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‘Rage’ abortion donations dry up, leaving funds struggling to meet demand

Abortion funds that help people cover the costs of getting the procedure are struggling with money as the waves of donations that followed the end of Roe v. Wade have begun to dry up.

It’s led some of the independent organizations — which help cover expenses for abortions and associated costs, such as transportation, child care, and lodging — to scale back or even pause operations.

After the Dobbs decision in June 2022, many funds received large donations from Americans outraged at seeing the right to an abortion stripped away.

The National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF), which comprises 100 funds across the country, said its members disbursed close to $37 million to about 103,000 people from July 1, 2022, to June 30. That was an 88 percent increase in spending compared to the year before.

People giving money were so angry at the time that the gifts were described as “rage” donations.

But as the issue has faded from headlines, donations have too, even as demand for help and the costs for helping individual people have skyrocketed.

“We noticed with any sort of moment that happens, whether it is a certain election, an introduction of an abortion ban, or in this case, the overturning of Roe, there is this immediate desire to like, make a contribution to abortion funds or make contributions to the movement,” said Oriaku Njoku, NNAF’s executive director.

“While we appreciate the rage, giving what is actually required to make sure that people can consistently get the care they need is that long-term investment in abortion funds,” Njoku said.

When the Dobbs decision first leaked out, “money was thrown. People went into a panic and dollars were just raining,” said Chasity Wilson, executive director of the Louisiana Abortion Fund.

“Everyone was very mad, because it was in the headlines. It was national, all throughout the U.S. Things were changing pretty rapidly for people. So people were of course mad and they were giving a lot,” said Bree Wallace, director of case management at the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund. “And then a few months after that, it kind of died off.”

The large influx of donations changed how funds operated. Some were pushing money out the door to vastly expand the number of people they could aid. Others tried to save the extra money to boost their budgets long-term.

Wallace estimated the fund spent about $700,000 in 2023, but “we definitely couldn’t do that again this year.”

Donations dropped 63 percent from 2022 to 2023, Wallace said. The fund was previously able to help people across Florida but now is limited to people coming into or out of the Tampa area.

Wilson said individual donors are still keeping the Louisiana fund operational, but she added foundations and philanthropies have noticeably pulled back — a common refrain from funds in the South.

Almost every fund contacted by the Hill said they have seen a decrease in donations at a time when access to abortion care is much more expensive than it used to be. When abortion was still legal, abortion funds were mostly needed to help people drive to local clinics and cover the cost of the procedure.

For funds in the Deep South, the options for sending someone to an in-state clinic were extremely limited, so people had to travel out-of-state frequently.

But now abortion is banned or restricted in more than 21 states across the country, meaning people often must travel much further than before, and navigate an ever-changing landscape of local restrictions.

On top of the travel, abortions also cost more. A medical abortion using pills costs up to $200 more than it used to, according to Kenny Callaway, a health-line coordinator for the abortion fund ARC Southeast, which serves people in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Tennessee.

The same amount of money doesn’t go nearly as far as it used to.

“There was a there was a time when we were helping like 20 people a week. Now we’re doing good to help two or three,” said Laurie Bertram Roberts, co-founder of the Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund. “We’ve been doing this for 10 years. In a lot of ways it feels like going backwards in our capacity.”

Before Dobbs, Mississippi only had one abortion clinic in the state. Bertram Roberts said the fund spent between $200 to $600 on average per caller. But now, the fund needs to spend between $1000 to $1500 just for people who need an abortion before 12 weeks’ gestation. If they are further along, the costs are significantly higher.

Most people in the state are making a 10-hour drive to Carbondale, Ill., a two-day trip that requires money for food, gas, and lodging.

“No disrespect to the rage givers. They enabled us to get a lot of people seen before Roe fell. Thing is, is that now we have these harder, higher standards to reach to get people to care. And we have less investment,” Bertram Roberts said.

Her organization stopped giving out funds for four months and only reopened at the beginning of January.

“It feels horrible. It feels gross. It feels like you’re letting people down, because you are. It puts you in a position to be like the gatekeeper of people getting access to care. And nobody wants to be that,” Bertram Roberts said.

When abortion was legal, it was not uncommon for funds to pause operations if they ran over their monthly budgets. But fund officials said there’s a ripple effect now, because when one fund closes or pauses, others step in to help.

“That is the reality for organizations like this. We do run out of funds and there are some people we cannot support,” said Callaway.

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