of more than 35 progressive groups came together to mobilize a response and counter- demonstration. Our goal was to show in no uncertain terms that the Bay Area is pro-choice and will defend the right of every woman to make her own choices about pregnancy, birth control and abortion. In a show of support for the SF Area Pro-Choice Coalition, the cities of San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley all passed resolutions establishing official positions that their municipalities are pro-choice and commemorating January 22, 2005 as Stand Up For Choice Day.

With the exception of some serious eyeballing and competitive chanting of slogans, the event was largely peaceful and non-confrontational - not that you would know it from the news coverage! The San Francisco Chronicle presented a distorted and stereotypical picture of the event, choosing to run only one photo of the pro-choice side - an image of a woman being arrested - and failed to mention that she was arrested just for trying to cross the street during the anti's march. Fortunately, many of the pro- choice marchers (including our own board member Jerrie Meadows) wrote great letters to the editor chastising The Chronicle for its inaccurate reporting.

Now Roe is over for another year, and while the rest of the world all but forgets about the abortion issue, we are left to reflect on what lies ahead for the reproductive rights movement. Perhaps our most important challenge is to find a way to counter the anti's very savvy messages and learn to talk about why abortion is a positive option for women. In particular, we must find a better way to support women who have abortions and allow them to voice their feelings in all their complexity, while still validating abortion as a responsible, moral and valid choice, and a right that is fundamental to ensuring women's freedom and self-determination as human beings.

It is no accident that the antis have begun using warm and fuzzy messages focused on how abortion is 'bad' for women rather than how it is 'wrong'. They know that the majority of people in the United States believe women should have the right to safe and legal abortion, but that many people also have ambivalence about abortion and see it is as something of a necessary evil. By appealing to this ambivalence, and by manipulating the emotions of women who have struggled with their own decision to have an abortion, the antis deflect attention away from their real agenda - taking away women's right to make our own choices and imposing a particular set of moral and religious beliefs on all of us.

Unfortunately, the antis are also able to take advantage of some of the gaps left by the mainstream pro-choice movement. Feminists for Life, for example, asserts that women would not be 'forced' to choose abortion if they had adequate economic and social support for becoming mothers. This argument resonates with many people, especially when they have not always seen pro-choice groups taking a stand for prenatal care, welfare rights, a living wage, child care and other pro-motherhood issues. We have to walk the talk and make sure we are active and visible in supporting the full range of reproductive choices for every woman.

We also need to defend having an abortion as a decision that every woman has the right to make, based on whatever reasons and values are most important to her. Of course it is true that no woman should feel she must have an abortion purely because she does not have the financial resources to support a child. But it is equally true that no woman should feel she must have a child simply because she has the financial means to do so. Unless, like Feminists for Life, you believe that the primary purpose and aspiration of women is to become mothers, then you know that even under the best circumstances, there will always be women who get pregnant when they are not ready or willing to have a baby.

In an imperfect and often unjust world, having options is good, even when those options are difficult. Women make difficult, complex decisions all the time, and to imply that we cannot be trusted to make our own decisions about abortion is nothing less than an insult. Yes, it is hard to take responsibility for our life decisions. Ambivalence and doubt are the natural consequences of freedom, and many of us would prefer that someone or something else just tell us what to do and take the burden of free will off our shoulders. But be careful what you wish for, because there are some scary folks out there just waiting for the chance.

Volunteer Voices
Three Volunteers Talk About Their Experiences
My Small Part By Mary Jane Weatherbee, Practical Support Volunteer

I have been a practical support volunteer for about two years. I came to ACCESS after being frustrated with my attempts to volunteer with other more mainstream reproductive rights organizations. They were unresponsive to my efforts, or I would go through the whole process of signing up, only to have them decide they weren't taking any new volunteers. Being your basic lefty, I really liked the direct action aspect of practical support, and that is what attracted me to ACCESS.

I have been interested in reproductive rights since I was in high school, almost 20 years ago. I saw plenty of my friends struggle with getting to a clinic and keeping it secret. In my Catholic high school, one friend got caught skipping school to get an abortion and was forced to apologize to her parents and the nuns. In college, I learned about the Jane collective, and heard lots of stories from professors about their experiences seeking illegal abortions.

