The work NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia does involves policy advocacy, education and politics, specifically electing pro-choice candidates to help pass pro-choice legislation and stop anti-choice legislation. However, it is important to remember that for many women, the legal right to abortion does not equal actual access, especially as anti-choice legislators continually work to make safe, legal abortion care more difficult and expensive to obtain.
For low-income women, Roe v. Wade and the technical legal right to have an abortion are not enough. For women who have very little money, the cost of an abortion can be more than they can afford to pay. This is especially true if they must pay the entire cost out of pocket because they are uninsured or under-insured. (And as we know, low-income women who rely on Medicaid for their health insurance are generally denied abortion coverage under the Hyde Amendment and other laws.) Needing time to find and save up money to pay for an abortion forces many women to delay their procedures until later in pregnancy, which can then cause it to become more expensive and catches them in a loop of “chasing the fee.” Many women must put off paying important bills or buying groceries for their families just to save up the money. Furthermore, if they live in areas without an abortion provider, the cost of taking time off work and travelling can be prohibitive (especially as many states like Virginia mandate waiting periods and other hurdles that require multiple visits).
This is where abortion funds come in. An abortion fund is a non-profit organization, usually run by volunteers, that provides assistance and financing for abortions to women who cannot afford them. These funds rarely cover the entire cost of an abortion due to a demand that vastly exceeds available funds. Each applicant is individually interviewed to find out her circumstances and is told how much she must raise out-of-pocket and how much the fund, or a combination of funds, can provide for her through a grant or a repayable loan. Most abortion funds serve a specific region, although for women in regions without funds, there are some national funds available.
Last year, abortion funds raised more that $3 million and assisted 21,000 women in the United States. Unfortunately, the demand exceeds what they are able to give and they are not able to assist all of the women that come to them for help.
For women in Virginia, there are a few such funds available.
The DC Abortion Fund serves women in the DC metropolitan area, including Northern Virginia (Arlington, Alexandria, Fairfax, Loudoun, Prince William, etc). An all-volunteer organization, DCAF offers grants and no-interest loans to women to help cover the cost of an abortion. Most of their clients face poverty, homelessness, domestic violence, drug abuse, and/or other forms of oppression, and the delays that they face raising money can lead to more expensive and complicated second-trimester abortions, with some of them unable to ever raise enough to have an abortion. DCAF is there to help these women. To contact the DC Abortion Fund, call 202.452.7464 and leave a message. You will receive a call back from a caseworker.
The Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project is an abortion fund that women in Virginia are eligible for. They offer funding assistance for abortions and in some cases for lodging, transportation and meals. They also have volunteers that offer lodging and transportation for women who need to travel in order to obtain an abortion. To contact the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project, call 888-847-1593 and leave a message. You will receive a return phone call within a few days.
The Blue Ridge Abortion Assistance Fund serves residents of Charlottesville, and the counties of Albemarle, Greene, Orange, Louisa, Fluvanna, Buckingham, Nelson, Augusta, Rockingham, and the towns and cities in these counties. They offer loans to women for abortions and send the money directly to the clinic. They also have volunteers to assist with transportation. To contact the Blue Ridge Abortion Assistance Fund, call 434-963-0669 and leave a message. Your call will be returned within 24 hours.
The Women in Need Fund serves residents of the Richmond/Tri-Cities/Fredericksburg area who are patients of the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood with demonstrated financial need. To contact the Women in Need Fund, call 804-254-1760 ext. 26 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
The National Abortion Federation also offers a hotline to help locate abortion providers, answer any questions you may have, and to refer to funding sources. They also operate The Rachel Falls Patient Assistance Fund to help fund abortions. You can call the hotline at 1-800-772-9100.
Individual health centers that provide abortion may also have their own internal funds available to subsidize abortion care for women that cannot afford it otherwise, or may have relationships with specific abortion funds.
With the current economic situation, many abortion funds have fewer donations at the same time as they are receiving exponentially more requests for assistance. Some funds have been forced to turn away women that they once would have been able to help, the dearth in funding causing them to limit their service to minors, rape survivors, severe fetal abnormalities, etc, and leaving other women without resources.
Please, if you can, take the time to donate money to or volunteer with an abortion fund!
And don’t forget — anti-choice policies that put up more roadblocks to abortion access impact low-income women first and hardest. Many, such as funding bans, are aimed at poor women directly. We must always hold politicians accountable for attacks on women’s meaningful access to safe, legal abortion care and work to change the policies that lead to health care inequities. That’s where NARAL Pro-Choice Virginia comes in! You can also donate to support our work.