Profile: ACCESS Women’s Health Justice

The Bay Area is home to many fabulous organizations focused on reproductive health and justice working on local, regional, and national levels. To connect, share, and showcase the exciting work being done by all these organizations we will be profiling them here in our blog. Today we are focusing on ACCESS Women’s Health Justice, who we have recently partnered with. Sierra Harris, Policy Associate at ACCESS, took time to answer our questions, as follows.

BADP: What is a bit of ACCESS’ history?

ACCESS was founded in 1993 by a group of clinic escorts who saw first hand how difficult it was for many women to physically get to their abortion appointments.  However, the clinic escorts quickly realized that women they worked with were facing multiple barriers to accessing care that went beyond the protestors at clinics. In September of 1993, ACCESS answered its first Healthline call. With a few phones, a handful of volunteers, and binders of referrals we began challenging the barriers to reproductive health care- whether that meant providing a woman with basic information about her menstrual cycle or offering rides so women could get to their abortion appointments. Since then, ACCESS has grown into an organization that serves 48 counties in northern and central California, is multicultural, multigenerational and bilingual, and serves as a leader in state advocacy efforts.
BADP: What is the overall mission of ACCESS? Who does it serve and how?

ACCESS’ mission is to remove barriers to sexual and reproductive health care and to build the power of women and girls to demand equity and dignity. Our work is grounded in values of justice, dignity and equity and our vision dictates the arc of our work:
We believe in and trust women- all women
We envision a future where women decide for themselves whether, when, and how to have children. A future where women have access to the resources and options they need to realize their sexual and reproductive health decisions.
We envision a future where women are treated with dignity and respect in those decisions. A future where people understand the context of women’s decision-making around pregnancy, and where those decisions are free from stigma.
We envision a future where women’s voices are clear and strong; where each woman trusts herself, knows her own power and uses it to demand that all women have the social, political and economic power and resources to make healthy decisions for themselves and their families. 
The heart of our work is our bilingual Healthline, which connects women and girls throughout California to information, referrals and advocacy on sexual and reproductive health issues.  We help women navigate programs that pay for health care-such as Medi-Cal and Family PACT- and are experts in offering resources for abortion, adoption and parenting  When women are in need of housing, food or transportation to ensure timely access to abortion care, we connect them to our network of volunteers who can provide this support or to funds when volunteer resources are unavailable. 
Many of our callers lack access to equitable care including young women, women of color, folks living in rural areas, undocumented immigrants, and those with limited English proficiency.  We are not afraid to name these inequities, and is why we utilize the reproductive justice framework in our policy work and movement building.  

BADP: What is one major success of the organization?

ACCESS will be celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2013 and we have had many wonderful successes. One policy success was defeating Prop 4, Parental Notification, along with several reproductive justice allies and organizations in 2008.  Our work with the California Coalition of Reproductive Freedom has also enabled ACCESS to work with several allies across the state and engage in legislative and administrative advocacy for over 12 years. Our work with Medi-Cal advocacy and health care reform implantation has been very successful as well- we are working to ensure that women in California will have robust and comprehensive reproductive health coverage (including abortion) and making sure that enrollment is easy for all the diverse communities throughout the state.
BADP: What would you like to see happen with ACCESS in the next 1-5 years?

I believe ACCESS to be a powerful and unique organization in California and in the reproductive justice movement. Our Healthline gives us a unique and intimate perspective of women’s lives and the real barriers they face in accessing care. Because of this, I would like to see ACCESS’ policy work grow and to solidify our place as a powerful leader in statewide and national reproductive movements. 
BADP: Is it possible for others to get involved, and if yes, how?

Yes! We are always looking for new volunteers. If you are interested in working on our Healthline, becoming a practical support volunteer, or becoming involved in advocacy as a reproductive justice activist, you should definitely apply to our training. We hold our Reproductive Justice in Action trainings quarterly, and our next one will be in February 2013. You can find out more information on our website.
Thank you very much to Sierra for answering our questions and to ACCESS for the amazing work they do supporting people seeking abortion in our state!


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