As a practical support volunteer, basically what I do is meet the women at the clinic or hospital and take them home after their abortion appointment. These women have ranged from professional women to teenagers to homeless women. Sometimes unexpected things come up, like the time the client had her children with her at the clinic and I wasn't expecting it. That day, I took all 4 of them back to the homeless shelter they were staying at, and cried most of the way home. Another client had prepared a bouquet of flowers from her garden to say thanks. Okay, I cried then too! I really love to do it. I like being able to help these folks do what they need to do, and be a friendly face to them. It seems like often we are the only people who know what they are going through.

The staff at ACCESS is really great. I deal most often with Alma, who is always so warm and sweet. The one time I complained about the difficult person I had given a ride to, I got a thank you card and note signed by the whole staff. I also particularly enjoyed this year's Open House, where I got all sorts of strokes and a bag of gifts, along with being the lucky recipient of one of the door prizes. At the Open House, Alma was showing me the map of where abortion providers are in California and it was so depressing. I am afraid these services are just going away, and today I saw that 'Jane Roe' is asking to have Roe V. Wade reconsidered. Unfortunately, the kind of services ACCESS provides seems to be getting more necessary, not less. I am happy to be a small part of people who are working to make this right truly available.

On Board With ACCESS By Ellen Schwerin, Board Member

When I called my friend K [Kaufmann, former ACCESS board member and author of The Abortion Handbook] to ask about volunteer opportunities at ACCESS, I never thought I'd be asked to apply to be a board member. I had taken some time off work to reflect on what was important to me and kept coming back to my desire for more pro-choice volunteer work. I had been volunteering at a Planned Parenthood clinic as a pregnancy testing and options counselor, and I thought I could do something similar or help with office work at ACCESS. But when K suggested I apply to join the board, I was surprised - it never occurred to me that someone under 40 years old who had to work for a living could do that!

What I learned is that the ACCESS board welcomes all kinds of people with all kinds of talents and contributions to offer, so long as they are passionate about reproductive freedom and willing to work hard for the success of the organization. After going through an important but relatively painless application process (filling out a detailed questionnaire, interviewing with Parker and board members), it became clear to me that I had a lot to offer a board - this board - and that I wanted to do whatever I could to help such a great organization.

Now, after being on the board for a year and a half, I can easily say it's one of the best decisions I've made (especially since I went back to work full time and can no longer volunteer during work days). I've learned so much about what it takes to run a successful nonprofit: a kick ass staff, a dedicated and diverse board, flexibility, and fundraising, fundraising, fundraising! As a board member, I'm directly involved in strategic planning, financial management, governance, public relations, and of course, fundraising. Not only am I helping to keep such an amazing, necessary organization alive and kicking, but I've gotten so much out of the experience, the least of which is the confidence to talk to complete strangers about my passion for ACCESS.

Volunteering as a board member is something that I would recommend in a heartbeat, especially for people who already know and love ACCESS (this means you!) and are looking for a way to give back to the pro-choice community. And wouldn't you know - the ACCESS board is currently looking for additional members! Right now we are especially interested in people with financial skills, nonprofit legal expertise and/or previous experience serving on a nonprofit board. Our bylaws require the board to be majority women of color and diverse in age, so we encourage women of color and folks under 25 or over 45 to consider applying. And as a practical consideration, you must be able to attend monthly meetings in Oakland or San Francisco.

If you're interested in more information about how to join me and the other fantastic volunteers on the board, please just drop us a line here at ACCESS! Or come see us in person at The Volunteer Center's Board Match event on Tuesday, March 1st in San Francisco's Yerba Buena Center for the Arts from 5- 7:30pm!

Ellen Schwerin is currently acting Secretary on the ACCESS Board of Directors and an oncology clinical trial coordinator at Genentech, Inc. She dedicates her volunteer efforts to her mother, Susan L. Stone, an original Jane member in Chicago during the 1970's.

