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YWomen Vote Advocacy Fly-In

YWCA Lancaster CEO Stacie Blake was one of five YWCA leaders selected to join YWCA USA in Washington, D.C. last week for a weeklong advocacy fly-in! Throughout the week, YWCA leaders along with YWCA USA CEO, Margaret Mitchell, participated in a series of Hill and Administration meetings that highlighted several critical YWCA initiatives.

( Kelly Grosser, Chief Mission Impact Officer, YWCA Tri-County Area; Stacie Blake, CEO YWCA Lancaster; Naya Diaz, ED, YWCA Greater Austin; Margaret Mitchell, CEO, YWCA USA; Pam Yuen, Director of Government Relations, YWCA USA; Dr. LaRhonda Megras, CEO, YWCA Central Alabama; Dr. Cheryl Watkins, CEO, YWCA Metro St. Louis)

 

Throughout the week, YWCA Leaders focused on four key areas, which include:

Family Violence Prevention and Services Act

The maintenance and strengthening for FVPSA (Family Violence Prevention and Services Act) in the FY23 Appropriations process, with specific focus on the continuation of services, transitional housing, rapid-rehousing and related services (cash access, included) in addition of significant prevention funding.

This is the first and only funding stream dedicated to supporting DV shelters as well as lifesaving services in safety, childcare, housing, transportation, and counseling.

According to YWCA’s YWomen Vote Survey, 72% of women overall said providing robust funding in the federal budget for program services that support survivors of DV, sexual assault, and other gender-based violence is one of the most important or very important things Congress should do.  This includes 80% Black Women, 72% Hispanic/Latinas, 71% AAPI women, and 78% AI/AN women.

Childcare

The childcare sector is still struggling to recover from the pandemic with staff hiring and retention.  The sector, including YWCAs across the nation, is still down over 100,000 workers when compared to pre-pandemic levels, leaving families relying on a childcare system that has lost 10% of its workforce.

65% of women overall support providing robust funding for childcare in the federal budget.  This is an increase of 7 percentage points since January 2022.  79% of Black women, 67% of Hispanic women and Latinas, 70% of AAPI women and 79% of AI?AN women support providing roust funding for childcare in the federal budget.  70% of overall women support access to high-quality childcare that is affordable, dependable, and accessible.  70% of PA women overall believe passing affordable, quality childcare is the most or very important things Congress should do.

YWomen Vote Survey

The YWCA YWomen Vote Survey debrief was hosted on Wednesday afternoon and the results of the survey were used to inform the meetings with key offices during the Fly-In.  The survey is YWCA’s 5th national survey of women in the US, explores women’s economic, health, gender-based, violence, workplace equity, and racial justice concerns and priorities.  The survey highlights that women are expressing deep anxiety about a broad range of economic, caregiving, safety, and societal concern.  The survey reflects that women are remarkably united – across perceived differences of race, ethnicity, party identification, and socioeconomic and disability status – in supporting policy solutions that address the concerns and needs they have for themselves and their families.  The report included in-depth analysis of the concerns and priorities of women of color – Black women, Hispanic women/Latinas, AAPI women, and AI/AN women – Millennial and Generation Z women of color, and women across party lines.  Women’s concerns are increasing when compared to January 2022, particularly with respect to economic security, gender-based violence, racial justice, mental health, childcare, and reproductive rights.  Of note:  Women’s support for Congressional action to protect access to abortion and reproductive rights is strong and increasing; Women want Congress to take action on child care NOW; anxiety around the economy (Cost of Living/Family Income Not Enough to Pay Bills), threats to personal safety (Mass Shootings and Gun Violence), and white nationalism (rise in white nationalism) dominate women’s top concerns.

National Domestic Violence Hotline

The leaders ended their efforts in attendance at the National Domestic Violence Hotline’s 25th Anniversary celebration.  Among others, Sen Bob Casey was present.  NDVH has answered over 6 million calls for help in the past 25 years.  1:4 women, 1:3 teens, 1:7 men will endure relationship violence.  YWCA, as the largest network of DV/SA services in the nation, was honored to participate in this meaningful celebration.

 

WCA Lancaster looks forward to continuing to work together to break down barriers to services for women, families, children, and survivors of gender-based violence. The work done this past week directly impacts women and families in Lancaster through the important work we do at YWCA Lancaster in living out our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women!

