Courtney Martin writes that this International Women's Day, we should look at gender inequality in our own communities. Each day this week on TAPPED we will run a profile of an organization doing exactly that.
In 2005, Gretchen Dyer organized a Tea Party, along with some of her University of North Texas students and local community members. They weren't railing against socialism's evils or demanding lower taxes. They certainly weren't calling for the impeachment of Obama, who at the time was just a freshman senator from Illinois. The goal of this Tea Party was to raise money for low-income women to pay for the abortions that they already decided they needed. Ever since, the Texas Equal Access Fund -- or TEA Fund -- has worked to make sure that all Texan women north of Waco are able to exercise their reproductive rights.
Beyond showcasing the Senate's dysfunction and raising progressives' blood pressure, the debate over health-care reform has also highlighted just how unequal access to abortion really is. Texas Medicaid adheres to the Hyde Amendment and only covers abortion in cases of rape, incest, or life-threatening circumstances. Anything else -- even cases determined to be "medically necessary" -- must be paid for out of pocket.
Here's where the TEA Fund helps out. Since its founding, the Fund has provided over 2,000 grants that cover part of the cost of an abortion for women who have demonstrated need. Typically, women learn about the TEA Fund through clinics, social workers, or women's shelters. Over 70 percent of grant recipients are women of color, and 68 percent report that they have already had children. As one grant recipient wrote to the group:
I am a single mom to two wonderful girls. I cannot properly care for or afford another child at this time. As a single mom, all financial responsibility falls on me. I couldn't have paid to this without the help. Thank you.
If health care passes with the Stupak amendment, TEA Fund President Sulan Chang anticipates that the group will become even more vital to North Texas women. "There will be more need for our organization as access to abortion becomes more restrictive," says Chang. "But as this issue gets more attention, we should be able to build up the very strong pro-choice community that we already have."
While the TEA Fund does some educational and outreach work, the group's mission is an economic one. "This is about being able to access a choice," says Chang. "Having a child is life-changing, and there isn't gender equality if one group has to shoulder this burden because of economic barriers."