By Lindsey Oliver

When I was 16 I had an abortion. It was both difficult to arrange and pay for. Yet this pivotal event resulted in a lifelong commitment to working towards a world with reproductive justice for everyone. The sad part isn’t that I had an abortion, but that there were so many barriers. Even more disheartening is that I know I am not the only person who lacks access to a safe and legal abortion.

My experience led me to volunteer at one of Richmond’s most targeted abortion clinics. I helped protect patients from the aggressive and sometimes violent harassment they often receive from protestors when entering or exiting the clinic. One day someone walking by gave us $20 and encouraged us all to take ourselves out for pizza. But we had just witnessed several women leaving the clinic without getting their abortions because they couldn't afford the procedure. So we took that $20 and helped one woman. The experience helping just that one woman made me realize how many more need help. So at age 19 I co-founded the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project. The fund primarily helps women who cannot afford to pay for their abortions, but it also provides education and advocacy in our city. Abortion funds like ours were set up in 41 states in order to ensure that poor women were able to have the same access to reproductive choice as everyone else.

The women we fund are poor -- many lack access to education, good jobs and health care for themselves and their children. Most often they are young, and are already mothers. They are always in a state of desperation. These women need and deserve help the most. I am often asked how these women are allowed to fall through the cracks. One of the many answers to that question is Henry Hyde, the man most directly responsible for denying millions of women’s access to an abortion just because they are poor.