Harnessing the regional power of YWCA

While the mission of YWCA Lancaster is rooted in the Lancaster County community, there is immense power to the national model that helps support more than 1,000 YWCA’s across the United States, as well as 120 countries around the world. We’re proud to be able to leverage that power to share resources, learnings, and ideas that can help bring new strategies and uplift more voices than ever before to help us better partner with you to eliminate racism and empower women.

Last month we had the honor of hosting four CEOs and Executive Director’s of regional YWCA’s, some of whom had recently joined their associations and are able to bring their extensive expertise to the YWCA family. Joining us in Lancaster were Delia Marerro of YWCA Bethlehem, Kim Bracey of YWCA York, Tymia Green of YWCA Gettysburg and Adams County, and Stacey Woodland of YWCA Tri-County Area. These exceptional leaders have an immense background of experience ranging from community activism, to former Mayor of York, and we were proud to share the table with such local brilliance!

Sharing insights, centering community

Though we are part of a national network, all dedicated to eliminating racism and empowering women, each specific YWCA’s scope, approach, and services is tailored to the communities we serve. For example, YWCA Lancaster is proud to be our community’s rape crisis center through our Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center, and other associations offer vital physical fitness and wellness services to keep our community healthy and strong.

As part of our gathering, we discussed the differences between our communities, as well as the opportunities to learn from each other, to better uplift historically marginalized voices and to challenge our communities to build more just systems where everyone can thrive. As part of this discussion, we’re working to create a more consistent way of sharing insights across associations to further strengthen all of our programming.

Reaffirming our mission

 

In the coming months, every YWCA association across the country will be reconfirming their agreements with YWCA USA. This is a way of ensuring that every YWCA, regardless of where you are in the United States and regardless of the specific program offerings, upholds the same dedication to eliminating racism and empowering women, and is also remaining emergent to the changing needs of our communities. We, along with our fellow YWCA associations, are proud to be part of a network unlike anything else in the country: a collective of dedicated organizations working to build a just future that can learn, adapt, and uplift the brilliance of our respective communities. Since 1858, YWCA has been leading the way for the issues that will create that future, and we are honored to continue that legacy with you, our County, and our regional YWCA family!

Announcing $200,000 County investment in YForward

We’re proud to announce that YWCA Lancaster has earned a new $200,000 investment in YForward, our radical reimagining of our historic Lime St. location from the Lancaster Housing and Redevelopment Authority’s Community Block Grant Program!

We are honored to be in partnership with Lancaster County government for their plans for the future: YForward will help will add sixteen residential units to the existing 38 units and add an additional, ADA-compliant, interior elevator to handle increased traffic and accommodate ambulance stretchers, and transition the Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center from the 3rd floor to the ground floor. 

A space built for community

With YForward, we will be able to enhance our facility reflect the needs of our community. With the support of the County as well as other community partners we’re working to recruit, we will renovate the Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center, completely transforming our space,  and growing where we are:  

We will have community space created for our survivor groups, such as our Trauma Process Yoga Group, Expressive Arts Groups, support groups for all ages, and processing groups after major events or related media reports. 

Discrete and private meeting spaces will provide a confidential area for team meetings, group supervisions, support groups, and educational workshops.  We will also provide a calm and trauma informed waiting area. 

In addition, we will provide a new, private entrance that allows clients to have direct access to services and can minimize discomfort or potential distress with having to enter via a public entrance. If the elevator is not working it will no longer negatively impact Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center clients who are unable to access the stairs.

Forward for a just future

While we are honored to partner with the County on this block grant, we continue to seek more partnerships with other organizations, businesses and community leaders to meet the full need of the project. With your support, we can maximize this unused space where the pool used to meet more urgent needs for our community, and to grow our Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center. We are proud to continue the work YWCA Lancaster grow where we are, expand our vital services, and continue our work of supporting and advocating for victim survivors of sexual assault. Our mission is more important now than ever, and with your help, we can move forward together!

Learn more about YForward and join the movement to build for community.

Racial Equity Institute and Community Immersion

A new way of creating community

True community is based upon equality, mutuality, and reciprocity. It affirms the richness of individual diversity as well as the common human ties that bind us together.”

-Pauli Murray

In order to create true change, you need to take lessons out of the workshop and into the community. Last month, in partnership with Franklin & Marshall College, we reimagined our traditional Racial Equity Institute to create a new, multi-disciplinary look at racial justice, equity, and how those principles can be–and are–applied to Lancaster County and beyond.

