Click the image above to watch the full interview! Animations by Alice McGillicuddy.
Amy Irvin is the co-founder and executive director of the New Orleans Abortion Fund. They provide financial assistance to people seeking abortion care here in Louisiana by partnering with the local clinic, Women’s Healthcare Center, as well as making financial pledges to other clinics, including in Baton Rouge and Shreveport.
GBX: How does your organization promote the education and empowerment of womxn in New Orleans? Can you give specific examples?
People might know us for our many fundraising events, which are very creative in nature. We have recently hosted the Taco and Beer Challenge and our upcoming Sex Ed Bingo is later in October, as well as many other events throughout the year. But the events are as much about fundraising as they are educational and movement building, gathering our community of supporters in one place to celebrate NOAF’s mission, and talk about current restrictions in place or even legislation that is before legislators at the state house. We do that throughout the year, certainly during the legislative session we are in Baton Rouge testifying against anti-choice bills as well as taking with the media and engaging our members and supporters, encouraging them to contact their legislators to oppose bills.
GBX: What are some of the biggest challenges to the mission? What is the assistance/support your organization needs most?
Well I would say that there are many challenges to fulfilling our mission, although we have tremendous support from our members and volunteers in New Orleans and throughout the state. The primary challenge is the state and federal bans on insurance coverage of abortion. So paying for an abortion is essentially a cash transaction, folks either have that money in a credit card or savings account to pay for that healthcare service, or, as we know, they are putting off paying rent, buying fewer groceries, pawning possessions, or borrowing from friends and family to pay for what is still a safe and legal healthcare procedure. So certainly the insurance bans are a challenge as well as the limited number of clinics in Louisiana. There are just three clinics in the entire state, one in New Orleans and another in Baton Rouge and Shreveport so we already know that many people are not receiving the care that they want and need due to access barriers. With just three clinics people are having to travel further, they may have to spend a night in a hotel, time away from works, which may mean fewer wages, or additional childcare costs. All of these factors contribute to making the procedure very expensive for people and, again, without the support or coverage of insurance, it’s basically money that has to come out of their pocket.
GBX: What is your vision for the future of womxn/what does an equitable and just future look like to you?
People should have access to abortion care without limitations. It should be covered by insurance. We should have ample access to abortion clinics and clinics that provide well-women exams and support women in their healthcare choices. Additionally we need better policies that support women in a variety of ways including equal pay for women, living wage for families, we need additional early childcare services and childcare education opportunities, better schools and better communities for our families. We want to not only address the barriers to abortion access but the barriers that families experience who are raising children or want to have more children. Without better policies it makes it very difficult to bring more children into the world.
GBX: Who is your favorite local artist/musician/maker?
There are so many people that come to mind! The New Orleans Abortion Fund has certainly been supported by many creative people, musicians, artists and comics. In June local restauranteurs came together and hosted the Boozy Bake Sale. There were over 50 restauranteurs who put that event together and raised $40,000 that we split with Planned Parenthood. So there is a growing support among creative culture bearers here in New Orleans. I would say my favorite are the local comics, they have really been there for us since the beginning. Each January around the Roe anniversary we host a Roar Into Roe event where local comics get up and do stand-up, tell their favorite jokes, including abortion jokes..sex ed jokes … there’s so many people and comics that are part of that event. To me, comics are some of the bravest people, they get up there and talk about issues folks perhaps are reluctant to and they do it in a funny and humorous way and try to engage people. I think that comedy is a way of reaching people about an issue that perhaps they haven’t given a lot of thought to. I’ll mention last night I was in Baton Rouge for the “Abortion AF” tour that Lizz Winstead of Comedy Central put together. She has been doing this tour across the country for several years now and made a stop in Baton Rouge yesterday. Lizz is a nationally renowned comic and someone who has taken her talents and skills and put it towards educating people about abortion access throughout the country and supporting clinics, particularly. At each stop they not only put on a comedy event but they then provide support for the local clinics there and really support the staff and providers. While us activists are out here talking to folks and gaining support for the issue overall there are people working in clinics every day providing quality care and they are oftentimes the people that go unacknowledged or unappreciated, and they are really the front lines of this work. So I really appreciate Liz’s work and certainly all the comics that join her in that tour every year.
GBX: Any new programs/events launching soon that you want to talk about?
It’s a busy Fall for us but we have some great events, as I mentioned we already kicked off the season with our Taco and Beer Challenge that we held at Always Lounge but upcoming is our annual Sex Ed Bingo on October 30th at Catahoula Hotel. If you have not participated in the past you definitely want to come out. We do rounds of bingo that are focused on sex education, abortion access and restrictions, as well as the most fun and engaging one: the slang! You get to learn a lot about sex related slang and sayings, it’s really fun. We always get a good turnout we’ll have prizes and certificates for the winners of each round. It’s one of our most popular events and one of our signature events. We’ve been doing it since 2013 when we began providing pledges to our clients in New Orleans. It is a fundraiser so all that money goes to providing abortion care here in our community. We have assisted more than 1,500 people here in southern Louisiana and steadily grown our average pledge from $60 when we first started to nearly $500 now. We really do have a lot of support here in New Orleans and we want to continue to grow that support and reach new people. We have seen a tremendous amount of support in the last few months following the passage of the 6-week abortion ban in June. People are beginning to realize the difficulty of accessing abortion and how important this healthcare service is to our community. I really encourage people to come out on October 30th for Sex Ed Bingo, have a good time, meet other like-minded people and just connect with our supporters and the community!
To learn more about NOAF and its services, please visit their website: https://www.neworleansabortionfund.org/
5% of all Glitter Box N.O. sales in October 2019 will go directly to supporting NOAF.