By Kelsey Woida, Intern, Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project
I always dreamed of standing on Locust Walk, in the heart of UPenn’s campus, shouting something like, “Eat a vagina cupcake and support abortion access!”
Well, not really. But I’m a social work student, who volunteers in prisons and considers rainbow button-down shirts finished with a “Black Lives Matter” button to be the ultimate business casual look. Sharing a campus with fraternities that perpetuate rape culture and businessmen who sip on gimlets, while I skip class to attend a City Council meeting where I inevitably spill coffee on myself, can get a little weird sometimes. I must admit, I have not always looked for opportunities to engage with the larger community of undergraduates and students in other graduate programs at Penn. And I never thought that the 40th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, coupled with several dozen vulva-shaped cupcakes, would lead me to that connection with peers outside of my accepted realm of comfort.
Last Tuesday, as part of my internship with the Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Freedom Project, I hosted a bake sale and collected petition signatures in support of repealing the Hyde Amendment. Since 1976, Hyde has banned insurance coverage of abortion care for people receiving Medicaid, federal employees and military families. It disproportionately impacts low-income people, young people and communities of color. Insurance bans like Hyde allow the state to pat themselves on the back and claim, “Sure, abortion is legal and affordable,” (cough, if you have access to wealth and whiteness, cough). Research shows that when women cannot access the abortion procedures that they desire and are entitled to, they are more likely to fall into poverty. Barriers to access continue to pile up, and those who are already most marginalized in our culture (women of color, LGBTQ folks, sexual assault and intimate partner violence survivors, undocumented women, women who use substances, Native American women, incarcerated women, women living with disability, etc) are most harmed. Which begs the question: can we call this justice if we cannot exercise our reproductive rights that are promised and “protected” by law?
Our “Be Bold, End Hyde,” bake sale was a success, as well as a part of a national week of action and events organized by All* Above All (who provided tons of swag and support). Not only did we raise more money and collect more petition signatures than anticipated (I ran out of space in my Tupperware “cash register” after only an hour, and petition pages after two), but students genuinely wanted to engage in conversation about Hyde and abortion coverage. I was pleasantly surprised and tickled by the number of people who thanked us for showing up and showing support for these issues. It was one of the first times I felt proud to not just say I am a student at the School of Social Policy and Practice, but a student at UPenn. I harnessed that energy and carried it with me to Philadelphia City Hall on Thursday, where I had the privilege of witnessing City Council pass a resolution in support of the EACH Woman Act (spearheaded by Women’s Medical Fund). Being in the presence of such unapologetic bravery and ferocity, and listening to community members’ testimony in support of abortion access, left me misty-eyed with inspiration.
Here’s to the future, first anniversary of Hyde’s abolishment! I am hopeful that someday we will be able to celebrate with another reproductive justice-themed treat. Vulva cupcake, anyone?
Kelsey Woida is the Clara Bell Duvall Reproductive Project Intern for 2016/17. She is a second year Master of Social Work student at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice. She has a cat named Roger.