Life On the Line By Janet O'Connor, Hotline Intern

I began working at ACCESS in the summer of 2004. I had returned to college to finish my BA in Hispanic Studies after my marriage of 18 years ended. I was having a difficult time trying to figure out what my next best step was in terms of getting on with my life-my kids were getting older, one was off to college, and they needed less of my time. Although I had no problem filling my day with activities that interested me, a feeling to be of service to others in need continued to nag me. And that's where ACCESS comes in.

One of the more gratifying experiences I have had as an intern at ACCESS is the appreciation expressed by many of the people who call the hotline. By the time a caller reaches the hotline they have sometimes been given wrong information, misinformation or misleading phone numbers. They have waded through seemingly endless phone menus looking for help. Oftentimes, women that call the hotline will express their fears and worries over whatever situation they are in. But by taking the extra time to listen to and validate callers' concerns, some of their fear and uncertainty begins to melt away - the ease of their anxiety can be heard in their voice. The sense of relief a caller gets once she realizes that we are here to offer information and support, not manipulation and judgment, is amazingly fulfilling for me as a hotline worker. And whatever information I can offer that is accurate and unbiased helps to curb the continued erosion that the women's health rights movement continues to suffer in our country today.

The women calling the hotline have given me many blessings - I've learned to listen with a little more open-mindedness, whereas before I may have been quicker to judge. As the mother of three children (two daughters and a son), I am reminded on a daily basis that we are all part of a whole-and although my family has been blessed with a certain economic advantage, I am keenly aware that many others have not. My children are proud of the work that I do and listen with great concern and interest when I talk about my day. The admiration and respect of my kids and the appreciation expressed by them makes the time I dedicate to ACCESS completely worthwhile.

Choose to Act--
Volunteer with ACCESS!
Are you hoping to give more of your time to support an important issue or cause in 2005? Well, consider impacting women's access to sexual and reproductive health care by volunteering with ACCESS! Every month ACCESS gives out information, referrals, counseling or practical support to almost 200 women. This work could not be done without the important help of our volunteers.

You can help make sure that women everywhere will always have information and support for their decisions by joining ACCESS as a volunteer in one of the following ways:

- Join the Practical Support Network! When transportation, housing, childcare or translation mean the difference between obtaining an abortion or carrying out an unwanted pregnancy, volunteers step in to give women the practical support they need to obtain their abortions without delay. Practical Support volunteers live throughout Northern and Central California, and provide practical support when they are able to do so. We are especially in need of additional volunteers in the Sacramento, South Bay (esp. San Jose!), and San Francisco areas, and are always looking for bilingual volunteers!

- Work on the hotline! Interns who answer calls to our hotline learn new skills, become familiar with a range of reproductive health issues, and help other women with their reproductive health care needs. Training is provided, and no former experience is needed. If you can work in our office in Oakland 8-10 hours per week and can commit to interning for at least 3 months, consider working on the hotline!

- Become a board member! By joining the ACCESS Board, you can contribute your professional expertise to help shape the direction and leadership of the organization. Currently, ACCESS is in need of volunteers with previous nonprofit Board experience, public relations or media skills, financial management skills, enthusiasm for raising money from individuals, and familiarity with reproductive health care and freedom issues. And since we strive to represent the diversity of the communities we serve, women of color, women from rural areas, and young women are especially welcome!

- Donate a special skill or talent! ACCESS could use your expertise to improve our web site and brochures, plan events, and help with fundraising activities. If you are a graphic or web designer, event planner or professional fundraiser, contact us about any of our special projects!

For more information, or to request a volunteer application, email us at
volunteering@whrc- access.org.

Making Choice A Reality...
...Haciendo Realidad La Opcion
"Marco" called the Spanish hotline asking about the "morning-after pill" (emergency contraception or EC) for his girlfriend. When Alma began to describe how EC works, Marco explained that he already knew how EC works-he had heard Alma talking about EC on a Spanish-language radio program one morning and he just wanted to have EC on hand in case he and his girlfriend needed it one day! Alma told him about the state insurance program called FamilyPACT, which covers emergency contraception and other reproductive health services, and gave him referrals to clinics. She also encouraged Marco to give the hotline number to his girlfriend so she could call with any questions of her own.

