Ensuring Women's Rights: Elisabeth Sowecke

April 24, 2009

From 2009 – 2011, Our Bodies Ourselves honored the work of women’s health advocates worldwide by asking readers to nominate their favorite women’s health hero. View all nominees by year: 2009, 2010, 2011

Entrant: Beth Robins

Nominee: Elisabeth Sowecke, Board Member and Co-Director of Case Management, DC Abortion Fund


Elisabeth Sowecke changes the trajectory of women’s lives every day. Imagine finding yourself pregnant, sure that abortion is your best option, and unable to pay for the procedure. Each year, thousands of women in this desperate situation reach out to the DC Abortion Fund (DCAF) for emotional and financial support. When these women call the DCAF hotline, Elisabeth is frequently the advocate they find on the other end of the line.

Through her tireless work with the DCAF hotline, Elisabeth fields about 100 calls a month from women throughout the metropolitan DC area who can’t pay for the abortion they urgently need. These women call from the most desperate and tenuous of situations, and Elisabeth invests hours in each case.

Women who reach Elisabeth through DCAF find a compassionate supporter, a tenacious champion,and a knowledgeable guide. With any given call, Elisabeth might advise a woman on circumventing restrictions limiting access to family planning services, reach out to area clinics to negotiate on behalf of a patient, prepare a woman for what the abortion experience will be, coach someone to find funds in the unlikeliest of places, and offer DCAF funds to make up the critical difference.

When not answering the hotline, Elisabeth serves on the board of DCAF, co-directs the case management program, leads a dozen hotline volunteers, and raises money to replenish the fund. Perhaps most incredibly, Elisabeth does this on a volunteer basis in between working two paid jobs. In addition to her essentially full time volunteer work at DCAF, Elisabeth is a key member of the communications team at the Association of Reproductive Health Professionals and is a patient counselor at a family planning clinic.

Friends and colleagues marvel that the many hours Elisabeth invests in her reproductive justice work never seem to diminish her spirit. She is consistently a shining example of kindness, humor, and an abiding spirituality. She generously shares her gentle spirit and poetic talent with the world at large through the inspired musings that make up her blog. By tirelessly giving of herself to ensure every woman’s right to healthcare, Elisabeth is truly a women’s health hero.

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