This new, multi-day approach was part workshop, part community immersion. The morning featured content from our  Racial Equity Institute curricula, where participants worked on developing a common language and understanding needed to dismantle racism and to communicate with others about its manifestations, while also developing working tools to identify and address racism within themselves and their everyday lives.

In the afternoon, participants partnered with local grassroots organizations that were embedded in this work to do service projects and to learn from leaders who were translating ideas into action on the ground in Lancaster. Thank you to Lititz Chooses Love, F&M Blackbirds, and Nelson Polite Jr. for their partnership!

 

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We are all connected

As our community continues to grapple with challenges from the pandemic, restriction of women’s rights, and the ongoing pursuit of racial justice, we need each other more than ever. Building understanding, shared language, and deeper knowledge around the importance of eliminating racism and empowering women in Lancaster County and beyond will help our entire community to thrive. Through partnership with community organizations and leaders, we can better learn from each other, and build solidarity around our shared future.

YWCA Lancaster, along with other community partners, is preparing to launch our County’s first Racial Equity Profile in fall of 2022, an interactive resource that can help us to better understand not just the obstacles we face as a community, but the rich opportunity available to us when we invest in ways to support all of our residents.

We’re proud to continue to partner with you, community organizations, and local leaders to learn together, and to build a just future.

Want to be part of our next Racial Equity Institute? Learn more here or contact Tess Feiler at TFeiler@ywcalancaster.org

YWCA has a proud history of promoting justice (column)

The following is a column from Stacie Blake first printed in LNP/Lancaster Online on August 14, 2022. Read it on LNP

When I first walked through the doors at YWCA Lancaster on North Lime Street in 2019, I knew immediately that I was part of something bigger than just a building, beautiful as it is.

Something stronger than just a team of dedicated professionals, extraordinary as they are.

Something more than our letters, YWCA, proud as I am to find a strong positive association with our national family of agencies no matter where I go.

It was clear that this organization was both deeply embedded in our community’s history, but also part of its future. And it was not alone.

I have come to work to find a woman in labor right on our couch in the lobby. And I have come to work to find that a resident has passed away in the night, having taken their last breaths in a room here. I see young, single parents juggling three or four children through our doors each morning and safely into child care rooms staffed with caring professionals.

YWCA Lancaster — like so many organizations in Lancaster County — is part of an immense legacy of community care, civic leadership and advocacy for the needs of residents. A legacy that I am honored to continue. The role of this organization and so many others in the social sector is both interwoven with, and supported by, the business and government sectors, and it is intentionally separate. This separation helps us center and support our community’s most important resource: its people.

The social sector includes so much of what keeps our community strong: fraternal organizations, social and recreational organizations, community and private foundations, churches and religious organizations. Our scope as a sector is vast, but we all have a similar foundation, to undertake private action for public good.

YWCA Lancaster’s mission was questioned recently by two Lancaster County commissioners; at issue was whether our organization “crossed over into political advocacy.”

Our mission at YWCA Lancaster is simple, but far from easy: We strive to eliminate racism and empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom and dignity for all. It’s a mission that is apolitical, as well as universal. It’s a mission that centers our community’s most pressing needs. It’s also a mission that has supporters on all sides of the political spectrum and champions in elected offices at all levels throughout Lancaster County.

Our history is proud. YWCA Lancaster has been here since 1889 with women leading every step of the way. That means that this is, in fact, our second global pandemic. We have been in advocating for women’s empowerment since before women could vote — our organization was the first in Lancaster to offer voter registration and education in 1920, work that continues to this day. We have been steadfast in our work to counter racism since before the rights of Black Americans were codified. We pressed local hotels in Lancaster to allow Black delegates to our regional conference to use their facilities in the mid-1950s. We have been a voice for reproductive justice since before Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 and will continue to be that voice in its absence.

Our present is active. Last year we reached more than 8,000 Lancaster County residents with services including child care for working parents; counseling and support for victim/survivors of sexual abuse or assault; new career pathways for individuals in transition; training to learn more about equity and bias; support for parents struggling with court involvement with their families and dozens of individuals who reside in our Lime Street building. Every program we offer has a wait list and our list of partner agencies and donors is long.

