(Photo: Courtesy of Brittany Mostiller)
In 2007, when Brittany Mostiller, then 23, went to the Chicago Abortion Fund (CAF) — an organization that helps women pay for pregnancy terminations in their second trimester — she found out she was further along than she suspected. But an abortion for someone as far along as she was cost $900, which was more than she could afford. Thankfully, CAF helped her pay for her procedure — she was already a mother of three.
Soon after, Mostiller grew closer to the organization through her follow up care and starting volunteering for their Leadership Group. Through this group, she travels throughout the Chicago community educating young women and men on reproductive rights, sharing her own story and empowering other women of color about reproductive justice and abortion rights. She is also currently working on a Women's Studies degree at Northeastern Illinois University and works full-time.
Mostiller talks to BET.com about why we all deserve access to abortion, forms of birth control and community support.
BET.com: How crucial was the CAF when you were pregnant?
Brittany Mostiller: They saved my life. I was on the verge of throwing myself down the stairs or committing suicide. Nine hundred dollars is a lot of money, but with their assistance, I could afford the procedure that I needed. I was determined to be a better parent for my girls and having another child was not what was best for our family at that time.
Despite African-American women having the highest abortion rates in the U.S., we don’t often speak out about our experiences with abortions. Why did you want to share your story?
It took me awhile to get to the point of opening up. But over time, attending the groups CAF offered, I saw other women of color talking about their own experiences. That sisterhood helped take the shame away for me. And soon I realized that my story could make a difference.
What do you do as volunteer for CAF?
As part of the Leadership Group, I go into the community, the areas that receive the most CAF funding, and pass out condoms and information about abortions and birth control and other forms of contraception. We also host education forums where we talk about a range of social issues, such as domestic violence, STDs and HIV. We explore why our abortion rates are so high and what we can do about it.
But most important, we address the entire range of reproductive justice, which a lot of people don’t really understand what that is. It’s more than just having a baby; it’s about creating communities that support our decision to have a baby or not to have a baby.
Do you find from your outreach work that younger women and men truly understand how to prevent pregnancy?
No. You’d be surprised how much people don’t know. And it’s because comprehensive sex education is not being offered in the schools and when it is, it’s not enough. Not to mention, it’s not being taught at home.
How do you address this cultural belief that abortion is genocide?
First, that belief is foolishness. I remember when the Life Always billboards [targeting Black women and abortion] came into my neighborhood. I was so angry, I took it personal. Those billboards were right across the street from the middle school I graduated from. And we heard a lot of people say to us that abortion is “killing black babies” and how it’s wrong. I said, “Well, let’s talk about it.” And as a community, we did. I made sure I emphasized why a group would put all of this money into this billboard and not invest in our education.
What does this work mean to you?
So much. This contribution is powerful. I am part of helping women of color make sound decisions with their lives and their bodies. And it feels good to see how many women’s lives we’ve helped and how many women have been able to join us, because the power lies in the numbers.
Learn more about the Chicago Abortion Fund here.
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