SHAPE hosts abortion rights organizations, panelists discuss access


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

The Center for Awareness, Response and Education.Panelists from the Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health and the Chicago Abortion Fund discuss their work increasing access to abortion services.

Samantha Aguilar, Reporter

Representatives from Chicago Abortion Fund and Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health gathered Thursday for a panel on sexual and reproductive health and legislation.

Northwestern’s Sexual Health and Assault Peer Educators hosted the event, which focused on each organization’s role in advancing reproductive rights and access for people across Chicago and Illinois.

Communication junior Amy Prochaska began the discussion by establishing ground rules for the event.

“What’s said in this space stays, but what you learned can leave,” Prochaska said.

Alyssa Vera Ramos, arts justice organizer at ICAH, told the attendees the group has been working for a decade to repeal the Parental Notification of Abortion Act in Illinois. The law says when a person 17 years or younger decides to have an abortion, a healthcare provider must notify a parent or other legal guardian at least 48 hours in advance of the procedure.

Vera Ramos said this law is dangerous to youth because a parent’s power over their child can turn the notification into a request for approval, hindering minor’s right to receive an abortion.

“Young people can consent to any other healthcare that is related to the pregnancy,” Vera Ramos said. “You can receive postpartum care, carry the pregnancy to term, you can decide to give the baby up for adoption, you can (surrender the baby to a) safe haven and none of that involves a parent at all, except abortion. It’s really just shame and stigma.”

If an individual does not want to disclose their decision to have an abortion to a parent, they have to reveal they are being abused by said guardian. This would prompt notification of the Department of Children and Family Services, leading to traumatic results for the child, Vera Ramos said.

Minors can also petition a judge for a judicial bypass waiver, and the American Civil Liberties Union provides legal services. Still, many are unaware of this option, Vera Ramos said.

ICAH works to spread awareness of the different resources people can seek to have a safe abortion and support as they go through the process, through education and theater.

The FYI Performance Company under ICAH performs participatory playsat schools to improve knowledge about healthcare systems and well-being.

“Personal storytelling has been a big culture shift in the last couple years specifically around abortion,” Vera Ramos said.

Qudsiyyah Shariyf, the program coordinator of Chicago Abortion Fund, said being part of the national network of abortion funds and working with organizations like the ACLU has given them the ability to talk to legislators about the people that the organization serves.

CAF’s primary program is a helpline for people looking for funding to receive abortion services. They also provide practical and emotional support as well as community programming, political education and advocacy.

ICAH and CAF worked together to pass House Bill 40 which mandated that Illinois state Medicaid cover abortion care entirely. It also assisted with passing the reproductive health act that established Illinois as a state where the right to abortion would still be protected if Roe v. Wade were to fall.

Shariyf said the biggest barrier to abortion she sees is the financial ability to pay for the procedure and lack of information on resources.

More than 50 percent of those who receive assistance from Chicago Abortion Fund come from out of state, Shariyf said. Barriers can include missing workdays and travel costs reaching facilities.

People seeking an abortion without Medicaid may have to pay over $1,000 for the procedure. The Chicago Abortion Fund is trying to defer these costs with their biggest fundraising campaign of the year, Fund-a-Thon, that raised over $101,000 last year.

“Ideally we don’t want to have jobs,” Shariyf said. “We don’t want to have to fund abortions because the government should be doing it.”

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Twitter: @samanthaguilar7

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