Why I Fundraise for Abortion Access
It’s that time of year again. This is the third year that I have spent February, March, and April trying to fundraise for abortion access. I am not that good at fundraising, but I try. I try to organize a team, promote the fundraiser, get some donations, and help with the organizing of the event through H.O.T.D.I.S.H Militia. My contribution to the event is not as much as the contributions of others, but it is important to me. For the past few years, H.O.T.D.I.S.H Militia, a local abortion fundraising group has attempted to raise $10,000 through a national fundraiser called “Bowl-a-thon” which is organized through the National Network of Abortion Fund’s (NNAF). We have successfully met our fundraising goal each of the last three years that I have participated. There are many reasons why I participate in this event, which I will outline so that readers have a better understanding of how the fund is used and why it is necessary.
This image was created by Betsy Hunt for H.O.T.D.I.S.H 2019
Abortion is Expensive:
Expensive is relative, as all medical expenses tend to be costly to those who cannot afford them. But, considering that 40% of Americans cannot cover an unexpected $400 expense, abortion or ANY unexpected medical cost is expensive (Bahney, 2018). At our local clinic, the basic cost of an abortion is $700, which goes up in price depending upon how far along the pregnancy is and if the patient requires a Rhogam injection. The $700 cost is pretty similar to the cost at the other four Minnesota clinics listed on NNAF’s website. This $700 cost is expensive for someone who was not intending to become pregnant, who only has a short time to raise the funds (less than 14.5 weeks at our local clinic), who will see the cost increase the longer it takes to raise the funds, who must take the day off of work (since abortions are only provided locally on weekdays), must pay for transportation and perhaps day care or a baby sitter, and other costs. 75% of abortion patients in Minnesota were economically disadvantaged (State Facts About Abortion Minnesota, 2018). I have recently had some unexpected medical expenses and it is extraordinarily stressful! In my case, these are expenses that I can pay over time. Unfortunately, at our local clinic, the payment is due in full at the time of the procedure. There is no method to pay in installments. $700 is therefore an enormous barrier for patients seeking an abortion. H.O.T.D.I.S.H. provides supplemental funding to patients who might otherwise be unable to afford the full amount.
Insurance Often Doesn’t Cover Abortion:
In my observation, most patients with employer provider insurance must pay for the in full as the procedure is not covered by the insurance (some parts may be, such as an ultrasound, but patients are still responsible for the cost at the time of their appointment). Many patients who seek abortion have not yet met their deductible or their out of pocket maximum. Thus, it seems uncommon that insurance picks up the tab for the costs. The H.O.T.D.I.S.H fund helps working people with insurance cover this unexpected expense. It seems pretty unjust that abortion is segregated from regular health care, so that even those with insurance find that they must pay. This punishes women and serves to stigmatize abortion as something frivolous or unnecessary. In Minnesota, Medical Assistance covers the cost of abortion, but many patients do not have active M.A. because they have moved, did not submit paperwork, forgot to renew it, or any number of reasons. Those who do must pay an $8 co-pay, but even this can be a barrier to someone experiencing domestic violence, homelessness, unemployment, or extreme poverty. H.O.T.D.I.S.H funds are sometimes used to cover the co-pay or any additional expenses that Medical Assistance (Medicaid) might not cover. It is also important to note that because of the Hyde Amendment, not all states fund abortion through Medicaid. The Hyde Amendment prevents the use of federal funds to cover the cost of abortion. States can elect to use their own funds to cover abortion, but only seventeen states have chosen to do this. Minnesota is one of them, but patients from out of state may find that their Medical Assistance does not cover the cost. For instance, Wisconsin only extends coverage in the cases of rape, incest, or life endangerment (Hyde, n.d.). Finally, while Medical Assistance (Medicaid) covers abortion in Minnesota, Medicare does not cover elective abortion. Therefore, individuals with disabilities who receive insurance through Medicare are unable to access abortion through that program. As a caveat, I want to make clear that I am not well versed in the world of insurance, but in my observation at the clinic, insurance is rarely a guarantee of coverage. H.O.T.D.I.S.H funds are regularly used to supplement employment health insurance coverage, MA copays, and to support Wisconsin residents on Badgercare. Because 30% of Black women and 24% of Hispanic women receive Medicaid, as compared to 14% of white women, the national restrictions on Medicaid coverage of abortion disproportionately impacts women of color (Hyde, n.d). The abortion restrictions through Medicare is ableist. All of this is symptomatic of our need to repeal the Hyde Amendment, fight for universal and free health care for all, and demand that abortion be treated as ordinary health care.
