5 Groups Doing Great Work On Reproductive Rights You Haven't Heard Of — Yet

Photo: Kris Connor/Getty Images.
Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas, executive director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.
As the year draws to a close, It’s a time to look back on things that happened over the past twelve months. Over the next few days, we’ll be revisiting some of our favorite stories from throughout the year, and seeing again what they mean for 2015 in review.

This story was originally published on October 7, 2015.


The quest to destroy Planned Parenthood won't end anytime soon, which means the healthcare nonprofit will almost certainly be in the news from now until next year's Presidential election. It also means that there will be the inevitable obnoxious political statements that will inspire in many people the urge to support groups that protect health care. Planned Parenthood is one of the most well-known organizations doing this work, and it's still facing potentially catastrophic cuts to its funding; the struggle for smaller groups that work with the most marginalized communities is often even more intense.

Reproductive health care — essential tests, medications, and services for women, men, and anyone elsewhere on the gender spectrum — is much bigger than just Planned Parenthood, and attacks on the largest providers will ripple out through even the most grassroots organizations. The attacks also end up hurting those who are most likely to have the fewest options: people in poor communities, people of color, people who are trans or gender nonconforming, and sex workers.

The following five groups are located in different parts of the U.S., and they work on a much wider range of issues than just providing abortions or cancer screenings, and they all need help as much as the more visible women's groups.

1. Third Wave Fund
When it comes to issues of gender and reproductive justice, young activists often have very different goals than large, mainstream groups. For 35 years, Third Wave has funded and supported projects run by young people who still aren't represented adequately at the national level — women of color, trans and queer people, and young people in general. Third Wave gives grants to groups around the country working on issues of health care, reproductive justice, and human and civil rights. The leaders doing this organizing are under 35, and they make a real difference in the lives of the people they serve.

2. National Network of Abortion Funds
If Planned Parenthood loses its federal funding, that could make it even harder than it already is for a woman in the U.S. to get an abortion if she needs one. But the obstacles that face women in need of abortions don't start at waiting periods and mandatory ultrasounds — abortion care can be expensive. Many women struggle to raise the money for the procedure, which also has to cover everything from transportation to hotel rooms.

There are groups all over the country that try to help, but there is always more need than they can meet. The National Network of Abortion Funds has a state-by-state list of foundations; some are connected to specific clinics, others are regional, but all of them have the same mission — helping women.

3. National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health
Immigration will be a huge issue in the next election, but focusing on people who want to come to the U.S. ignores the 26 million Latina women who live in America and their families. Latina women have high rates of cervical cancer, and many states with large Latina populations have drastically restricted abortion access in recent years. And many undocumented women may avoid going to the doctor for fear of being deported — a completely valid fear. The NLIRH is dedicated to reproductive justice and advocating for women, families, and members of the LGBTQ community.

4. Sylvia Rivera Law Project
The next big fight for LGBTQ rights is to expand protections for trans and gender nonconforming people, but the issues at stake go far beyond just anti-discrimination laws in work and housing. Getting health care can be a fraught process; just finding a doctor who respects trans patients and doesn't second-guess medical needs can be all but impossible. And many insurance companies still don't cover important treatment and procedures that trans patients need to be healthy. And it doesn't stop there. LGBTQ people face high rates of sexual assault, and reproductive care is essential no matter how someone identifies. The lawyers at SLRP work on the principle that everyone deserves access to high-quality health care.

5. National Advocates for Pregnant Women
Reproductive freedom is about more than defending the right to safe and legal abortion. It's about making sure that women can have safe and healthy pregnancies without being criminalized or stigmatized. States including Alabama and Tennessee have passed "chemical endangerment" laws, which means mothers can lose their children and face jail time if they test positive for drugs in the hospital, no matter the circumstances. Prosecution is no substitute for mental health care and drug treatment, and the NAPW fights policies that criminalize and endanger women, and it advocates for better laws related to pregnancy.

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