History

ACCESS received our first healthline call in September 1993. With a few phones, a handful of volunteers, and binders of referrals, we began challenging the barriers to reproductive health care, whether that meant providing a woman with basic information about her menstrual cycle or offering rides so women could get to their abortion appointments. Since then, ACCESS has grown into a state-wide organization that is multicultural, multigenerational and bilingual, and serves as a leader in state advocacy efforts.

Reflecting

The years just prior to starting ACCESS were highly charged, politically and socially. President Reagan had appointed three Supreme Court justices; the Court’s decision in the Webster case signaled the end of an absolute constitutional protection for abortion; and in 1988, Operation Rescue made its way to California, galvanizing many to protect access to abortion by defending women and clinics from violent anti-choice protestors.
 
As clinic escorts, we learned about the many barriers women were facing. There were women who had traveled hours through California just to get to the nearest abortion provider, and others who were turned away from the clinic because they didn’t have the right Medi-Cal paperwork or had a health condition that required a hospital’s help. After witnessing the barriers women faced, clinic defense began to feel too reactive-we needed to be combating the whole range of barriers to access, and not just the ones created by Operation Rescue.
 
We launched ACCESS after the 1992 court decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which kept alive the illusion of Roe v. Wade while allowing states to make it very difficult for women—especially young or poor women—to actually obtain an abortion. Our vision for ACCESS was not only to provide information and practical support on all aspects of reproductive health, but to build a community actively working to meet the real needs of women.
 
 

Timeline

 
1993  A new project was invited to join the Coalition for the Medical Rights of Women. This project was ACCESS, which continued for over a decade as the only active project of the Coalition. Through a toll-free hotline, volunteer network, and abortion fund, ACCESS works to ensure access to the full range of reproductive health services, including abortion, for every Californian.

1993-1994 In March, Dr. David Gunn becomes the first known doctor killed because he performs abortions. By the end of 1994, four more people have been murdered and at least ten seriously injured in violent attacks against abortion clinics and providers.The Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances (FACE) Act is signed into law in May, making it a federal crime to intimidate, injure or interfere with someone trying to provide or obtain reproductive health services.


1995 The month of October is declared Abortion Access Action Month in memory of Rosie Jimenez, the first known woman to die from an illegal abortion after the Hyde Amendment cut off public funding for abortions.


1996 The California Supreme Court rules that a 1987 law requiring women under 18 to obtain parental consent or judicial bypass for an abortion violates the California Constitution’s right to privacy.


1997 Call volume on the hotline doubles after ACCESS receives foundation funding and is able to hire part-time hotline staff.


1998 California Governor Pete Wilson vetoes AB 160, which would have required contraceptive coverage in insurance plans.
1999 Michelle Lee receives national attention after obtaining an abortion with help from ACCESS and other organizations. Even though she needed a heart transplant, the hospital had refused to perform an abortion, stating that her chance of dying from the pregnancy was ‘not greater than 50%.’

1999 An initiative to amend the state constitution to require parental consent for abortion fails to gather enough signatures to get on the ballot. ACCESS and the CARAL Pro-Choice Education Fund release a joint study entitled Holes in the Safety Net; The Lack of Abortion Access in California Hospitals.
2000  ACCESS joins the California Coalition for Reproductive Freedom and takes a lead role in organizing the Bay Area work of the Campaign for Access and Reproductive Equity, a national effort to unite reproductive rights and social justice groups.

2000 Medi-Cal begins to cover medical abortion and allow women to apply for Emergency Medi-Cal without proof of pregnancy.


2001 Several abortion providers stop accepting Medi-Cal for second-trimester abortions, citing low reimbursement rates and billing difficulties.

2002 Our Latina Outreach Program launches, including a dedicated Spanish hotline number and a series of bilingual/bicultural community workshops.


2003 ACCESS celebrates its 10th anniversary!
2008 ACCESS plays a leading role in defeating Proposition 4, the third parental notification ballot initiative in four years. Together with reproductive justice allies, we called on Californians to Protect the Health and Safety of our Daughters and Sisters through voter education, get out the vote activities and media outreach.

2009 ACCESS releases Barriers to Entry: Ensuring Equitable and Timely Access to Medi-Cal for Pregnant Women and Reproductive Justice Advocacy from the Ground Up, outlining policy recommendations and priorities for the next three years. 

2010 ACCESS undergoes a Strategic Clarity process, and changes our name to ACCESS Women's Health Justice

2011 ACCESS launches its new website with new features for our callers, volunteers, allies, donors and the public in general. 

2013 ACCESS celebrates 20 years!  ACCESS plays a key role as a bill cosponsor in getting AB 154 The Early Access to Abortion Bill signed into law, enabling advance practice clinicians to provide abortion care.

2014 In collaboration with Black Women for Wellness and California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, ACCESS publishes the first ever California Legislative Record on Reproductive Justice for 2013 & 2014. 

2015 ACCESS publishes "Reproductive Justice in Action: More than Just Talk" with stories of the barriers ACCESS callers face in getting the care they need. The Volunteer Network for housing and transportation assistance grows to over 200 people around the state.

2016 ACCESS serves the 24,000-th caller! As a cosponsor of SB 23, ACCESS and allied organizations repeal California's Welfare Family Cap through the budget bill to improve support for people choosing to continue their pregnancies.  ACCESS helps launch a sister organization, Access Reproductive Care Southeast to serve callers in the Southeastern United States.