Abortion Intersects with Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault:
I work extremely part time checking in patients at our local clinic. My short shift at the clinic is usually preceded by a night shift at a domestic violence shelter. While I must maintain confidentiality at both places because of HIPAA and VAWA, I will say that I sometimes recognize patients from my other full time employment at the shelter. I am usually familiar with at least one name from the patient list. To me, it is extremely sad and angering that society portrays abortion seekers as selfish, irresponsible women. This ignores the violence, control, and coercion that women experience in their relationships and how pregnancy is a tool of patriarchal dominance. Pregnancy is a tool of patriarchal dominance in violent relationships, but also in everyday ordinary relationships wherein women must negotiate consent, birth control, their sexual desires or lack thereof as unequal partners on account of sexism, racism, economic subordination, heterosexism, ableism, and other forms of oppression that compound together within patriarchy and capitalism. Providing abortion funding may help a patient escape from an abuser, begin to rebuild their life after sexual assault, and use their limited funds to leave a shelter for a housing opportunity rather than use that money to pay for an abortion. It disgusts me that patients are met with a gauntlet of protesters who shame and abuse them for their choice with little concern or pause for the trauma that some patients have endured. It also disgusts me that we live in a society where women can be forced to be pregnant simply because they cannot afford to terminate a pregnancy. Funding abortion helps survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Abortion Access is Always Under Attack:
Abortion is always under attack. Each year, there are always new regulations and new schemes to limit abortion access. In Minnesota, patients must receive mandatory information from a doctor 24 hours prior to their appointment. If the patient does not receive this phone call, they are unable to have the procedure. Minors must bring what seems like a mountain of paperwork documenting their identity, their parents’ identity, and acknowledgement of both biological parents that the minor is having an abortion. In the absence of both biological parents acknowledging the abortion, the minor must appear before a judge, who will determine if they can have the abortion. These current restrictions are fairly tame compared to the aggressive movement to further restrict abortion across the country. This year, fetal heartbeat bans or six week abortion bans have been enacted, passed, or are in the process of passing in Kentucky, Mississippi, Georgia, Missouri, Ohio and Tennessee. This year, governors in Arkansas and Utah also approved bans on abortion at 18 weeks. The Minnesota Senate Health and Human Services Committee is currently reviewing a 20 week abortion ban in the interest of fetal pain, even though less than 2% of abortions performed in the state occur after 20 weeks and American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists posts that it is not until at least 24 weeks of gestation that a fetus possesses the brain structures necessary process pain signals (Ferguson, 2019). In the face of challenges to abortion access, many activists often frame it as a matter of how many Democrats are in power or that these bans will be overturned by the court system. The fact of the matter is that the pro-choice movement has been losing the battle for abortion for over forty years. This battle cannot take place in the arena of electoral politics, which has failed to prevent the avalanche of over 1,000 restrictions on abortion since 1973. This has to occur by strengthening independent social movements capable of fundamentally transforming and challenging state power and while radically altering mass consciousness and discourse regarding the oppression of women. Fundraising can be a supplemental stop gap measure in such a movement. Fundraising should be used while putting demands upon the state and drawing attention to the systemic failures. At the minimum, fundraising is a hands-on activity that could be used to connect pro-choicers to one another and the community. At best, it needs to contribute to a fierce, strategic, and unwavering social movement that takes to the streets in protest and strike. Power must be reclaimed by the masses, rather than consigned to courts and politicians.
This image was taken from NNAF for Bowl-a-thon purposes
Abortion isn’t Abnormal:
Abortion is always treated as a taboo. It can’t be mentioned or is too controversial to bring up in polite conversation. Yet, 1 in 4 women have had an abortion before the age of 45. It isn’t abnormal. It is ancient. It is common. By fundraising, abortion becomes more normal. At least once a week, I remind people that I am fundraising for abortion on Facebook. The actual fundraiser is fun. We go bowling. The bowling alley chooses to host an abortion fundraiser. Bowling alleys are not typically considered enclaves of the feminist movement. Last year, almost 100 people participated at the bowl-a-thon event. This year, there are over a dozen teams and we expect a similar turn out. The bowl-a-thon is a public way to be pro-choice and normal. We are having fun fundraising. The event has prizes and a party like atmosphere. This isn’t about death, morals, taboos, secrets, and all of the dark ways that abortion is discussed in society. This is about raising money and trying to have some fun while doing it. Of course, it is also about all of the serious things that I outlined above. But, part of this struggle has to be about making abortion less scary to talk about. Asking strangers to donate- then having fun while doing it- dispels the the stigma around it.
This year we have already met our goal of raising $10,000. That sounds like a lot of money! It is, but really, it doesn’t stretch that far. Over a year, we can provide about $833 of support a month with those funds. Remember, a single abortion procedure costs $700. Thus, despite our best efforts and all of the people involved, we can really only pay for a little over 14 abortions a year! Of course, the money is not used to pay for an entire abortion. It is doled out more sparingly, typically with $100-$200 grants given to a couple of patients each month. That really isn’t much at all! It makes a difference to those patients, but $500 is still a large amount of money to come up with. The amount we raise is small compared to the actual need. Perhaps in the future, we will increase our fundraising capacity and be able to do more. Better yet, it would be great if we could somehow change our society in such as way that we don’t have to fundraise at all. Abortion would be available on demand, for free. It would be wonderful if patients didn’t have to drive several hours to the nearest clinic or that everyone had guaranteed sick/personal leave so that missing work wasn’t an economic stressor. Unfortunately, we have society as it exists now. In this moment, the fundraising is both critical and inadequate. There are still a few days left to donate to this year’s Bowl-a-thon. The donation makes a difference locally, and hopefully I have illustrated a few reasons why!
Bahney, A. (2018, May 22). 40% of Americans can’t cover a $400 emergency expense. Retrieved from https://money.cnn.com/2018/05/22/pf/emergency-expenses-household-finances/index.html
Ferguson, D. (2019, March 29). 20-week abortion ban bill advances in MN Senate. Retrieved from https://www.twincities.com/2019/03/29/20-week-abortion-ban-bill-advances-in-mn-senate/
Hyde Amendment. (n.d.). Retrieved April 9, 2019, from https://www.plannedparenthoodaction.org/issues/abortion/hyde-amendment
State Facts About Abortion Minnesota (Rep.). (2018). Guttmacher Institute.