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What to Know About Abortion Funds and How They Help Patients Get Care

6 minute read

On Friday, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and, in doing so, eliminated federal abortion protections that existed for nearly 50 years. Roe prohibited states from outlawing abortion before viability, around 24 weeks into pregnancy, and after that time in cases when the pregnant person’s life or health was in danger. In the wake of the decision, reproductive-justice advocates have called for people to donate to abortion funds, on-the-ground organizations that help arrange and pay for abortion care for patients who need financial support.

Some 26 states are poised to outlaw abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, and 13 of those states have “trigger laws” in place that were designed to automatically outlaw abortion as soon as Roe was struck down. Such restrictions will force those seeking an abortion to travel across state lines in order to receive care.

Read More: The Fight Over Abortion Has Only Just Begun

“If you are feeling outraged or devastated this morning by the end of Roe, you don’t have to turn to hopelessness. You can be a part of the solution,” Lauren Rankin, author of Bodies on the Line: At the Frontlines of the Fight to Protect Abortion in America, wrote on Twitter. “Think small. Think local. Think human. Donate to @AbortionFunds. Volunteer as a clinic escort. Turn to experts. You’re not alone.”

Former Ohio State Senator Nina Turner also encouraged her followers on Twitter to “donate to an abortion fund” rather than donating to any political candidate to provide the most immediate help for pregnant people in need. Jon Favreau, a speechwriter for President Obama, joined the chorus of advocates who pushed followers to act on their rage and donate to abortion funds, as well as clinics and a legal defense fund.

Here’s everything you need to know about how abortion funds work.

What are abortion funds?

Abortion funds provide support to pregnant people seeking an abortion. An abortion can cost up to $750 in the first trimester, and up to $1,500 later in pregnancy, according to Planned Parenthood. And some states have restricted Medicaid, private plans, and Affordable Care Act marketplace plans from covering abortion.

Read More: What the Supreme Court’s Abortion Decision Means for Your State

Such funds have been a crucial tool for abortion-rights advocates in the last several years. As Republican lawmakers have enacted local laws to restrict abortion in their states, abortion has become effectively inaccessible to millions of patients, particularly BIPOC people, low-income people, and those living in rural areas. A near-total abortion ban in Texas, for instance, placed 7 million women of reproductive age at least 247 miles away from accessible abortion care. (That’s 14 times the distance they would have had to travel before the ban went into effect.)

Abortion funds pay for the health care and/or travel expenses some patients may not be able to afford.

Who supports abortion funds?

Most abortion funds are supported by individual donations. And a flood of new donations has come in the last several weeks. The National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF)—which, as of October 2020, included 92 abortion fundstold Good Morning America that it received more than $1.5 million in donations in the three days after Politico published a leaked draft of the Dobbs decision on May 2. So many people tried to donate that their website crashed. On June 24, when the Supreme Court handed down its decision, their site abortionfunds.org appeared to have again crashed.

The donation surge is much-needed, according to advocates. The NNAF says that most abortion funds can only accommodate somewhere between one-quarter and one-third of callers who ask for their assistance in paying for an abortion and its associated costs like travel and childcare (which can be critical because most women who seek abortions are already mothers).

Read More: What Abortion Providers in Anti-Abortion States Will Do Post-Roe

A representative for Fund Texas Choice, which covers Texans’ travel costs to out-of-state abortion clinics, told CBS in May, before Roe was repealed, that the organization already was fielding more than 300 calls a month. It had the resources to support only 130 patients, each of whom required $750 to $1,000 in support. They expected even more calls after Roe was struck down. Abortion-rights advocates noted that travel costs have recently been exacerbated by high gas prices.

What exactly do abortion funds pay for?

Each fund works differently. Some completely or partially cover the costs that are strictly related to the procedure itself, like pills for medical abortions—which make up more than half of all abortions in the United States—or an in-office procedure. When those seeking abortions are delayed in their plans by clinic capacity, legal restrictions, and the need to gather money for the procedure, they are often pushed later into pregnancy, and termination becomes more expensive the later a pregnant person waits. Other funds help pay for out-of-pocket costs associated with traveling out of state for an abortion, like transportation, gas, lodging, and food. They also can provide other services like translation, coordinating and paying for childcare, and giving emotional support.

Many abortion funds are more specific in their focus, whether that focus is geographic (like the Midwest Access Coalition), cultural (like Indigenous Women Rising), or logistical (like the Brigid Alliance, which helps pay for those patients who have to travel long distances to receive abortions later in pregnancy).

Read More: What to Know About Abortion Pills Post-Roe

How, exactly, a fund connects with and approves patients seeking care for financial assistance depends on their specific policies. Certain local funds will provide finances directly to women who contact the organization, while funds like the Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project, ask clinics and providers to bill them directly.

Changes in state laws may impact these individual funds. The Texas Equal Access Fund announced Friday that they are pausing funding: “Due to the uncertainty and risk of what the decision could bring, we are pausing funding today until we have had a chance to understand the decision once it is released,” the organization tweeted. They pointed potential patients toward the website Ineedana.com, a national clinic directory.

“We are furious,” tweeted the Jane Fund, a Massachusetts-based abortion fund. But the organization assured followers that they and other abortion funds “will continue to do what we do best—fund abortions.”

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Write to Eliana Dockterman at eliana.dockterman@time.com