This month marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and while feminists and the unwillingly impregnated celebrate, abortion prices have never been higher. Last year, women between the ages of 18 and 24 paid between $450 and $800 per elective procedure. Nearly all of the fees go towards overhead costs like sanitation, equipment, and assurance that a “doctor” will perform the procedure. With the popularity of abortions on the rise, a group of UCSB students decided to take vaginas into their own hands and open the UC System’s very first student-run abortion clinic.
“Everyone at the clinic is like, super friendly,” says freshman Aaliyah Hernandez, “The nurses were so bitchy when I had my first abortion a few years ago. The girls here are so much more understanding.”
The clinic operates out of the park next to Angry Wings in Isla Vista, a smart move that pre-med senior and Operations Manager Jennifer Guzman says was “instrumental in ensuring students would be able to find us,” adding that “it’s right by the health center.” More importantly, the entire operation is 100% student run and funded. The money raised from each procedure ($20 from a pre-med student and only $10 if you opt for an abortion performed by one of Isla Vista’s homeless) goes towards raising awareness about increasing abortion prices.
The clinic got its start this past fall quarter when two junior girls came to Guzman’s door, crying and bloodied. “They’d just found out that the same Beta guy knocked them up, and one of the girls was starting to look a little fat,” says Guzman. “She needed my help and I couldn’t refuse. Plus, I had just gotten back from the dry cleaners and I had, like, six wire hangers that didn’t match my pink velour ones”. The rest was history. The following week Guzman and her best friend, senior Feminist Studies major Sarah Namazi, opened the clinic.
“The name ‘AS Program Board’ was already taken – we would have loved such a simple abbreviation for ‘Abortion Services.’ Instead we went with ‘The Abort Fort’, you know, because we operate out of a shack,” adds Guzman, whose co-workers have nicknamed her “Fetus Director”.
With humble beginnings, the clinic preformed its first “legal” abortion in November 2012. But it wasn’t without a bit of trial and error that they’ve become what they are today. “We were worried at first when we couldn’t find any doctors or nurses to perform the procedures,” says Namazi. “But we realized how much more economical and practical it would be to have Isla Vista’s homeless population preforming the abortions. They probably have more experience than anyone.” These “Termination Specialists” as they’re known around the clinic, are an essential part of keeping costs low for the student-run organization. They don’t require payment for their services, and instead prefer to sleep in the patient beds. This way, procedures are performed 24/7, even during off-hours. Many also teach “DIY Abortion” classes to students for a smaller fee on Tuesday evenings.
UCSB’s uterus-carrying population has voiced its support for the Abort Fort, including End Fake Clinics vice president Danielle Bragdon, whose organization devotes its efforts to suppressing religiously affiliated clinics that discourage women from receiving abortions.
“I think it’s a highly progressive institution that should have shown up years ago,” says Bragdon. “Why do we need to let the right-wing government decide what’s right for our bodies when perfectly capable homeless women and teenagers are on our side?”
Since its conception the clinic has performed almost 300 abortions and dedicates itself to keeping UCSB’s female population thin and throwing up for only practical purposes.