CREDIT: Everyday Feminism
Over the past several years, record-breaking numbers of legislative attacks on abortion have imposed significant barriers to reproductive health care. And as low-income women are struggling to access abortion services, nonprofit organizations are working overtime to help make sure that economically disadvantaged Americans aren’t denied abortion care simply because of how much money is in their bank account.
The current reproductive rights landscape is somewhat bleak for low-income individuals. About 42 percent of the U.S. women who have abortions have incomes that fall below the federal poverty line. Nevertheless, low-income women are typically barred from using their health insurance to cover abortion services. Regulations on the abortion pill are driving up the cost of terminating a pregnancy. And stringent state-level restrictions are forcing women to make multiple trips to a clinic just as many of those clinics are being forced to close. By the time some people finally scrape up the money to fund an abortion and pay for a trip to a clinic, it can be too late.
That’s where abortion funds — nonprofit organizations that help raise the money women need to pay for an abortion — come in. There’s a network of these type of nonprofits in states across the country. The National Network of Abortion Funds, which was first formed in 1993, now includes nearly 100 abortion funds in the United States, Mexico, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Women can call their local hotlines and get connected with someone who’s available to figure out how they can finance the reproductive care they need.
“Abortion funds are often the only lifeline available for low-income women,” Kimberly Inez McGuire of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health told the Los Angeles Times. “Restrictions that close clinics may mean a woman has to drive four hours rather than 30 minutes, or may have to take one, two or three days off her job and arrange for child care.”
There’s significant evidence that abortion funds’ work is critical to preserving their clients’ health and safety. When women don’t have access to abortion, they often resort to unsafe measures to illegally terminate a pregnancy. And when women are unable to get the abortion care they need, they’re more likely to fall deeper into poverty. On the other hand, women who do successfully obtain an abortion overwhelmingly report it was the right decision for them.
As states have been relentless in enacting new anti-choice restrictions, the employees at abortion funds have gotten even busier over the past few years. The Texas-based Lilith Fund saw a 47 percent jump in calls between 2010 and 2012 — up from 2,300 to 3,443. The Hersey Abortion Assistance Fund, which serves Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and Wisconsin, saw its calls double between the same time period.
“What we’re seeing in the Midwest is that the continued restrictions and bills that are being introduced are basically whittling away access, primarily access to low-income women,” Karen Law, the executive director of the Hersey Abortion Assistance Fund, explained to the Los Angeles Times. Since that access is severely compromised, more low-income women are turning to nonprofits for help.
But abortion funds have also experienced some recent successes. At the beginning of this month, the New York Abortion Access Fund raised over $3,000 to help an immigrant woman travel to another state to receive a late-term abortion. And the Lilith Fund is expecting to raise more money than usual to help their clients this year, largely because there’s still a lot of public outrage about the new abortion clinic restrictions that the Texas legislature forced through a special session. Supporters from all over the country were watching Texas’ anti-abortion push — and the groundswell of grassroots activism that followed — and are now sending in donations.