Abortion Funds Will Matter More Than Ever In A Post-Roe America
This article is part of a larger series titled “The End Of Roe.” Head here to read more.
For plenty of people, securing an appointment for an abortion with a real health care provider is difficult enough. On top of that, many do not live in places where abortion is accessible, and have to decide whether to pay for gas or pay for a flight, and possibly a hotel room for one or more nights. Many people seeking abortions have small children, so there is also the question of child care. Then there is the cost of the actual medical service, which averages upward of $500 for an in-clinic procedure in much of the country. Waiting means it will cost more.
When all of those costs added up appear daunting, an abortion fund can step in.
All over the country, abortion funds are staffed by people ready to help others figure out how to get an abortion, supplying grants in varying amounts to help cover the cost of the appointment as well as expenses like transportation, child care and shelter during recovery.
The funds make it possible for women, including many women of color, to secure an abortion either by medication (in the form of pills) or by a clinician in an office. Some travel hundreds or thousands of miles. Some have no insurance, while others are covered by Medicaid or private insurance.
At least one fund, the Brigid Alliance, has helped a 10-year-old child access abortion care. Another, the Midwest Access Coalition, will work to link people who aren’t near major airports with private flights so they can get the care they need.
Every fund HuffPost spoke with said they are already gearing up to field more requests in the months ahead by hiring new full-time staff, training more volunteers and soliciting funding as the Supreme Court appears poised to roll back nationwide abortion access in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Many states in the South, West and Midwest would be certain or likely to prohibit abortion in the absence of Roe, according to the Guttmacher Institute. States that have passed laws protecting the right to abortion ― such as California and Illinois ― could then expect to see even more out-of-state travelers seeking health care services there.
Some abortion funds have been around for decades. Even though the Supreme Court made the practice legal with its 1973 decision in the case of Roe v. Wade, subsequent decisions have permitted conservative states to stick medically unnecessary roadblocks in the path of abortion access. The laws have steadily chipped away at Roe and shut down clinics, meaning that the nearest facility for some may be hundreds of miles away ― and not all clinics will provide an abortion if it is needed later in pregnancy. Because of these attacks from state legislatures, some abortion rights activists say that millions of Americans have already been living in a post-Roe America.
A Texas woman who received assistance from the Chicago Abortion Fund told HuffPost that she found herself surrounded by other Texans when she arrived for an appointment in Illinois earlier this year. In September, Texas enacted a near-total ban that prohibits abortion once electrical activity can be detected in the fetus, which is usually at around six weeks ― before many women know they are pregnant. Other states are following suit.
The woman, like many abortion seekers, was a parent already: mother to a 2-year-old girl. Workers at the Texas clinic she used to confirm her pregnancy tried to convince her not to seek an abortion.
“They even brought people in to pray for me,” she said. HuffPost is not using her name to protect her privacy.
“My mind was made up. I don’t want to bring anybody into this world that I know I cannot take care of physically or mentally. I want to be well prepared. I want to be financially prepared,” she said, adding: “It’s so much going on right now in the world.”
She ended up needing to ask for assistance twice within a year. While she felt “just really nervous” the second time, she said, she faced no judgment. She insisted on paying for more of her own costs on her return visit to the clinic, where she encountered one of the same staffers who helped her the first time.
“She just opened her arms,” she said of the staffer, “and I can’t thank her enough.”
The woman told HuffPost that two other people she met at the clinic had lost their jobs for taking time off to get an abortion.
Qudsiyyah Shariyf, deputy director of the Chicago Abortion Fund, described abortion funds as a type of mutual aid, like the many community-based organizations that sprung up in response to the coronavirus pandemic. CAF was able to spend around $500,000 last year in direct aid, Shariyf said. But she noted that stigma surrounding abortion is still a “real barrier” to securing funding and providing help.
While some run their operations with grants from larger organizations, grassroots support is critical to sustaining many of the funds. Requests are managed by a mix of staff and volunteers, depending on the group, and there may be certain times of day or days of the week that they respond to messages.
Generally, it’s fine to book an appointment first, tell the clinic you think you will need financial assistance, and allow them to refer you to abortion funds. You can also reach out to funds on your own.
The National Network of Abortion Funds cautions that it’s unlikely the total cost of the procedure will be completely covered. CAF, for example, averages around $100 to $300 per person helped, Shariyf said. The New Orleans Abortion Fund averaged around $300 per person helped last year, according to its annual report.
Some of the groups, such as the Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project ― which bills itself as the largest national abortion fund ― work directly with the hospital, doctor or clinic providing the abortion. Sylvia Ghazarian, WRRAP’s executive director, told HuffPost her organization works with 700 health care providers around the country and recently launched a pilot program to increase access to medication abortion, which costs just $150 through the program. Last year, WRRAP sent about $600,000 to clinics in order to assist around 3,000 patients, Ghazarian said.
Demand is only expected to grow. The Guttmacher Institute estimates that California could see 3,000% more patients, and Illinois could see 9,000% more in the absence of Roe.
“We’re having more and more people referred these days who don’t have appointments for weeks out because clinics are getting so booked up,” Brigid Alliance executive director Odile Schalit said.
The Midwest Access Coalition said in its most recent annual report, for 2021, that it was “no longer uncommon” for the group to fly an abortion-seeker to a facility for a one-day procedure.
Schalit said that Brigid’s assistance can include “booking flights, bus tickets, train tickets, booking hotels for you for you and your family if the situation arises that you have to travel with them, sending cash for meals, child care reimbursements, gas, tolls, parking, tire repairs and connecting and coordinating any on-the-ground, in-person volunteer support that you might need.” She added: “For instance, if you don’t have a cell phone from which you can use a Lyft gift card, we might send that to you.”
While the organizations strive to do the most with the resources they have, there are still significant needs not being met, according to the National Network of Abortion Funds.
As MAC’s year-end report noted, “We are heading into a difficult era for reproductive autonomy and justice.”
“I just want [people] to do what they think is best for them,” the Texas woman told HuffPost.
“I feel like it’s very unfair for them to tell us what we can and can’t do with our bodies.”
For a state-by-state list of more than 80 organizations, along with links to donate, head to NNAF’s website.
For help finding abortion providers near you, INeedAnA.com offers regularly updated and detailed search results.