To voters undecided about Proposition 115:
I thought it would be important to address you, as I used to feel conflicted about abortion as well. Now I run Colorado’s largest abortion fund, which helps people access abortion care both locally and regionally. Proposition 115 would be devastating to the clients we serve, many of whom already face serious health care barriers.
Legal barriers to abortion care like Proposition 115 are so harmful, not just on a personal and psychological level, but on a logistical level where the clients we serve are choosing between a much-needed procedure or buying medicine for their other children. Politicians with no medical background seek not just to make safe abortion illegal, but logistically impossible. And the first people impacted are low-income and communities of color.
We have worked with more than one client under the age of 13. Let that sink in as we think about how this measure “does compassionate good” or “implements reasonable restrictions” by banning access to abortion in cases of rape or incest. I have worked with clients with abusive partners, seeking abortion care in secrecy out of fear for their life if their partner found out. Many of my clients came to us after receiving the worst news of their lives- that a very much wanted pregnancy was not viable. I have worked with clients experiencing homelessness who did not realize they were pregnant- this ban would force them to carry to term despite the fact that finding a safe place to sleep at night is a challenge every single day.
The only consistent trend I can report for all of our later in pregnancy clients is this: they are not callous. They are not undeserving of compassion. And they do not deserve to be subjected to a cruel, one-size-fits-all ban.
Abortion funds exist because of, not in spite of, restrictions like those in Proposition 115.
There is no such thing as a compassionate abortion ban. You don’t just get to cause harm under the pretense of saving children. Whether the intention behind restrictions like yours is misguided compassion or intentionally disregarding the free agency of women and their doctors, the impact is, and will always be, harm.
My path to running an abortion fund has been a personal and professional journey. I was a “pro-lifer” in high school. It was simple: did I want to save children and protect life, or would I rather defend selfish and/or promiscuous women in their callous healthcare decisions. If the argument were truly that easy, who wouldn’t choose the former? The thing is, as my grandparents used to say, “if it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t.”
How did we get to this overly simplified argument about what is truly a very personal and complex decision? I have spent a lot of time speaking to voters over the past few weeks. I have found that those vehemently in favor of Prop 115 truly do believe that those are the two sides: those who value life and those who casually extinguish it for personal convenience.
I didn’t have a grand “aha moment” or Lifetime Channel-worthy conversion on my path to being a fierce proponent of reproductive healthcare access. I simply studied psychology and then social work. I honed my skills of empathy, studied public health policy, and engaged in the tenets of social work ethics as I progressed in my career.
Those tenets include a strengths-based approach: meeting clients where they are and encouraging them to make healthy decisions based on what is best for them as an individual.
Abortion funds exist to piece together funding, plane tickets, meal support, childcare, and emotional support. We exist to provide referrals to sexual assault support, domestic violence agencies, and centers for those experiencing joblessness or homelessness. We exist to help our clients navigate a maze of an impossibly high-stakes puzzle created by abortion bans like the one you are proposing.
And yet, somehow, the falsehood still exists that abortion bans like Proposition 115 are compassionate and reasonable. They’re the opposite. “Pro-life” proponents flatter themselves that they have a monopoly on compassion. The ban you are implementing is anything but compassionate. Legal restrictions on abortion have one impact and one impact only: cruelty.
Bans on abortion, like Proposition 115, dehumanize women. These women, my clients, my peers, are living, thinking, complicated creatures like the rest of us. Many of them seek this procedure under the worst of circumstances- terminating a wanted, yet non-viable pregnancy. Many face health complications in the myriad of ways in which a pregnancy can become unexpectedly high-risk. Some are minors that are survivors of assault, often at the hands of a trusted relative or family member.
I don’t anticipate that this piece will be the catalyst for you and I to see things the same way. What I do hope is for those who are undecided to see my perspective as someone who actually works with the people this horrible ban would impact. My hope is to shed light on the overly simplified, medically uninformed argument that you have created. The compassionate vote is a No on 115.
Amanda Carlson, the director of the Cobalt Abortion Fund, grew up just north of Denver in Berthoud, Colorado. She holds a BA in Psychology from Whitworth University and a Master of Social Work from the University of Denver.