GOP's anti-abortion laws force DC women to fundraise for their own health care
A woman worries and waits (Shutterstock)

This week, two women in urgent need of abortions can't get them because of a policy environment hostile to women's reproductive interests. The D.C. Abortion Fund is raising money to fill the gaps.

Because of D.C.'s colonial relationship to the federal government, its residents pay federal and local taxes, but have no voting representation in Congress and limited authority over local affairs. On an annual basis, Congress reviews and edits D.C.'s city budget -- which the city pays for with locally raised revenues -- and prohibits the District's government from spending its own money on programs the federal legislature disapproves of.

Almost every year since 1988, the U.S. Congress has made it a federal crime for the District of Columbia to spend local tax dollars on reproductive healthcare for low income women.

The consequence of restricting abortion access in D.C. -- against the will of city voters -- is that women who have complicated pregnancies and little cash flow face the daunting prospects of risking death by bringing the pregnancy to term or raising a child in poverty.

The D.C. Abortion Fund (DCAF), an all-volunteer organization, raises money for women in dire situations who want to terminate their pregnancies.

This week, DCAF is raising money for two women in urgent need of abortions, but who lack the necessary funds. If the women cannot raise money quickly, they will have to delay the abortion, which costs more money as gestation progresses, or carry the pregnancy to term.

"This is urgent,"  DCAF writes in a statement. The first women the organization is raising funds for this week, pseudonym Lisa, "is a single parent and full-time student," according to DCAF. "She has been picking up odd jobs this weekend to raise extra cash for her procedure. Her appointment cost of $2,500 will increase if she cannot get seen this week. One of our partner clinics agreed to see her today if we can help her raise the funds."

The other woman whose medical care DCAF is attempting to subsidize this week, pseudonymously Sara, "has been trying to pawn her possessions to raise $5,200 for her appointment today."

"As you read this," the statement continues, "DCAF case managers are also fielding calls from other people across D.C., Virginia, and Maryland who need help paying for their abortion care too. We will do our best for each and every of them... Anything you can give, even $5, will make a huge impact for Lisa and Sara."

In addition to providing financial support to low-income women in the District, DCAF also assists women from other states to fund their abortions in D.C. Because of abortion access restrictions being enacted around the country, women regularly travel across state lines -- or across several -- for medical care.

Further, because D.C. has relatively progressive laws about abortion (no waiting periods, no mandatory transvaginal ultrasounds, etc.), women from around the country travel to the District for reproductive care.

In an email to Raw Story, DCAF president Val Vilott expands on how abortion restrictions across the United States are severely -- and successfully -- eroding control American women have over their reproductive rights:

"Politically and geographically, early access to care is important. [Targeted Regulation of Abortion Provider] laws, Medicaid bans, clinic closures, or gestational limits on care mean that it is more and more common for patients in search of care to wait longer and travel farther to access that care, incurring costs of travel and time off work along with the cost of their procedure."

The race to find care is also an economic sprint, and if our patients can't keep up, they face huge financial implications. Abortion costs escalate every week. A procedure that might cost $400-$500 before the 12 week mark can cost $2000 at the 20 week mark. Patients who have limited resources and can't afford an abortion out of pocket this week will be unlikely to be able to afford a more expensive procedure later -- or be able to afford to raise a child.

The few days or week it might take them to scrimp together money for an abortion means that they might need more money in hand by the time they are seen, which just means further delays and chasing higher and higher costs. So, the work of abortion funds has to happen quickly, to make sure that a patient gets quality care in a timely manner.

We are raising funds for urgent medical care needed for our patients today in the face of multiple cases with extraordinary need and high prices. While we're helping patients like Lisa and Sara get the care they need, we're still fielding dozens of calls from other patients who are single moms, struggling students - even a young teenager who has insurance through the military, which won't cover abortion care. All of these cases are equally desperate and enraging. Everyone who comes to us needs nonjudgmental support and help. At times like this, we lean hard on our community so we can be there for them."