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Alumna works for abortion rights

Mills College Weekly

Mills alumna Stephanie Poggi was recently appointed as the first
executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds
(NNAF), an association of 99 grassroots organizations across the
U.S. that raises funds to aid low-income women who cannot afford
the cost of an abortion.

Poggi said that she is thrilled to join an organization that
respects and fights for reproductive freedom. She estimated that
one in three women who want abortions can’t afford them.

She said that as the Bush administration continues its attack on
reproductive rights, including the recent passing of the
partial-birth abortion ban, the work of NNAF is now more
indispensable than ever.

Along with helping women to get the funds they need, NNAF tries
to educate the public about the Hyde Amendment, which in 1977
banned access to federal funds for abortion procedures for
virtually every woman who depends on the government for health
care. This includes Medicaid recipients, women in federal prisons,
women in the military, postal workers, federal employees and even
Peace Corps volunteers.

“The Network’s mission is to make sure that low-income women
gain access to the abortion services and other reproductive health
care they want and have a legal right to,” Poggi said.

Poggi said the recent partial-birth abortion ban is just one
more government restriction to safe abortions, and mentioned a
colleague who calls it the “partial-truth” ban.

The ban could, in fact, do much more than stop a particular kind
of abortion; it will directly affect the reproductive rights of
low-income women already affected by the Medicaid ban.

“Lack of funding pushes many women to have later abortions
because they have to struggle to get the money together for
abortion services,” Poggi said. “Low-income women are most affected
by restrictions on abortion, but their voices are usually not heard
in the national conversation about reproductive rights.”

Centered at Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass., NNAF is already
beginning to strategize about the April 2004 march in Washington
for reproductive rights, with emphasis on “access and equality” to
highlight that despite Roe v. Wade, abortion remains out of reach
to tens of thousands of low-income women and girls.

“We must make reproductive freedom a reality for all women,
regardless of their financial status,” said Poggi. Founded in 1993,
the NNAF is primarily involved with national advocacy and education
to raise awareness about the Hyde Amendment. They also seek to
educate people about other discriminatory legislation and policies
that create barriers to reproductive rights for low-income women,
women of color, and young women.

Poggi received her master’s degree in creative writing from
Mills, and her undergraduate degree in feminist studies and Italian
from Stanford. Before going to NNAF, she had been working for
Survivors, Inc., a women’s welfare rights organization. She has
also been a writer and editor for Sojourner: The Women’s Forum and
the Gay Community News. She also worked with Californians for
Justice to help defeat Proposition 209, a measure to ban
affirmative action in the state.