Amy Irvin's Testimony at the City Council Hearing (6/6/19)

Good morning.

My name is Amy Irvin and I am the executive director of the New Orleans Abortion Fund.

Founded in 2012, The New Orleans Abortion Fund pays for abortion care because state and federal laws restrict private insurance and Medicaid coverage for abortion. With the support of members and donors, we have provided financial assistance to more than 1,250 clients and increased our average pledge from $60 - $500. We have also trained more than 330 community supporters as clinic escorts who annually volunteer over 3,000 hours at our partner clinic Women’s Health Care Center located here in New Orleans.

The Louisiana six-week abortion ban (ACT 31) is an unconstitutional ban on abortion that ignores 45 years of precedent and prohibits abortion long before the state has the right to do so. It will drag Louisiana into a costly battle at the Supreme Court, stretching our state’s resources thin at a time when we could be supporting education, primary health care, and other vital services. Louisiana has already spent $1.5 million in litigating anti-choice legislation --- there’s no justifiable reason to spend more.

The Louisiana six week abortion ban ignores families’ needs and circumstances, banning abortion before most women even know they are pregnant. It fails to adequately protect women’s health throughout pregnancy, as required by the Supreme Court. Most alarmingly, this law has no exceptions for rape or incest, a horribly cruel omission. Sadly, amendments that would have allowed such exceptions were voted down by Louisiana legislators in both the Senate and House.

Louisianans need more healthcare, not political posturing. Policymakers truly concerned about reducing the need for abortion, must fight for accurate sex education, equal pay, minimum wage and common sense measures that support working families. Abortion bans like ACT 31 are not about protecting women’s health and well-being. Instead, they are advancing a political and ideological agenda that will deny Louisianans their self-determination by eliminating their ability to plan their families.

The New Orleans Abortion Fund assists clients who are strong and self-assured people who have made the decision to have an abortion after careful consideration of their physical and mental health, family needs and finances, and plans for their educational and employment futures. The clients we serve represent the diversity of our community: Two-thirds are employed and/or students.  82% identify as religious. 70% have children. These women are well aware of the impact of pregnancy and parenthood on their lives. They’ve made their decision to terminate a pregnancy in consultation with their physician, families and loved ones.

Low-income women, women of color, rural women, and women who are abused or assaulted will suffer the brunt of this ban. It will force Louisianans seeking abortion services back into dangerous, desperate situations, reviving the public health crisis that existed before Roe v. Wade. Or, sadly, have children they are not prepared to raise, because we’ve abdicated our responsibility to provide for children and families.

Louisianans seeking abortion deserve better from lawmakers. The New Orleans Abortion Fund commends the New Orleans City Council for introducing this resolution condemning passage of the Louisiana six week abortion ban. It is an important first step in acknowledging bodily autonomy and our constitutionally-protected right to abortion. Additionally, we calll on city officials across Louisiana to put public health and respect for women over political ideology. If our Governor and state legislators won’t, then local city governments must.