Quita Tinsley Peterson is a Black, queer femme that writes, organizes, and works to build sustainable change in the South. Quita currently serves as the Co-Director of Access Reproductive Care – Southeast, where they focus on strengthening the abortion fund’s operations, programs, and organizational voice. Below Quita shares why they joined Access Reproductive Care – Southeast (ARC-SE), how the organization supports abortion-seeking people on the ground, and ARC-SE’s vision for the future.
In 2015, when my friend asked me to apply to the Board of Directors of the abortion fund she and her co-workers were founding, my first thought was “What’s an abortion fund?” Well, the answer was simple: abortion funds fund abortions. While the concept is easy, the work is not. Abortion funds work to ensure that people seeking abortions are able to access care no matter the barriers they are facing.
My friend, Bianca Campbell (right), and their co-workers, Selena Phipps Adetunji (left) and Oriaku Njoku (center) co-founded Access Reproductive Care - Southeast (ARC-Southeast), after working together at the Atlanta Women’s Center, a local abortion provider. There they witnessed first hand all of the various barriers people had to navigate in order to access care. They served as funding advocates to ensure patients could afford their procedures and listened as folks told them how they had to reschedule their appointments because they couldn’t find transportation or a support person. They saw people traveling not only from across the state of Georgia to Atlanta, but also people traveling from across the Southeast. As we’re watching in Texas, people were and still are being forced to travel far from home and across state lines to access abortion care.
Before coming to ARC-Southeast, I didn’t know much about the landscape of abortion access in the Southeast. Even though I was born and raised in Georgia, I couldn’t name a single abortion provider.
I’m from a small town in rural, middle Georgia where the closest abortion clinics were about two hours away in any direction and people never said the word ‘abortion ’unless someone went to the closest abortion clinics in Atlanta or Savannah. Even thoughI left home almost 15 years ago, that region is still an abortion desert where people have to drive 100+ miles to access care.
ARC-Southeast helped put my own upbringing into perspective. Unfortunately, my experience wasn’t unique and is a common reality in the South. As of 2017, 95% of counties in Georgia do not have a known abortion provider. In addition to the lack of clinic access, legal restrictions also push abortion further out of reach for people. More than half of states subject patients to mandatory 18-72 hour waiting periods after receiving counseling designed to discourage abortion, before they’re able to go to their appointments. In some states, these waiting periods force patients to have two separate appointments for one abortion procedure. There are laws known as targeted regulations of abortion providers or TRAP laws that aim to decrease access to abortion in the name of “patient safety.” But these policies don’t increase safety, they actually endanger patients by putting unnecessary restrictions on abortion providers and clinics. These laws often force clinics to shut down because they aren’t able to meet the legal requirements, such as ensuring their hallways are a certain length or that their providers have admitting privileges to local hospitals.
Abortion bans are sweeping across the South and Midwest and each one is becoming increasingly hostile as they attempt to outlaw abortion. S.B. 8 in Texas bans abortion care past six weeks and makes it legal for people to sue folks who help pregnant people access abortion care past the legal limit. These restrictions and bans are not in place to ensure that people are able to access safe and compassionate care. They are intended to create such extreme barriers that abortion providers cease to operate and abortion patients give up trying to get care. But in the midst of it all, abortion funds are in the community ensuring that our folks are able to access abortion care no matter what.
ARC-Southeast is one of those abortion funds. We’ve been providing financial assistance to help pay for abortions for our community members in Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee since July 2016. We also provide practical support to help people navigate logistical barriers such as connecting them with rides to clinics or helping to pay for hotels when they have to stay overnight between their appointments. Whatever the barriers are, we do our best to show up for our folks in our communities. In 2020, we provided over $500,000 in abortion funding and practical support to ensure that people were able to access the abortion care they need and want.
We’re also building power in our communities to fight systemic issues. The National Network of Abortion Funds uses the tagline “fund abortion, build power.” When our co-founders first heard this phrase in 2015, it completely encapsulated their vision for the work of ARC-Southeast. We have to address the direct needs of our communities, but also need to build collective power to abolish these barriers altogether.
Our advocacy in partnership with Amplify Georgia Collaborative helped us win a Reproductive Justice Commission in Atlanta. The commission is a municipal level taskforce that will inform city councilmembers on reproductive justice issues in Atlanta and policies that would address them. This is just one of the ways that abortion funds show up to empower our communities.
Abortion funds are making abortion care truly accessible for everyone. And we’re building towards a world without barriers to care and where we all have what we need to live and thrive.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or scared about the future of reproductive rights and justice, don’t fret! Get connected with your local abortion fund and abortion providers. Volunteer and donate to them, especially in regions where abortion access is being particularly threatened and if they provide practical support to community members. We all have a place in the fight for abortion access and reproductive justice, we just have to find our people.
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