Our future is just, because it is being built in partnership with you to respond to community needs. For us, that means a future in which victim survivors of abuse can heal from past trauma, and sexual assault is prevented entirely. We are expanding our Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center and adding a private, accessible entrance to better meet the needs we see. It means a future in which residents of our community have access to affordable housing, so we are working to add 16 units of low-income housing right here in our building by repurposing existing space and adding a full-size elevator. You can find examples of these important community responses all across Lancaster County, powered by our social sector.

As we await one of the largest investments in our community in recent history through the American Rescue Plan, our community has a profound opportunity to create lasting and just change if we focus on the needs of the most marginalized and leverage the unique power of the social sector to address these needs.

This is a future we all should want, because it’s a future bigger than ourselves. We center eliminating racism and empowering women — just as it says on the side of our building — because if we do this everyone will prosper, and our community’s future will be just.

I am proud to be part of YWCA Lancaster’s mission: a call that has endured for decades, and one that will continue until the mission is met. And, as I learned when I first started, we are not alone. I am proud to be in community with so many other local organizations working for emergent causes, and leaders of all levels who are working to make positive change. We value our community — our people — and will not stop advocating for their needs, or for their voice to be heard, to build a just future together.

Announcing the 2022 Women of Achievement Honorees!

We’re thrilled to welcome five amazing community leaders to our collective of Women of Achievement Honorees!

The Women of Achievement Awards is a one-of-a-kind community event that showcases the accomplishments of women and gender expansive individuals who, through their careers and volunteerism, live out the YWCA’s mission of eliminating racism and empowering women in Lancaster County.

This is the 6th Women of Achievement Awards, which means that together we have created an incredible collective of community leaders from all backgrounds 26 strong, but about to be 31!

At YWCA Lancaster, we work every day to uplift and center the experiences and leadership of women and gender expansive community members. These are the folks who make up the majority of the workforce of our community, inside and outside the home; they provide on average more volunteer labor than anyone in our community, including in creating vital organizations like YWCA Lancaster back in 1889. We center women and gender expansive individuals because when we do that we all prosper.

This year’s pool of nominations was our biggest, and most competitive yet. Thank you to all who nominated, were nominated, and were a part of this year’s selection process.

2022 Women of Achievement Honorees

Salina Almanzar-Oree

Program Coordinator at the Center for Creative Exploration at Pennsylvania College of Art & Design

Salina Almanzar (she/her) is a Puerto Rican and Dominican artist, educator, writer, social justice advocate. Her art and scholarship examine the intersections of Latinidad, feminism, decolonial practice, and Taino spirituality. She is specifically interested in what it means to be ni de aqui y ni de alla, meaning being part of a diaspora that is between spaces and between cultures. 

 

Barbara Jean Ellis Wilson

Executive Director, Lancaster City Housing Authority

Barbara Jean Ellis Wilson (she/her) has dedicated her professional life to public service and strengthening community well-being. Currently leading the Lancaster City Housing Authority, Barbara ensures over 3,100 Lancaster City residents have safe, decent, and affordable housing. Barbara leads the organization of 35+ full-time employees in fulfilling the Authority’s mission to provide housing stability to our city’s most vulnerable populations.  She is the first woman, and only African America, to lead the Lancaster City Housing Authority in its 70 years of existence.  

Dr. Sharee Livingston, DO FACOG, Physician

Patients R Waiting, UPMC

Dr. Sharee Livingston (she/her) is Chair of the ObGyn Department at UPMC. She is the epitome of professionalism and excellence in medicine. She is known and respected by her peers and patients for her surgical expertise. Dr Livingston is a founding board member of Patients R Waiting and has taken her community work to a new level, mentoring students, founding the Doula initiative, and fighting COVID in our community. 
 

Kendra Wolfe

Founder and Executive Guide at Unique Lancaster Experiences

Kendra Wolfe (she/her) is the founder of Unique Lancaster Experiences, a Black and female-owned business that creates meaningful Lancaster-based experiences for tourists and locals that builds community, as well as highlight local, minority, and women-owned businesses in Lancaster. Kendra works to provide opportunities and dignity for impoverished members of the community. She is a role model for others in turning their passion into profitable entrepreneurs who are excited about their careers while connecting with the community in an impactful way.  

2022 Cheryl Gahring Award

We’re also proud to continue the presentation of the Cheryl Gahring award, created in memory of our colleague Cheryl Gahring who passed in 2021. This award is given to an extraordinary young person who represents the future of our community’s spirit of eliminating racism and empowering women.

