In the US, getting an abortion can be riddled with obstacles both financial and logistical. Now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark ruling that guaranteed a person's constitutional right to an abortion, there will be more hurdles for many of those who are already struggling to find care.
But long before news broke in May that this legal precedent could be dashed, organizations across the country called abortion funds were working to connect those seeking abortions with the resources they need to get to their appointment and beyond.
The nonprofit National Network of Abortion Funds, a grassroots network of more than 90 abortion funds in the US, said that between July 2019 and June 2020, 81,692 people got help through the network, and that this number accounted for only about 35% of the calls it received in that time period.
Miranda Vargas, board member with the Northwest Abortion Access Fund, which serves Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska, said call volume had already increased as restrictions and trigger bans have come into play in the last several months.
"We're anticipating that we will have to be flexible and respond to the changing needs of people who are seeking abortions, as well as folks from other parts of the country that may not be able to as easily access abortions where they are," she said.
Here's what to know about abortion funds.
What's an abortion fund?
On a broad level, it's a collective of people working to make abortion accessible, said Stephanie Loraine Piñeiro, co-executive director of the abortion fund Florida Access Network. Piñeiro said funds can look like more formally organized groups like nonprofits, or they can be more volunteer-led. According to the site for the National Network of Abortion Funds, abortion funds aim to "fill in gaps in care."
"[They're a] connector between people who need abortions and can't afford them or can't access them," Vargas said.
How do they work and what do they cover?
Though funds may differ, they can cover anything from the procedure itself, to travel, lodging and other needed support like childcare. Depending on the fund, it might also help with logistics or whatever it takes to get people to their appointment. Some funds might give cash directly to those seeking help. Others may work directly with the clinics they partner with. The Abortion Fund of Arizona, for example, provides gift cards for anything from gas to groceries.
"We've even covered people's cellphone bills. We've paid for new tires to help people get to their appointment," said Eloisa Lopez, the fund's executive director.
According to the National Network of Abortion Funds, they largely rely on donations. Often funds work with each other in instances, for example, where a person might be traveling across state lines.
Qualifying for assistance may also differ depending on the fund. Some might have financial qualifications a person needs to meet, others don't. Many provide hotlines run by volunteers, or so-called coldlines where a person seeking aid can leave a message requesting help.
Why do people need them?
Not everyone is in a financial position to pay for all the costs associated with an abortion. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the majority of abortions cost $450 to $600 in the first trimester, with costs escalating later on. This doesn't include other associated costs, like travel and lodging for those who might need to go out of state to receive abortion care. KFF also noted in one blog post that the Federal Reserve Board found that more than 35% of adults in the US don't have the savings or the cash to cover the cost of a $400 medical expense.
"We're dealing with a very economically trying time in our country, where people are already struggling to pay for gas, to feed their family, to pay for rent, or even have affordable housing," Piñeiro said.
In Florida, for example, people have to go to a clinic a minimum of two times because of a 24-hour mandatory waiting period, which could mean time off from work and organizing childcare. "There's just so many things that go along with making it to your appointment, [and] this is before having an abortion."
Some of the people who need abortions the most might also have the greatest challenges in getting that care.
"The people who need access to abortions the most ... tend to be people in rural communities, folks of color, LGBTQ+ people, young folks, people who are homeless or experiencing intimate partner violence," Vargas said, "people who really have a plethora of reasons for needing an abortion but may not be able to access it."
How do you find and vet an abortion fund?
Piñeiro stressed the importance of properly vetting a fund. There's the potential for people with ill intent to take advantage of vulnerable individuals who are pregnant, noting that anyone who's honestly offering aid shouldn't have an issue providing proof of legitimacy. If in doubt, people seeking help can turn to websites like ineedana.com and contact organizations listed there.
Lopez also suggested people start with funds in their state. Depending on the state, however, finding an abortion fund may become more difficult now that Roe has been struck down, and the situation is evolving. Lopez talked about how states like Texas have restrictive laws targeting even those assisting in any manner with abortions. If someone is living in a state with restrictive laws, they should research states with protections.
"If you're coming from a hostile state, your abortion fund might have had to pause services and you might not reach a person," she said. Lopez also recommended the National Network of Abortion Funds as a vetted place to find help.
How do you donate to one?
Lopez and Piñeiro emphasized supporting the funds that are already established and have preexisting resources and networks to help people needing abortions.
For those looking to donate, Vargas suggested finding vetted funds through the National Network of Abortion Funds.