NYAAF, Won’t You be my Valentine?

Today as you see roses everywhere, eat chocolates out of a red heart shaped box, send multiple someecards to your friends, and raise a glass of champagne toasting that special person in your life — I raise my glass to one organization – the New York Abortion Access Fund.

I started volunteering with NYAAF late in 2010 and found a group of people that understood my passion for reproductive justice, wanted to talk about abortion access as much as I did, and welcomed me with open arms. When I was alerted to an open position on the board, I immediately applied and prepared for my interview more than most people prepare for their senior prom. When I was offered a position on the board in August 2011 I knew my life would only be changing for the better.

I attended my first board meeting, received intake training, and was prepared to start my first week of intake. Our intake week begins on Sunday, my first Sunday of intake was the day after the 2011 SlutWalk, which I helped to organize. So while putting away protest signs and bullhorns I was checking the voicemail and returning calls to people seeking funding for their abortions. Not only was I winding down from SlutWalk but I was also preparing to head home for the wedding of a close friend. I traveled to Vermont and was answering intake calls in a barn while de-thorning roses for the brides bouquet. During wedding prep I would hear my phone ring and sneak away to speak to someone who was seeking funding. I answered the phone early in the morning before getting out of bed and negotiated price discounts with clinics while setting up centerpieces. I learned that abortion fund volunteers don’t take a vacation, or a sick day — we work every day of the year no matter the occasion.

In 2012 I was on intake six times. Six weeks of the year I was responsible to respond to emails, check the voicemail, return phone calls, and negotiate prices with clinics. That is six weeks of the year that my co-workers saw me come into the office early to be able to call clinics as soon as they opened. Six weeks that my friends received notice that I wouldn’t be able to go out after work, or attend Sunday brunch because NYAAF intake takes priority over everything else. Six weeks that I carried my black intake binder with me everywhere I went. Six weeks that I called and texted with people who were seeking funds for their abortion or were looking to be connected to resources such as a medicaid enroller in their community or a clinic that provides abortion care. Six weeks that I dedicated my time and energy to helping people raise as much as they could on their own and bridging a gap in the end if needed. Those were the best six weeks of my 2012.

I made intake calls in airports, on a bench in Washington Square Park, in the small conference room in my office, in my living room, in my parents living room, in coffee shops in Burlington Vermont, ducking into quiet spaces while attending a friends birthday party. Always asking the person what was the best time of day to reach them. If they’re a student it may be early in the morning before class. If they’re a parent it may be after 9pm once their children are fast asleep. NYAAF doesn’t have an office so board members find a quiet and private space to make and return calls.

There are some people in my life who don’t understand why I love this work so much. Some people who think I talk about abortion too much or too often, or the in wrong spaces. Who think I spend too much time working. To them I say it’s not possible. To them I say spend a week with me while I’m on intake, check the mail and open a letter from someone we have funded expressing their unlimited thanks and telling us how we have now opened doors for them and put them in control of their life.

I love the New York Abortion Access Fund. I love the other 12 people who serve as board members. I love each and every person who supports the organization. I love the people who attend our events, who talk about us on Facebook and Twitter, and who donate when they can. I love the people who aren’t afraid to talk about abortion, or the Hyde Amendment and other reproductive justice issues. I love everyone who talks about NYAAF as much as I do, because the more you talk about NYAAF the more people realize we exist.

Today many people choose to overtly express their love and gratitude for others in their lives. On this day, and every other day of the year, I choose to express my love, gratitude and extreme appreciation for the New York Abortion Access Fund.

I want to say thank you to every person who makes NYAAF what it is, who makes NYAAF the incredible abortion fund it is. Thank you to every person who will put on a pair of bowling shoes on April 21st and bowl for abortion access. Thank you to every person who celebrated abortion access with us on the 24th of January, and thank you to each and every person who works together to ensure abortion is safe, legal, accessible and funded. If it weren’t for all of you I wouldn’t have a valentine.


Alison Turkos
NYAAF Board Member