Many pregnant women in the region felt the impact of the Texas abortion ban last September. The role of abortion funds is becoming more clear as people who need abortions must now travel outside the state to receive services.
Forty-nine Years after the landmark ruling Roe v. WadeFunds for abortion at the grassroots level are filling the gap by providing financial support and resources to women considering abortion. Although no two abortion funds are identical, the commitment to support pregnant women in overcoming barriers to accessing abortion remains consistent.
Many abortion funds have adopted a holistic approach to support people seeking care because of the increasingly harsh legislative attacks on abortion access. Erika Galindo, Lilith Fund organizer, stated this in an interview with the Guardian October 2021. TruthoutFor people to have access to abortion, it is important that they are able to combine policy organizing and direct service (through financial assistance and access-related resource resources).
Working in between Mississippi and Alabama, Laurie Bertram Roberts leads two of the South’s most dynamic abortion funds, the Yellowhammer FundThe Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund. Reflecting on the history of abortion funds, Roberts said that people leading funding efforts recognized that it wasn’t enough to simply fund the procedure.
“Over time, people were like, ‘Hey, this isn’t really enough, right? We’re giving people money for procedures, but they’re not showing up for the procedures because they can’t get there because they don’t have gas, etc.,’” Roberts said. “So practical support is all of the stuff around getting to your abortion, making sure you survive in that process, that you’re comfortable and that you are okay afterward.”
Funds for travel have gained attention with the extreme Texas six-week abortion ban, but Roberts’s groups also provide broader support to help cover child care, birth control and period supplies as well as referrals for additional care. It’s estimated that 1 in 4 women will have an abortion in this country, and a majority of those who have an abortion already have children.
“All those intersecting things that we talk about in reproductive justice kind of get rolled into practical support,” Roberts said. “And not every practical support funder does the same thing.”
The groups are focused on supporting people’s overall right to or not to parent and be safe and secure in their own decision-making. The Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund has a reputation for crowdsourcing to raise funds to purchase diapers, groceries, and other resources that people and their families require to not only survive but thrive in difficult times.
Roberts shared that the group’s community relationships made it possible to successfully mobilize around the case of Latice FisherA Black Mississippi woman was charged after she suffered a miscarriage.
“We wouldn’t have been able to organize around Latice’s case the way we did, had we not been in the community for the time we had been,” Roberts said. “Because the person who reached out to us to help with Latice’s case knew us and knew me through abortion funding and through doula work.”
Organisations that work within the framework of reproductive justice support all women regardless of their pregnancy outcome. Reproductive justice is the right “to maintain personal bodily autonomy, have children, not have children, and parent the children we have in safe and sustainable communities,” according to SisterSong, a national activist group dedicated to reproductive justice and women of color. Indigenous Women Rising has a similar approach, looking at the complete person and making sure that Indigenous women and pregnant people are protected in their rights “to equitable and culturally safe health options through accessible health education, resources and advocacy.”
Nicole Martin, from Laguna Pueblo and a co-founder of Indigenous Women Rising, said that reproductive health care is extremely important for people’s well-being, but many are often unaware of possible barriers to accessing care.
“Navigating Indian Health Services, which is one of the main health care facilities that Indigenous federally enrolled tribal members utilize … is very underfunded,” Martin said. “Because Indian Health Services is federally funded … abortion care isn’t available unless in cases of rape, incest, or the pregnancy is detrimental to the well-being of the pregnant person or the fetus. Education about that is something we always do within our communities and outside of our communities.”
Despite this, many low-income women face severe obstacles to accessing abortions. Named after Henry Hyde, Republican Congressman from Illinois. Hyde Amendment was passed originally in 1976The federal government is prohibited from using federal funds to provide abortion services. If the pregnancy is not directly related, such restrictions can limit access for lower-income persons.
Roberts stated that no one should be forced to crowdsource medical care. “This whole big group of people no longer had access to abortion without private money,” Roberts said. “Because let’s be real, most people don’t just have emergency money just to hand over for any medical emergency.”
Martin says that the combination of funding restrictions and proposed restrictions on abortion can cause panic in impacted communities.
“They’re conscious of the repercussions of what that policy could have on them,” Martin said. “And a lot of our community members have to travel far distances just for groceries or gas, or even to haul water and wood.”
It began as a way to ensure that Indigenous people were included in discussions about abortion and reproductive health. Now it is a comprehensive resource for Indigenous people across the country.
“The biggest barrier is the financial barrier,” Martin continued. “And that’s where the fund comes in to help like gas, money, food, child care, and it varies case by case, where we’ll have to get a hotel room for them because COVID restrictions in states are different when they’re traveling.”
Martin joined Indigenous Women Rising as a volunteer in 2018 to help launch the abortion fund. They are now assisting Indigenous women throughout the country, almost four years after their launch. As of early November 2021 the fund had already supported requests from about 500 people.
Martin and Roberts both stressed the holistic nature of their organizations with support for self-determination in reproductive decisions-making.
“Recognizing bodily autonomy and sovereignty as co-founders, we all don’t have the same political views,” Martin said. “We also believe differently when it comes to abortion care. But we don’t let that deter us from extending care and compassion that I feel like a lot of our callers are looking for.”
Indigenous Women Rising is based in New Mexico and has worked with local providers in order to improve cultural awareness when providing care. Martin cited reports about Lovelace Women’s Hospital violating the rights of Indigenous pregnant people early in the pandemic as an example of why culturally responsive work around reproductive justice is important.
In June 2020, reports surfaced that Indigenous mothers were profiled at the hospital and then separated from their babies shortly after giving birth. Two months later, ProPublica reported a federal investigation that found the hospital violated patients’ rights with a discriminatory COVID-19 screening policy.
Indigenous Women Rising also launched a midwifery fund to support people’s right to choose when and how they want to give birth.
“With midwifery and abortion care, you know we’re really hoping to change the way that people think about reproductive health care,” Martin said. “Especially with the material conditions that we’re in now, we’re still constantly having to fight to have good lives.”