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On September 5th, the Thursday following Labor Day, a crowd of approximately 500 supporters of reproductive health gathered at the Labor By Choice event in downtown Asheville. This educational fundraising event was held to benefit Femcare, the abortion clinic in Buncombe County which serves Western North Carolina, as well as patients from surrounding states.
Among those in attendance were elected officials including House of Representatives member Susan Fisher (D), Congressional candidate Patsy Keever, and local politicians and city council candidates Cecil Bothwell and Gordon Smith. Additionally, supportive doctors, students, husbands, clergymen and women, parents, children, activists, and community members gathered at The Mill Room to participate in a silent auction and enjoy informative speakers and films on the topic of abortion access. Speakers included Howard Hanger (Jubilee Community Church), Dr. Lori Horvitz and Dr. Alice Weldon (UNCA), Anna Pfaff (Open Umbrella Collective), and Patsy Keever.
The catalyst for the Labor By Choice event came via the passage Senate Bill Bill 353 or “Health and Safety Law Changes” into law at the end of July. This legislation will fundamentally change the face of both the provision of and access to abortion services across the state. Days after Governor McCrory signed this bill into law the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) inspected and closed Femcare for abortion care, although not for gynecological services, citing several health code violations. Twenty two days later the clinic reopened its doors to their full scope of services, as sanctioned by DHHS. Femcare successfully addressed all of the issues which were raised and is currently happy to be seeing patients again.
To celebrate this unsung victory and to address this clinic’s ongoing need for financial support in the face of stipulations included in the new legislation, a fundraising goal of was set at $20,000. A silent auction exhibited over 85 items from 50 individual and commercial donors, and food donations from local businesses were served. On the evening of September 5th a total of $16,280 was raised, with an additional donation of $1,000 still pending upon the close of the auction. Support, be it financial, personal, or political, is still being accepted to champion access to and provision of abortion services in Western North Carolina and across the state. Non tax deductible donations can be sent directly to the Femcare clinic, or through PayPal link on the Open Umbrella Collective’s webpage (http://www.openumbrellacollective.org).