March and a half eBulletin

This month you are getting almost-2-eBulletins-for-the-price-of-one. Our recent fundraising campaign had excellent reach – but we’re now hearing from too many women to keep up with demand. In light of recent anti-abortion activity in the UK, ASN has decided to join other pro-choice groups and individuals to make some noise. And finally, if you have a spare room/sofa/airbed in West or South London or Liverpool, please let us know.

  • Our recent fundraising campaign
  • ASN admits defeat – kind of
  • One day in the life of ASN
  • Antis attack – call to action to help fight back
  • ASN in the News
  • Seeking W London, S London and Liverpool hosts

Our recent fundraising campaign

From 8-10 March, ASN ran a campaign on Twitter. We took the liberty of stretching International Women’s Day to three days to mark the fact that calls to ASN have tripled in each of our three years but our funding hasn’t. Over the three days we raised £150 in one off donations and £44 per month in regular donations (though these are still coming in) and, more importantly, gathered more than 300 new twitter followers! Huge thanks to everyone who donated to the campaign as well as to Graham Lineham for tweeting us to his 164,000 followers – twice! Despite the relative success of the campaign, however, we did not reach our goal of £1,000 in regular income. Want to help us reach our goal? Follow the link!

ASN admits defeat – kind of

A friend of ours who runs an abortion fund in the US once told us: “If you’re not running out of money, you’re not doing it right”. We must be doing it right, because for the first time since opening in October 2009 with £500 and a mobile phone, ASN can no longer say that we have never turned a woman away due to lack of funds on our part. It was a sad, sad day for us, and a true tragedy for the woman on the other end of the phone. However, as an all volunteer organisation we have reached our capacity as far as how much time we can spend fundraising and how many women our volunteer phone coordinators are able to speak to over the course of their phone shifts. And just to be clear – ASN is not closing. We have money coming in each month, and we have a separate, though tiny, fund that pays our phone bill and other negligible operating costs. We just sometimes run out of the money generated each month by regular donations before the next lot comes in.

A day in the life of an ASN phone coordinator – stories of women we’ve helped

From 1 Feb – 21 March 2012, ASN heard from 59 women needing our help. During the same period in 2011, we heard from 23. In 2010, we heard from 8. On 21 March, the phone was handed off at 11.30 am. Following is a summary of 9 hours with the ASN phone. Please note all amounts are in £ for ease of maths and are not an indication of country of origin.

11.30 am: £985 in bank. Five missed calls, 1 text and 1 email on the phone.

11.45 am: Spoke to a woman who was first in contact with ASN in February. Due to issues with her passport and funding, she was unable to make her original appointment on 1 March. Parents supportive but have no money. Man involved making threats. Increased initial £100 grant to £160 (£825 left in bank).

12.15 and 3.00 pm: Returned call from mother of a 14 year old girl. She was first in touch 6 March but for a number of reasons was unable to come to England until now and this pushed the cost of the procedure up from £335 to £480. As the single mother of two living on benefits, she was only able to raise £200 on top of the cost of flights for herself and her daughter. Arranged a £100 discount from the clinic and gave a £180 grant (£645 left in bank).

1.00 pm: Spoke to a young married woman whose wanted pregnancy revealed severe foetal anomalies. The couple has two young children and is struggling to make ends meet on unemployment benefits, plus the young woman has had a number of other medical issues during the pregnancy. Spoke to clinic, confirmed a £200 grant (£445 left in bank).

1.35 pm: Spoke to young unemployed woman existing on £54 a week benefits. By saving all her payments for a month, she has been able to raise £216. She has only been able to tell her sister, but her sister has several young children she is supporting and can only help with £20. Unable to get a crisis loan. Arranged a £100 grant. (£345 left in bank).

1.45, 7.30, 8.00 and 9.15 pm: This young woman and her partner had been trying to raise money for this abortion for months. Each time they thought they had enough money they found they were pushed into the next price bracket by gestation. She is now almost at the legal limit for a termination and truly desperate. Lied to her mother to get a loan to cover part of the cost. Arranged a £175 grant and found a host for the night she will be here. (£170 left in bank).

2.00 – 3.30: Work meeting (unable to take calls).

3.45 and 9 pm: Another woman unable to raise enough money before hitting the next price bracket. She and her partner are both students and have only been able to raise £580 (largely by not paying bills). This is enough for the procedure but not flights. Arranged a £167 grant and managed to negotiate a reduced cost for her procedure. (£3 left in bank).

4.15 pm: Contacted by a woman’s aid refuge about a 16 year old pregnant as result of rape. The girl is living in the refuge with her mum and younger sister; none of them speak English and they have no funds whatsoever. They are going to look into Women on Web for a medical abortion but if this is not an option for them, we will have to find a way to bring all three of them over. (£3 still left in bank).

Wrap up:

  • Number of phone calls made and received to women needing help between: 24
  • Number of calls/emails to clinics to arrange grants: 12
  • Number of times heard women refer to themselves as “desperate”, “alone” or “in distress”: 6

We thank these men and women from allowing us to share their stories.

Antis Attack – Call to action – help fight back!

ASN exists to try and bring a little bit of fairness into abortion access for the women without financial means. Women with money in Ireland and Northern Ireland are able to access abortions. Women without money are able to contact ASN. Perhaps when all women everywhere have equal access to safe and legal abortion we might enter into a debate about whether or not abortion is “right”– but not one second before.

ASN is also not a campaigning organisation. We are all volunteers and we’re barely keeping up with fundraising and answering calls and have decided to leave the job to those groups already campaigning for abortion law reform in Ireland and N Ireland.

But. But. Even the most consciously apolitical, non-campaigning organisation has its limits. ASN was founded by an American who watched abortion rights in her country chipped away bit by bit by bit until a point where un-medically necessary trans-vaginal ultrasounds are being legislated and women who use birth control are being called ‘sluts’ and ‘prostitutes’.

We cannot stand by and let a similar scenario unfold here.

ASN’s founder is a little ashamed that, of all the things that America could export, it has chosen to send “Operation Rescue” to harass and videotape women going into clinics during what they like to call “40 days for Life”. They are planning an evening vigil on Friday 30 March from 7-9.30 pm, after the clinic closes. We proudly support (and many of us will be attending) a pro-choice counter vigil to be held at the same time.

More info here:

Please be advised that this is a residential neighbourhood. Also please be advised that it’s pointless to engage, discuss, or argue with these people. Their minds are made up. But it won’t hurt anything to drown out their drivel.

ASN in the news

Thanks to Janey Stephenson for raising awareness of the “Irish situation” amongst the University of York! and to the wonderful Maman Poulet for publicising our recent fundraising campaign.

Seeking W London, S London and Liverpool hosts

ASN has experienced an increase in requests for housing, particularly near the clinics that provide abortion to 24 weeks – Richmond, Ealing, Streatham, Brixton and Bristol, as well as Liverpool. Do you have a spare room, pull out sofa, or air mattress and the desire to have a direct and positive impact on a woman in need? Please get in touch, and feel free to pass the word along to any pro-choice friends who live near these clinics.

Other ways you can help

When was the last time you started a conversation about abortion at dinner? Do you assume your friends/family/colleagues are pro-choice/anti-choice? Why not find out?
Feel free to slip ASN into the conversation and ask them to follow us on Twitter or Facebook or subscribe to this newsletter. The more people know about the injustice faced by women in Ireland and Northern Ireland, the more chance there is for law reform.