With a notable anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ presence, Salt Lake City, Utah doesn’t seem like a hub for progressivism. Fundraisers for abortion access “aren’t exactly the routine” there, according to Madi Boyer, co-chairwoman of Salt Lake City’s Democratic Socialists of America branch.
That’s why Boyer was so (pleasantly) surprised by the turnout at the “Rock-a-Thon” she helped organize to raise money for abortion access last month.
“At the DSA [Democratic Socialists of America] we really love the work the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF) is doing,” Boyer said. “I’m not part of an abortion fund, but I heard about the Bowl-a-Thons that have been going on across the country, and this year, I really wanted to do my part.”
It was the first time Boyer had organized and worked to raise money for abortion funds — by putting a spin on the National Network of Abortion Fund’s traditional Bowl-a-Thon fundraiser, and, instead, organizing a “Rock-a-Thon,” celebrating not only reproductive justice, but also gender nonconforming folks, the larger LGBTQ community, and allies. The Rock-a-Thon event on May 1, 2017 offered a welcoming space after an earlier protest.
“I wanted this to be a big event — and it was. We set it up to sort of be an ‘after party’ for some folks participating in [a pro] LGBT rights protest earlier that day,” Boyer recalled. “Here in Salt Lake City, there’s, I think, one bowling alley and it’s pretty small. But we love music, especially rock music, everyone across the political spectrum. So I figured that a Rock-a-Thon, or a benefit concert of sorts, would raise more money.”
Lighting up, Boyer recalls the Urban Lounge, a popular downtown venue for musical performances donated its facilities that evening in support of the fundraiser. People got drinks, danced, and “just came out and had a good time,” as a group of local artists performed free sets.
The roster of performers included genderfluid, non-binary Tessi Smith, who performed a solo set on the electric guitar. They were followed by DJ Nix-Beat and Madge, who threw ’60s punk rock music into the mix, as well as local ’60s garage band, The Suzz.
As in many other states, people in Utah face a high need for and low access to abortion. According to the Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, there are two licensed abortion clinics in the state, and both are located in Salt Lake County. For Boyer and others, this raises serious concerns about how people based in the southern parts of Utah might access abortion — on top of being barely able to afford to pay for the procedure itself, low-income people in the state struggle to afford travel and lodging costs.
With these economic and geographic barriers in mind, Boyer then pinpoints the importance of repealing the Hyde Amendment, which bars federal funding of abortions except in cases of rape and incest, asserting that “the Hyde Amendment should be repealed, because what the government needs to realize is that abortions are going to happen no matter what, even if it’s outside the law, even if we don’t have the money to afford a safe, legal abortion from a clinic.”
Boyer applauds organizations like abortion funds for the work they do to offer people financial support that the federal government and insurance companies often don’t. She looks forward to future Rock-a-Thons for abortion access in the years to come, and is proud of meeting and surpassing the fundraiser’s goal of $1,000.
By Kylie Cheung, NNAF Summer 2017 Communications Intern