Q&A with abortion funding hotline volunteer


Kate Townsend, Emily Hagstrom and Amanda Witwer hold up their protest signs at the Women's March on Washington.

Staff Writer Sara Pequeno interviewed Kate Townsend, a public policy and women’s studies senior and volunteer at Case Manager for the Carolina Abortion Fund, a non-profit hotline that helps people who want to terminate a pregnancy afford to do so.

The Daily Tar Heel: Describe your job for me.

Kate Townsend: My job is to answer the calls that come in from individuals seeking financial assistance for their abortion, and allocate funds as they are available.

DTH: Why are you so passionate about your work?

KT: I became aware of how deep that need was while working as an intern for the Compass Center. It became really apparent how little help and support there is in the community for individuals seeking abortion. I wanted to get involved, and it became really solidified for me as of watching Donald Trump give his election night speech. It became apparent that I needed to get involved immediately, and I signed up a couple of hours later.

DTH: Do you feel like you’re making a difference?

KT: I hope so... I think there’s an incredible value in working one-on-one with people, and being able to provide support during a really tough time in someone’s life by being a force that’s not stigmatizing or judgmental or cruel in any way.

DTH: What is the hardest part about what you do?

KT: Not many of our callers are able to get funding, because we simply don’t have the amount of money that we need to meet all of the needs. Of course, the hardest part is having to tell people that you can’t give them money. It’s about the hardest conversation that you can have. We have other ways that we can help them reach out to other organizations that might have money, but those organizations are rarely doing any better than we are. We luckily raised double what we did last year with our fundraising efforts, but even implementing that we still won’t be able to meet all the need.

DTH: How would you like to see policy shift in the future regarding abortion, especially considering everything with the new healthcare bill?

KT: I have a number of things I would love to see. I’m not sure how many people are aware of this policy that is in place, but it is called a “crisis pregnancy center,” which are defined as fake healthcare clinics that lie to, shame, and intentionally mislead them about their reproductive healthcare options to block them from access to abortion care. Many of these clinics even pretend that they offer abortion services to get women into their office, and lie to women about what it looks like to get an abortion and what it will be like after their abortion. In North Carolina, there aren’t any laws to regulate these crisis pregnancy centers, and the information that they’re giving to women. Given that 90 percent of North Carolina counties have no abortion clinics, and there are more of these crisis pregnancy centers than there are actual abortion clinics, is extremely upsetting. In 12 of these states, the state governments are even giving money to these pregnancy centers.

So there’s this huge pushback for giving money to Planned Parenthood, even though none of their government funding is going to abortion, no matter where you stand on that. Yet, we are willing to give money to these pregnancy centers to lie to and mislead women, and pretend they’re an actual healthcare clinic... Even if a person considers himself or herself pro-life, the reality is that if you take away Planned Parenthood, and you’re taking away a person’s access to affordable and accessible contraception, you’re going to see more unwanted pregnancies. I don’t understand why defunding Planned Parenthood is even a partisan issue, and not a complete given for everyone involved no matter where you stand on abortion. I’m really concerned as to what it will look like in the next 20 years for individuals trying to get an abortion, and at what point we will go back to most of our abortions being dangerous, unsafe, and without proper medical care.

With activism, we need to be more intersectional. We need to not just be about reproductive rights, but reproductive justice. We need to make sure that it’s not just about abortion – because while abortion is an incredibly important topic, it’s about more than that. It’s about making sure the individuals who do carry through the pregnancy, and are able to have families and children, are able to raise those children in a safe and healthy environment. I feel like we’ve gotten better over the years, but a lot of hegemonic, white feminists are still ignoring the work that women of color have been doing for so long... This is definitely a field right now that is under attack, and that’s really scary. But I’m hoping that people will become more aware of this issue that we’ve taken since Roe v. Wade, and that people won’t let Trump and this wave of conservatism take away our right.


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