I am one of many young feminists (we exist!) who cares deeply about women’s right to choose. Much of my time is devoted to answering phone calls from low-income women looking for honest, accurate, non-judgemental information about abortion care, information about the nearest clinic, and, the most pressing question, how to pay for it.
The Hyde Amendment restricts funding at the federal level for abortion. This means that anyone employed by the federal government does not have abortion covered on their insurance. This means that any woman in the military does not have access to abortion in her military insurance while on active duty, nor through veterans affairs after she comes back. This means that women who rely on the Indian Health Services are not able to have their abortion covered. This means that women who rely on medicaid will probably not have access to abortion (a few select states allow for elective abortions to be covered with state dollars, as medicaid is a federal-state program.) Aside from the Hyde Amendment, many private insurances also do not cover abortion.
So, that is where myself and many, many other women, organizations, networks, and generous individuals come into play. Abortion funds exist to help these women. A woman’s access to abortion should never rely solely on her ability to pay; the freedom to choose is meaningless if only the rich and wealthy have access to the full range of reproductive services.
I answer the phones all day. Most calls are 10 to 15 minutes. The first two are spent getting basic details (“Have you talked to a clinic? Made an appointment? How far along are you?), and then the rest is spent brainstorming how she might get money together, and finally, letting her know how much the organization can help her with.
No fund can ever cover the entire cost. And most women will still have to get the money together to drive to the clinic (most women travel 2 or more hours), find child care (60% of women getting an abortion already have at least one child), take the hit in their paycheck for the two days of work they will be missing (as many states now require 24 – 72 hours between the ultrasound, and the abortion, meaning two trips, or a hotel stay), and other expenses incurred from incidentals.
Each call requires that I pry some into the woman’s life, and sometimes that is uncomfortable for both myself and the woman. I have to ask some really personal questions, the answers to which not every woman wants to share. Some women are angry that the process is so difficult, that they have to take two trips, that they have to listen to medically inaccurate propaganda mandated by the state (hey, South Dakota). Having to share their story, again, on the phone, to an abortion fund is just one more time they have to share personal information.
By the end of the call, though, when she knows that the women at the organization are on her side, that we are helping her, and that she will be getting the abortion she needs, the anger is often replaced by relief. I often get told that I am a guardian angel, or a god-send, a life-saver, or that I am doing god’s work. The women that I work with, however, are the actual hero’s, and it’s a privilege to have talked to them. They are their own hero’s, they are the ones doing the brunt of the work, while dealing with everything else going on in their life. They are the ones collecting the money for the majority of the cost, and making all the arrangements mentioned above, while dealing with other on-going personal problems. The monetary assistance empowers them to be able to make the decision they know is right for them. But they are the ones who empower themselves, and save themselves.