Politics

What Will Happen to Abortion Funds?

A protester in New Mexico holding a sign that says "Support Your Local Abortion Fund."
Abortion funds are often cited as the best organizations to donate to in times of crisis for reproductive health care access, in part because they are well-connected to patients’ needs in their own communities. USA TODAY NETWORK via Reuters Connect

With the overturning of Roe v. Wade, there is no longer a legal right to abortion in the U.S. and state laws are changing fast.

In some states, such as Arkansas and Missouri, so-called trigger laws—which were written to take effect in the event that Roe was ever invalidated—were set into motion just hours after the Dobbs decision came down. Other states have trigger bans that will take effect 30 days after the decision, or abortion bans that predate Roe. (Texas has both.)

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Because of this shifting patchwork of laws, many organizations around the country that offer financial assistance for abortions and related logistical support are pausing or pivoting their services until the legal landscape of the post-Roe era is better understood.

The Arkansas Abortion Support Network, which used to fund abortions in Arkansas, posted on Facebook on Friday that though abortion is now illegal in the state, it will “continue to help Arkansans access legal abortions” by offering funding for travel out of state.

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The Texas Equal Access Fund, on the other hand, stated that it would stop funding abortions for the time being. “Due to the uncertainty and risk of what the decision could bring, we are pausing funding today until we have had a chance to understand the decision once it is released,” the abortion fund tweeted. Its website states that it is “taking some time to evaluate its operations” but is “committed to our mission and to accomplishing it through legal ends.”

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Abortion funds are often cited as the best organizations to donate to in times of crisis for reproductive health care access, in part because they are well-connected to patients’ needs in their own communities. These funds directly facilitate abortions for low-income patients who cannot afford them, and some also link patients to financial resources for transportation, hotels, and childcare—all of which will become even more essential now that more patients will have to travel out of state for abortions.

But without the protections of Roe, these organizations could now become targets for state-level prosecution. Take the case of Texas, where clinics have ceased abortion care, at least for now. Texas law has not yet changed: Since September, abortions have been prohibited after about the sixth week of pregnancy, but the stricter trigger ban does not go into effect for 30 days. However, the state still has abortion bans on the books from the years before Roe was decided in 1973. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote in a memo pegged to the reversal of Roe that “some prosecutors may choose to immediately pursue criminal prosecutions” based on those laws, and that “abortion providers could be criminally liable for providing abortions starting today.”

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Lilith Fund, a major Texas abortion fund that also announced on Friday that it had ceased offering funding to patients who call its hotline due to the possible legal implications of Texas’s pre-Roe bans, issued a statement: “While legal analysis is still in the early stages, we understand the pre-Roe statutes specifically make ‘furnishing the means to procure an abortion’ illegal in Texas with civil and criminal penalties.”

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“Our goal is to resume services as soon as possible, although there may be significant changes in how we operate in order to be most helpful to pregnant Texans in need,” the statement said.

As state laws continue to change, organizations founded on the mission to help people access abortion will have to pivot. Laws, such as the one in Texas, that explicitly prohibit helping people obtain abortions—as opposed to merely providing the abortion—will make it harder for abortion funds and logistical support networks to do their work, even the work of helping people travel out of state for legal care. It remains to be seen whether, and how, similar funds in states with legal abortion will be able to pick up the slack.

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