Pamela Shifman is President of the Democracy Alliance, and the founder of Shake the Table, a new organization bridging philanthropy with movements for racial, gender and economic justice. The views expressed in this commentary belong solely to the author. Read more from As Equals. For information about how the series is funded and more, check out our FAQs.
(CNN)The leaked draft ruling of the US Supreme Court to reverse Roe versus Wade — the landmark 1973 judgment that ruled it unconstitutional to restrict the right to have an abortion — was devastating but not surprising. Nor was the news on Wednesday that the Senate voted down a key bill that would have preserved abortion access across the US. Grassroots feminist organizations, especially those led by women of color, Indigenous women and other historically marginalized communities, have been warning us of this day for decades.
Soon after the news broke, Laurie Bertram Roberts of the Yellowhammer Fund, an Alabama-based non-profit that offers support for women who have abortions, was quoted by NBC as saying: “We’ve been planning for this possibility for several years…This isn’t a new threat, but it’s a larger threat.” Despite their sizes, the organizations these individuals represented played outsized roles in protecting democracy and human rights for us all, yet their effectiveness — and ability to safeguard the hard-earned wins — has been limited by a dire shortage in funding.
“Too many of our communities in the US have been existing in a pre-Roe reality. With few clinics and ever mounting bans and restrictions, abortion access is still legal yet out of reach.”
Paris Hatcher, Founder and Director of Black Feminist Future A report analyzing existing data, and published in 2021 by the Association for Women’s Rights in Development found that “99% of development aid and foundation grants still do not directly reach women’s rights and feminist organizations” and “despite new funding commitments made, women’s rights organizations receive only 0.13% of the total Official Development Assistance and 0.4% of all gender-related aid.” And yet, grassroots feminist groups — organizations, leaders and networks working together to challenge and change power structures that reinforce gender inequality — have been credited with helping to end the war in Liberia and bring progressives into government in Slovenia. Amongst other victories, they’ve also succeeded in widening access to legalized abortion in countries from Argentina to Ireland. Read MoreThese organizations do the hard work of creating the conditions for, and accelerating, much-needed social change, and data analysis shows that women’s rights organizations in the Global South that do this essential work operate on shoestring budgets averaging $30,000 a year. On the other hand, according to a 2020 report by the Global Philanthropy Project, over a 10-year period, US organizations that oppose women’s rights and those of LGBTQ+ communities, had an aggregate revenue of more than $6 billion. They spend their money in the US but also around the world, funding campaigns against our rights and supporting court cases. The reversal of Roe versus Wade will be the culmination of decades-long attacks on abortion rights in the US. Feminist movements, especially led by Black women, and especially in the US South, have also been on the frontlines of responding to attacks that have included eroding reproductive rights at the state level and dangerous so-called ‘abortion reversal‘ methods. Supporters of Planned Parenthood dressed as characters from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” at a rally outside the US Capitol in Washington, DC, June 27, 2017.The fact is, even with Roe versus Wade intact, abortion had become increasingly inaccessible for many women, particularly poor women, women of color and those who live in rural areas. As Paris Hatcher, Founder and Director of Black Feminist Future said via email: “Too many of our communities in the US have been existing in a pre-Roe reality. With few clinics and ever mounting bans and restrictions, abortion access is still legal yet out of reach.” “The reality is that the Roe decision has been the floor in reference to what we actually need and want for abortion access and reproductive justice,” added Hatcher whose organization offers leadership development and community care. “Lack of serious investment in feminist groups for the last decades has meant our movements barely have what they need to respond to constant attacks rather than building on Roe and advancing the bold visions and policies we so desperately need”. UK government bans virginity testing, but has still not apologized for past abuses on immigrantsPeople who care about abortion access — in the US and beyond — should also want to see unprecedented resources flow directly to those most impacted by this injustice. We need to counter the under-investing in these people, which is reinforced by flawed practices such as selecting grantees from closed networks, giving project-based rather than core support, and basing grant size solely by organizational budget as opposed to need and organizational promise. These practices have perpetuated rather than challenged inequalities. This month, new research from my organization Shake the Table — working with The Bridgespan group which provides consulting to non-profits and philanthropists — calls for an additional $1.5 billion a year to be invested in feminist movements globally, including to organizations in the United States. In order to reverse the mounting damage being done every day to women’s and LGBTQ+ rights, feminist movements need more resources. They also need the freedom to respond to new threats and opportunities and to boldly innovate. The threats, in their source and nature, are always changing and we need feminist organizations that are resilient and able to change too. Now is the time to fund those organizations into being. Story of the week Filipino youths and children at a rally to draw attention to sexual abuse of women and children as part of the “One Billion Rising” campaign. The online platforms and digital services that contribute millions to the Philippine economy also facilitate the online sexual abuse and exploitation of children. Can a new president and a new law hold companies accountable? In Philippines, the fight against online sexual abuse of children poses a tension between human rights and economic development Women behaving badly: Dr Chien-Shiung Wu (1912-1997) Dr Chien-Shiung Wu inside a laboratory at Columbia University.Written by Pallabi MunsiShe was called among other monikers the ‘First lady of Physics’, and yet it is believed that Dr Chien-Shiung Wu’s contribution to particle physics was not given the recognition it deserved when she was alive. Born in Liuhe, a fishing town north of Shanghai, Wu studied in a school started by her father who believed girls should be educated. In 1934, she graduated at the top of her class from National Central University in Nanking — now Nanjing University. Then in 1936, she enrolled at the University of California, Berkeley, to do a PhD in nuclear physics, which she received in 1940. A career in academia followed: first Smith College, then Princetown University where she was the first woman on the faculty of the physics department. After that, while working at Columbia University, she joined the Manhattan Project, the classified project funded by the US government to develop the first atomic bomb. In 1956, she was approached by theoretical physicists Tsung Dao Lee and Chen Ling Ning Yang to devise an experiment to prove a theory of theirs that was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics just one year later. But Wu’s contributions were not recognized. Still the physicist would go on to receive several other awards and accolades, including having an asteroid named after her. Throughout her career, Wu was a vociferous critic of gender discrimination in the sciences. She once asked an audience at a symposium at MIT “whether the tiny atoms and nuclei, or the mathematical symbols, or the DNA molecules have any preference for either masculine or feminine treatment.” Other stories worth your time Why we’ve been adorning our nails for centuries — CNN The Method, a podcast about a feminist utopia — Gloria Media The economics of fertility: A new era — Discussion paper published by Collaborative Research Center Transregio 224 Marital rape isn’t a crime in India. This lawyer is fighting to change that. — TIME Abortion lies, secrets and silence — Feminist Giant
“A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”
American journalist Gloria Steinem