2022 Cheryl Gahring Young Person of Achievement Award honoree:

Sophie Yost

Manheim Township ’22, Duke University

Sophie Yost (she/her) is a rising Freshman at Duke University. In her high school career, she became the National Field Director for MyVote Project, a national, nonpartisan voter education website with over 250 volunteers (myvoteproject.com). She is the founder of Manheim Township’s Coalition for Social Justice (@mt.coalition) and is a proud member and creator of Manheim Township’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Board to advance and support educational equity 

Join us on October 20!

We hope you’ll join us for 2022 Women of Achievement Awards on October 20, at the DoubleTree in Lancaster. Tickets are on sale starting this moment, so head over to YWCALAncaster.org to book your spot before tickets are gone! We’re so thrilled to be able to uplift and celebrate these honorees with you, as well as the community that helps make it all possible. We’ll see you on October 20!

 

New and Continued Investment in YWCA Lancaster

At YWCA Lancaster, our mission of eliminating racism and empowering women is more vital than ever. We’re thankful to have an incredible community behind us–from organizations to corporations, individuals to elected officials from all parties– who want to join together to meet our mission!

We are proud to update our community on some important recent investments in our programming: these grants, donations, and contract renewals help us to continue to meet the needs Lancaster County, in all parts of the county, and in so many areas of residents’ lives. Whether it’s childcare, counseling, career development, parent empowerment, or community building, YWCA Lancaster is proud to join with you in promoting peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all.

 

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Trust in our community, trust from our community

With support from the Lancaster County government, as well as community partners both nonprofit and corporate, we’re proud to announce some recent new and continued investment in YWCA Lancaster:

Every contract with Lancaster County has been renewed for 2022-3, an investment totaling more than half a million dollars

YWCA Lancaster received funding from the Lancaster County Community Foundation to support the re-launch of the Black Artist Waystation, and the Touchstone Foundation for Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center curricula

  • Black Artist Waystation was conceived to increase the visibility and support of Black Artists in the Lancaster community. Through the program, our aim is to be a catalyst for artists who create works that define the movement toward freedom and recognize the many efforts that brought us to this moment. Details about the 2022-3 program will be available soon!
  • We’re also partnering with the Touchstone Foundation to implement the Healthy Relationship Project: a researched-based, trauma-informed, and age-appropriate child sexual abuse prevention curriculum created by Prevent Child Abuse Vermont!

We were honored to receive investments from corporate partners, such as the Hershey Company, Truist, Erie Insurance, the PPL Foundation, and more!

Until Our Mission is Met

The mission of YWCA Lancaster has not changed since the 70’s and remains, to eliminate racism, empower women and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. We’re proud to partner with community members, elected officials, leaders, organizations, and businesses to help make that mission a reality.

Since 1889, since before women had the right to vote, since before the equal rights for Black Americans were codified, and through two global pandemics we have remained steadfast in our service to community. We have been in this community for more than 130 years, and continually adapt to meet community needs until our mission is met.

Join us!

Recap: an empowering summer at YWonderful Kids

What do you think of when you think summer?

Ice cream, sunscreen, and long hot days are probably on your list. For YWCA Lancaster, summer means community, creativity, and empowerment.

This year, we were proud to offer two free opportunities for female-identifying students in Lancaster to come together, learn through play, and develop new skills. We had an amazing turnout, and were so happy to be able to see so many community members this summer!

Empowerment Day Camp

Hosted through our Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center, we were excited to bring back Empowerment Day Camp by popular demand! Empowerment Day Camp was a unique experience covering topics and activities focused on empowerment, identity, activism, dealing with stress, self and body love!

 

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In addition to fun activities, students also created an interactive art project with the help of local artist Keisha Finnie, who guided the participants through an exercise on self reflection and self confidence, with beautiful results!

TechGyrls

TechGyrls seeks to empower young female presenting individuals in technology, engineering, arts and math and to encourage them to pursue careers within the STEAM fields.

While female presenting individuals make up 29% of the STEAM workforce, BIPOC individuals only make up 4.87%. TechGYRLS youth empowerment program aims to build interest and confidence within these critical areas.

As part of the program, students participated in fun activities focused on current and future technology about sustainable food production. As part of a final project, participants created plans to build their very own colony on Mars!


