BWRJ Beginnings

BWRJ’s origins start at the Chicago Abortion Fund (CAF).  Founded in 1985, CAF provides direct financial assistance to low-income women in Illinois to obtain safe abortions.  Black women relied disproportionately on CAF for funding assistance. In June, 1994, CAF named Toni M. Bond Leonard to be its first woman of color Executive Director.  Part of Bond Leonard’s charge as Executive Director was to increase the organization’s visibility in the African American community.  When Winnette P. Willis became Board Chair, Willis and Bond Leonard decided to bring together Black women they knew to gain their feedback around ways in which CAF could provide more comprehensive reproductive health services to Black women.  Black women relied disproportionately on CAF for funding assistance.  From 1991 to 1996, CAF’s client statistics reflected that seventy-one percent of its clients were African American women between the ages of 15-22. Bond Leonard and Willis wanted to hear directly from the Black women they had invited, what it would take to increase the leadership of Black women within the Chicago reproductive rights community.

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