For millions of women and girls, reliable information about health care and access to treatment can be hard, if not impossible, to access. There are a multitude of barriers that could get in the way of women accessing information: lack of awareness, cost, lack of transportation, fear of mistreatment or abuse, and more. This week, May 13-19, is National Women’s Health Week, where advocates around the country work to bring awareness to critical health issues for women.
Low-income women, LGBTQ people, single parents, and women of color are more likely to face challenges to accessing health care, but the issues can be multiplied when it comes to their reproductive health and reproductive justice. Reverend Dorothy Chaney, chair of the Women’s Emergency Network (WEN) in Miami-Dade County, Florida, and chair of VASHTI Women and Girls, a program of People For the American Way Foundation’s African American Religious Affairs department, is working to bring more awareness to various reproductive options and make contraceptives more affordable.
Reverend Chaney has been running sessions on these topics for the Miami Workers Center. She emphasizes that since abortion is not a topic that is always “highlighted” in the African American community, she speaks on a range of options including abortion, affordable contraceptives, carrying to term, and adoption. Reproductive choice is about women being able to make decisions about their reproductive health and families and having access to the resources and services they need to make informed decisions.
The financial strain for getting contraceptives can be daunting. Reverend Chaney and WEN work to help women pay for very expensive long-term birth control — offering to cover a woman’s IUD after an abortion. However other barriers, including the cost of an abortion and the IUD insertion fee ($150), can still keep the cost out of reach for many. Reverend Chaney has a critical record in helping to address even these financial barriers for women who need it.
During a recent training session, Reverend Chaney highlighted the difficulties that single parent households can face in obtaining contraceptives. An example of what she was speaking about came from a woman who shared her story of being unable to purchase birth control due to financial reasons: “The money I had saved in order to purchase birth control was used by my partner and I was then unable to purchase birth control, resulting in my latest pregnancy.”
Reverend Chaney also works to bring attention to the issues faced by women in relationships where there is domestic violence. Many times over the years she has helped women secretly gain access to birth control in order to protect themselves from an unwanted pregnancy that would further tie them to the abusive partners.
“We have to continue to work to make reproductive health both affordable and accessible,” says Reverend Chaney. “One cannot operate fully without the other. That’s why these trainings are so important — especially for young women, women who may be in abusive relationships, or women facing economic challenges.”