"Marco" llamo a la linea directa de espanol para averiguar donde podia conseguir las PAE (pildora de anticoncepcion de emergencia) para su novia en caso de un dia necesitarlas! Alma le explico que las PAE son un metodo seguro y eficaz para evitar el embarazo si se usan dentro de las 120 horas despues de haber tenido relaciones sexuales sin proteccion o cuando el metodo regular ha fallado; Marco ya habia escuchado sobre estas en un programa radial donde Alma hablaba de ese tema. Se le explico sobre Family PACT - programa estatal que ofrece los servicios de planificacion familiar incluyendo las PAE y tambien se le refirio a clinicas; asi mismo Alma le invito a que su novia llamara por si tenia cualquier pregunta.

Eighteen-year old "Sunita" was 8 months pregnant when she talked to Janet about putting her baby up for adoption. She wanted to know how to go about the adoption process, so Janet gave her some referrals for adoption services. Janet was worried about whether Sunita had been seeing a doctor for prenatal care, and learned that she had only been to a doctor once-months ago. It turned out that Sunita had been hiding her pregnancy from her parents, and did not want to use their health insurance because they would find out. Janet told her about the confidential services offered through Medi-Cal, which would not require parental consent and would cover prenatal care and delivery.

Janet recibio una llamada de una joven llamada "Sunita" la cual tenia ocho meses de embarazo y estaba interesada en dar a su bebe en adopcion. Janet con mucho tacto le informo sobre el procedimiento y la refirio a agencias de adopcion; asi mismo descubrio que "Sunita" no habia recibido atencion medica y solamente una vez habia ido al doctor. Ella habia estado ocultando el embarazo a sus padres, y por eso no queria utilizar el seguro medico. Se le informo sobre su derecho a la confidencialidad y como solicitar Medi-Cal bajo el programa servicios confidenciales; el cual cubre cuidado prenatal y el parto. Janet le sugirio que hiciera una cita lo mas pronto posible.

"Neoma" needed transportation to and from her 2- day abortion appointment in San Francisco. She was homeless and had been staying with friends and family. Becca and Alma tried to help, but were unable to find a volunteer who could drive her to either appointment. On the second day of her appointment Neoma called ACCESS again, desperate for a ride. Becca left the hotline and went to San Francisco to drive her to and from her appointment. Neoma was so grateful, and told Becca that she had convinced a bus driver to let her ride for free in order to get to her first appointment, but she didn't know what she would have done if Becca hadn't been able to help her get to her second appointment.

"Neoma" llamo a ACCESS porque no tenia manera de trasladarse al Hospital General de San Francisco para una cita de dos dias para los servicios de aborto. Ella no tenia casa y aunque se estaba quedando en casa de amigos y familiares no habia quien la llevara a su cita. Alma y Becca intentaron conseguirle transporte por medio de la red de voluntarios de ACCESS sin exito alguno. Neoma desesperada llamo desde el hospital el segundo dia de su cita porque no tenia como regresar a casa de sus amigos. Al ultimo momento Becca pudo ir a recogerla y durante el trayecto Neoma comento como el dia anterior convencio al conductor del autobus para que la llevara gratis al hospital -ella estaba de lo mas agradecida por la ayuda de Becca.

Choose to Shop
ACCESS goodies now available online!
Wear your commitment for reproductive freedom with a t-shirt, hoodie, messenger bag, and more from ACCESS!

Each time you shop at our on-line store, ACCESS will receive a portion of your purchases. Choose from different sizes and styles, or find a special gift for a friend, child, or your dog!

phone: 510-923-0739; 510-923-0822

ACCESS Mission Statement
ACCESS exists to make reproductive health and freedom a concrete reality for all women. We are on the front lines of the reproductive justice movement, working to bridge the gaps between our rights and the reality of access to reproductive health care.

Shailushi Baxi, MPH
Raquel Donoso, MPH
Erin Kiernon
Jerrie Meadows
Ellen Schwerin, MPH
Andy Shie-Kee Wong

Alma Avila-Pilchman
Joan Flores
(Jennifer) Parker, MSW