I help people get abortions.
For me, this is not controversial work. Or tortured work. Or even particularly charitable work. It is spiritual work.
My work with people seeking abortion care is inextricably linked with my spiritual core, which seeks, always, to see each person in their own light, and seek my connection to them through community, empathy, and action.
Light is joyous. Abortion can be joyous, too.
It can be joyous as all choices are joyous, as an expression of self, of autonomy, of power, of freedom, and of light.
I am proud to do this work as a founding member of the Tucson Abortion Support Collective. We are a small but mighty community, working within the framework of reproductive justice to meet the needs of folks in our community seeking abortion care. This work entails receiving calls and text messages from people who need help enacting their autonomy. Some callers simply have questions: Is abortion available in Tucson? Where? How much does it cost? Who do I call? How soon can I go in? Will there be protestors outside? Will it hurt?
Others have specific needs, like childcare, or a ride to and from the clinic on the day of their procedure. Most need financial assistance. For the vast majority, state Medicaid does not include abortion care, and most private insurance refuses to cover abortion as well. This leaves patients with the obligation to pay for their abortion out of pocket, with prices ranging from $550 into thousands of dollars.
Money can’t buy freedom, but it sure can provide some choices. That’s why we work hard to provide some funding to everyone who asks. We don’t ask that our callers prove their need. We work with each caller as a unique individual, striving to meet people where they are. We trust them when they say they need help and believe what they say they need from us. That doesn’t mean we can always provide it – we are a teeny organization run by a cadre of unpaid activists, with a small but growing annual budget. But what we can’t provide, we help them find elsewhere. Sometimes that means contacting other organizations, and sometimes it means brainstorming with clients about additional resources in their own lives.
We work, in turn, with larger networks in our region and around the country, including abortion providers, activists, abortion funders, policy experts and more, collaborating with folks publicly and privately, in the open and underground.
My experience as a Quaker has been invaluable to me in this work. Our local group functions as a collective, making decisions without hierarchical power structures. Every practicing Quaker among us understands how difficult that can be, especially when the work feels urgent. I have pulled from my experience with committee work and business meeting in Pima Monthly Meeting, especially regarding meeting facilitation and group decision making.
But my Quaker inner life also feeds my ability to keep showing up to this work, which often feels discouraging, enraging, and heartbreaking. I’ll be the first to admit that my life related to our monthly meeting has changed during the pandemic. With so many other aspects of my life happening via virtual meetings, I have not gotten into the habit of participating in worship or business via my laptop screen. In many ways, I feel absent from my meeting.
But my meeting does not feel absent from me. On the contrary, the spiritual base I’ve developed within my monthly meeting, strengthened by the practical skills built around Quaker decision making, give me a core that energizes me, soothes me, and revives me to start again. It feeds the light within me that helps me see the light within others. ~~~
Sarah Tarver-Wahlquist lives in the beautiful Sonoran Desert, original home to the O’odham and Yaqui people. She is a member of Pima Monthly Meeting, where she hasn’t shown her face for a while, but she loves it all the same. Sarah helped to found the Abortion Fund of Arizona and the Tucson Abortion Support Collective. To talk more about supporting abortion access in your area, email her at sarahtdubb[AT]gmail[DOT]com.