Alyssah Speaks at the Supreme Court Rally to Protect Abortion Access
This is a speech that was delivered at the Supreme Court on March 2, 2016. Here is the full text. You can watch the full rally here.
My name is Alyssah Roth, I am a young, queer Chicana from El Paso, Texas, and I am the president and co-founder of West Fund.
In 2010, when I started college, I became involved with what is nowURGE: Unite for Reproductive and Gender Equity. This organization has continued to play a vital role in who I am today, and more importantly, why I am here today.
In the summer of 2013 when HB2 was introduced, El Paso, along with the rest of Texas, clung to hope as we watched Senator Davis’ filibuster, wishing desperately that we could be at the capitol chanting and rallying with all of the fearless activists. But once HB2 was going to be signed into law, we decided that we could no longer sit back and let this devastating bill harm the resilient and powerful people of El Paso. So West Fund was born.
Members of URGE, URGE alum, and other members of the community came together to create this fund. We help to pay for people’s abortions, which is something that should be accessible to anyone who needs it, regardless of who they are, regardless of where they live, and regardless of how much money they have.
When we started funding in December of 2014, we received an average of 8 calls per month. Since then, the number of abortion clinics in Texas has gone from 40 to 20, and we are receiving 5 times the amount of calls -- and for more funding.
"The closest clinic to El Paso that performs abortions that far along is in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1 state, 300 miles and an immigration check point away from us."
Last month alone, we received a record number of calls. But not only has this number increased, so has the amount of funding our callers need. A TxPEP study on wait times showed that patients wait 21 days more since the clinic closure law went into effect. So now, the average cost of our callers’ procedures has jumped from $600 to $950, a direct reflection of the three week wait period. Further, 11% of the people we have funded need over $1,000. Of those, 5% have needed over $5,000, which shows that one tenth of our callers are beyond 16 weeks pregnant. To put that into perspective, the closest clinic to El Paso that performs abortions that far along is in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 1 state, 300 miles and an immigration check point away from us. If HB2 is upheld, El Paso will lose all abortion clinics, and the next closest clinic within the state would be in San Antonio, 561 miles away.
"The Supreme Court must UNDO that burden!"
Sadly, however, cost and distance are not the biggest or the only barriers to accessing a safe and legal abortion. If our patients saved every dollar they had, they still could not afford a safe and legal abortion. Of the people we fund, two-thirds are parents, half are uninsured, and one fourth are students. 61% of our patients are unemployed. The work the West Fund does is just not enough. Unfortunately, the West Fund has only been able to fund 35% of the people who have called us, and only partially -- an average of $110 per caller. Any amount of money that we are able to give out cannot fill the gap that lawful, just, and accessible clinics can fill.
The clinic shut down bill is vile, unjust, and an undue burden to people across the entire state. The Supreme Court must UNDO that burden!
"Young people will never stop fighting. Queer people of color will never stop fighting. And Texas will never stop fighting."
But regardless of the outcome today, we will not stop fighting. I have seen the astonishing work that this movement is capable of. It is powerful, it is ground-breaking, and it is resilient. Young people will never stop fighting. Queer people of color will never stop fighting. And Texas will never stop fighting.