We would like to extend a special thank you to Arconic for their vital support for TechGyrls, as well as Picterra for generously loaning their detection software which was used in our lesson about machine learning and satellite data. We would also like to thank the The Smithsonian for sharing aerial images of the Serengeti and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory for sharing their concept art related to sustaining plants on Mars. TechGYRLS participants used the Picterra deep learning software to detect animals living in Maasai Mara National Reserve and were fascinated and motivated to create their own concept for Mars-based agriculture for future colonization from the JPL.

We are excited to see what the future holds for our amazing TechGyrls!

On a Mission

The YWCA Lancaster strives to provide high quality, affordable, childcare and learning experiences for the next generation of thinkers, do-ers, and leaders! We were so honored to share these experiences with you this summer, and can’t wait for 2023!

Local Voices: Dobbs decision will harm sexual assault survivors

The following is a Local Voices piece originally published in LNP on July 15, 2022. Read on LNP

We are practicing clinicians at YWCA Lancaster: Our work in preventing sexual assault, abuse and harassment is built on choice and consent. It’s a value we center, and a value that is in jeopardy in our community, and country.

The recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, issued by the U.S. Supreme Court, has had a significant impact for the Lancaster County victims and survivors we serve. Community members are reaching out to express feelings of unease, anger, fear and frustration with the loss of rights due to the recent decision. Traumas are being resurfaced and painful memories revived. For those in this situation, we are here for you.

The YWCA Lancaster’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center has been serving this community as our county’s only rape crisis center for more than 35 years. We have a presence at colleges and universities across the county, offer a 24-hour hotline, provide support at hospitals for sexual assault exams, and offer prevention programs at schools and no-cost group and individual counseling in multiple locations. Adults and children across our county are impacted by sexual violence, harassment and abuse every day, and calls to our hotline are increasing.

 

It’s a misconception that sexual violence is about lust. It’s about power. When sexual assault occurs, bodily autonomy and control are taken from an individual by the perpetrator. Working with our community, we help survivors determine who to tell and when, what to share and what to hold, whether to report and how best to seek protection. We seek consent, centering the power of choice in how one’s own body is used.

It’s also a misconception that this latest Supreme Court ruling is about “life.” It’s about power. Each state now can decide if an individual should carry any pregnancy, no matter the source, the age, the impact. The right to choose is gone. The power to control and manage one’s own body is gone. Just as it was during the assault.

Pregnancy resulting from sexual violence is not uncommon and being forced to carry a pregnancy under these circumstances feels like punishment for being assaulted, one that manifests repeatedly over time in multiple ways. We know this because we hear it from our clients; it is sometimes a minute-by-minute reminder of your assault.

Following are some of our other concerns.

— This ruling will force survivors to disclose their assault before they are ready or to lie about how the pregnancy occurred. What if you are not prepared to tell your parents or partner of an assault?

— This ruling may force survivors to maintain ties to the perpetrator and in some states, perpetrators can maintain custodial rights. Why are we forcing people who are pregnant to remain in unsafe situations, for them and the baby they’re being mandated to carry?

 

— This ruling leaves the door open for trauma as a prerequisite for care. Some supporters of abortion bans claim that allowing exceptions in cases of incest or rape protects survivors. Why must individuals have to endure trauma to be allowed control over their own bodies?

— This ruling will disproportionately harm the Black community. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the risk of dying from pregnancy is three times more likely for Black women. Why are we forcing this risk on members of our community?

— Survivors who are nonbinary, transgender or gender-expansive may feel left out by exclusive language about who is impacted by the Supreme Court decision. We know that all people of all gender identities can — and do — get pregnant and need abortions. We serve these individuals every day, and we work to advocate for their needs and place in this movement.

While we work with law enforcement and prosecution professionals, the fact remains that we have a criminal justice system, not a victim justice system. Assault survivors already face barriers to being believed and to navigating systems of support and response. Adding a lifetime of impact to survivors through forced birth is unthinkable.

Abortion is still legal in Pennsylvania, but some members of the state Legislature are actively working to end this choice. It is up to us as a community to make our voice heard, protect our rights and ensure our community does not suffer the consequences of these harmful, anti-choice policies. We invite you to visit YWCALancaster.org to learn more and take action. Believing survivors means centering their best interests, their choices.

