(Lack of) Abortion Access in West Virginia: Interview with an Advocate

By Maryam

At Nurx, we’re interviewing inspiring Changemakers who are making a difference in the health field and reproductive justice.

Caitlin Gaffin is the Director of Operations for WV FREE, the leading reproductive health, rights, and justice organization in the state of West Virginia.

WV FREE is a reproductive health, rights, and justice organization that works to improve education on reproductive options, increase access to affordable birth control, reduce teen pregnancy, improve adolescent health, and protect personal decision-making, including the decision of whether or when to have a child.

What is the most urgent need in West Virginia in the context of reproductive health access?

CG: Now that our state is down to only one abortion clinic, with conditions for receiving abortion care becoming increasingly more stringent, the fight for comprehensive, evidence-based reproductive health care access for all West Virginians is even more crucial.

Add to that, the fact that our relatively small state hosts well over 30 crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs), many of whom deceptively advertise as women’s health facilities and often fail to provide honest and accurate medical information, and West Virginia’s current landscape for reproductive health care access certainly appears challenging, to say the least.

What experiences have shocked you during your time at WV FREE?

I am shocked each time a pregnant woman who is being unfairly treated or discriminated against in her workplace contacts WV FREE for legal assistance.

I am shocked when we’re fielding calls from women struggling to access reproductive health care without adequate transportation to the nearest provider (who, in some places and cases, may be more than a four-hour drive away).

I am shocked whenever our elected officials not only appear to completely fail at understanding the importance of reproductive health and rights of women and families, but also actively seek out ways to further restrict such access.

What advice would you give to someone who is interested in getting involved?

CG: Reach out to your closest reproductive justice organization and ask how you can best help! There are so many ways to get involved – whether you’d like to speak out on social media and within your community to raise awareness on the dangers of CPCs, volunteer to talk with women who call an abortion fund hotline seeking financial support, or use your creative skills to make zines on pregnancy options from the privacy of your bedroom.

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