YWCA Lancaster has always been at the forefront of making sure our community members are able to decide when, and if, to grow their families. Abortion is a personal decision. Abortion is health care. Abortion is a fundamental right. And we will never back down.

The column was authored by the staff of YWCA Lancaster’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Counseling Center: Susan Hall, Mandy Billman, Danielle Perez, Yoangelys Cedeno, Danielle Harvey and Aleah Tyson.

YWCA Lancaster runs a 24-hour, locally operated sexual assault hotline, 717-392-7273, that connects callers to free, confidential counseling and therapy services for community members impacted by sexual abuse, harassment or assault.

Local Voices: Ending Abortion Will Harm Our Community

The following is a Local Voices piece originally published in LNP on May 15, 2022. Read on LNP

It might sound like a cliche, but it bears repeating: Abortion is a personal decision. Abortion is health care. Abortion is a fundamental right.

It bears repeating because there are people, organizations and institutions that are actively working to undermine our community’s ability to access safe health care.

It bears repeating because there are people whose livelihoods — and lives — are being placed in jeopardy by the threat of Roe v. Wade being overturned.

It bears repeating because, while the decision to access an abortion is a personal choice, access to it is something that affects the future of Lancaster County.

It is personal. But fundamentally, we are all impacted together.

And while it may be fundamental, that does not mean it was not hard fought. We are mothers by choice, a choice that was won through the sacrifices of generations of activists and advocates, specifically Black women. It is because of their work so many people have been able to access this fundamental right.

As it stands, this will be the first generation to have fewer rights than the generation before. Unless we act now, together.

Let’s start with some important facts:

  • Abortion is still legal in Pennsylvania and the United States. The leaked decision from the U.S. Supreme Court is just a draft and not legally binding until a final version is issued by the court.
  • If Roe is overturned, according to the Guttmacher Institute, 26 states are certain or likely to ban abortion. Pennsylvania is not one of those states, though we will become the nearest resource for neighboring states.
  • Abortion bans do nothing to stop abortion rates, and disproportionately impact lower-income people, and people and families of color.
  • You, we and everyone in Lancaster County have benefited from a society that allows safe and legal access to abortion.
  • YWCA Lancaster has always been at the forefront of making sure our community members are able to decide when, and if, to grow their families. And we will never back down.

Our work impacts women and people of all backgrounds. And this ruling, if codified, will impact them, too. We know it because we live it. Every day our doors are open to community members looking to grow their understanding of anti-racism; parents dropping their children off for day care; victim survivors seeking counseling for sexual assault; and residents who are in need of affordable or safe housing. A decision that impacts their ability to control their own futures affects all of us.

It is personal. But fundamentally, we are all impacted together.

From every metric, restricting the right of individuals and families to make their own decisions hurts our community and disproportionately causes harm to families of color. Denying the right to safe and legal abortion will stop countless members of our community from being able to pursue their goals, contribute new and innovative ideas, and move our county forward. A ban will ensnare the economically disadvantaged and people of color in an inequitable health care and child care system. Most importantly, it will force many who are desperate to terminate their pregnancies to seek dangerous and unsafe ways to achieve it, risking their lives.

The advocacy organization SisterLove Inc. has a useful tool for tracking the impact of Roe v. Wade being overturned. Using it, you can see that if Roe is reversed, Pennsylvania’s abortion protections will remain in place. However, we are a “nearest clinic” state, meaning that if this draft decision comes to pass, then our already burdened health care system will be strained as individuals seek help here. The best, safest and most beneficial way forward for our community is to keep abortion access legal.

It is a personal decision. But fundamentally, we are all impacted together.

Every day, we are privileged to engage with people who are seeking the freedom to choose: whether it’s a new career path, a fresh start from a dangerous living situation or the next chapter in their journey toward healing from sexual assault. The freedom to choose is sacred; one we honor and vow to protect.

YWCA Lancaster will continue to fight for our community members’ ability to choose their own futures and to have freedom over where, when or if to grow their families. We will continue to fight with the women and people we serve and the women and people we haven’t yet served. We will continue to fight for our community’s best interests.

So we will repeat it until it truly is a cliche: Abortion is a personal decision. Abortion is health care. Abortion is a fundamental right.

Because fundamentally, we are all impacted together.

Stacie Blake is CEO of YWCA Lancaster. Deborah Wilson Gadsden is the organization’s board chair.