First came news of a leaked U.S. Supreme Court opinion that would overturn the Roe v. Wade.
Then came donations and volunteers from the Florida Access Network, an abortion fund with clients across the state.
When the nation’s highest court issued its formal ruling last month to let states decide the legality of abortion, donations and volunteers increased even further.
Until May, according to the network’s co-executive director, Stephanie Loraine Piñeiro, the Orlando-based nonprofit had distributed $5,000 to $10,000 a month in aid to abortion seekers. After Politico reported the draft notice that suggested a majority of justices would overturn the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, the network received enough donations to double its aid in May alone to $20,000.
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Late last month, following the Supreme Court’s final ruling, Piñeiro’s group raised $150,000 in a single week, an amount equal to what the organization had distributed the previous fiscal year. She also received nearly 500 applications from people wishing to help the agency as volunteers.
“It’s an incredible community moment,” Piñeiro said. “It’s a moment of rapid change and rapid support that we hope to capitalize on.”
The Supreme Court’s decision on abortion ushered in a wave of what fund organizers call “rage dons” and Floridians volunteering. Supporters held bake sales and fundraising events, put QR codes at their businesses and staged social media donation drives as volunteer applications poured in, organizers said.
“It was truly amazing to see the creativity and passion from all over the community,” said McKenna Kelley, a volunteer with the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund.
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But even with more support, Roe’s downfall makes the job of abortion funds harder. Around the South, states have enacted six-week or full bans that reinforce Florida’s role as an abortion-access haven in the region — even as the state’s most restrictive ban in 50 years came into force last week.
And this law also, which prohibits the intervention after 15 weeks of pregnancy, makes their work more difficult. Those who need an abortion beyond that time will have to travel out of state, which an abortion fund official says will cost a minimum of $1,500 per person.
Adding to the complexity is another Florida law that recently went into effect after a seven-year court battle. This forces abortion patients to make two doctor visits to get the procedure, which means more time off work and more money needed for gas and other expenses, especially if a patient lives in one of Florida’s 50 counties without an abortion clinic.
“The impact is huge on us. It’s huge for the people we need to help,” said Fran Sachs, who is president of the board of directors of the Palm Beach County Emergency Medical Assistance abortion fund. “The resources and the problems are mind-boggling.”
How do abortion funds work?
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There are five Florida-based abortion funds, according to the National Network of Abortion Funds: Florida Access Network, formerly known as Central Florida Women’s Emergency Fund; the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund; Emergency medical assistance; the Broward Women’s Emergency Fund; and the Women’s Emergency Network in Miami-Dade County.
Half a dozen others include Florida as part of their multistate or nationwide service areas, including the National Abortion Federation, which operates a hotline for service referrals and financial aid.
Most abortion funds are run by volunteers, Piñeiro said. Its organization is an exception. While it started in 1996 as a collective of volunteers, it now has five staff members and is run by queer women of color who have had abortions themselves.
EMA is run entirely by volunteers, Sachs said. The same goes for the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund, though the group recently received a grant to hire a few part-time staff to help with admissions, volunteer Kelley said.
Although each fund’s approach is different, they all have the same goal of alleviating barriers to reproductive care, Piñeiro said.
“There are all these other factors that just complicate a decision that for a lot of people is uncomplicated,” she said. “What’s complicated is overcoming the obstacles: financial obstacles, a change in the law, social stigma.”
People wishing to have an abortion can find information on how to apply for financial assistance on each organization’s website. The groups fund both medical and surgical abortions, which cost between $550 and $650 in the first trimester, according to the clinic.
They also provide assistance such as transportation, childcare, travel, hotel stays, food, and other logistical necessities. Some funds pilot and provide childcare services themselves; others provide allowances that mitigate the costs of these services.
Each fund determines the assistance it can provide to each client based on need and the amount of donations in its coffers. They also work with organizations inside and outside of Florida when a case involves travel.
To give an idea of the scale, the Tampa Bay group funded 614 of 910 calls for help last year, Kelley said. EMA serves between 800 and 1,000 customers a year, Sachs said. FAN received $1 million in requests in the last fiscal year, Piñeiro said, and could only meet about 15% of that need.
How has their work changed?
Along with FAN, other state and national funds have seen a huge influx of donations and volunteer requests since the Supreme Court struck down the federal abortion law.
In Palm Beach, EMA’s Sachs reviewed dozens of new volunteer applications. At the Tampa Bay fund, Kelley declined to give a dollar amount, but said that within five days of the decision, the group had raised enough money to fund 321 first-trimester abortions. The influx allowed the group to expand coverage from St. Petersburg, Clearwater and Tampa to patients in Sarasota and Lakeland.
In a single day – June 24, when the opinion toppling Roe fell – the National Network of Abortion Funds, of which all five Florida funds are members, raised more than $3 million through 33,000 new donations, including 4 500 were recurring, the New York Times reported.
The extra help is welcome, Florida abortion fund leaders said, especially as their job becomes more difficult with the recently enacted 24-hour waiting period law and ban on abortion. 15 week abortion. A circuit court judge ruled last week that the ban was unconstitutional and issued an injunction against it. But the state immediately appealed, overturning the lower court’s stay and leaving the law standing.
While only about 6% of the nearly 80,000 abortions in Florida last year occurred beyond the first trimester, or 12 to 13 weeks, funds will still feel the impact of the ban, Sachs said.
Florida previously allowed the procedure for up to 24 weeks, which meant Sachs’ group only sent a handful of women a year out of state for late-term abortions, usually due to a medical emergency or of the death of the fetus.
Now, she estimates the fund will be called upon for travel assistance a few times a week at an estimated minimum cost of $1,500 per person.
“Even with help,” Sachs said, “there’s still so much to do.”
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The National Network of Abortion Funds lists the funds by state with links to their websites to find information on how to donate and volunteer.
As the raw emotions around Roe’s overthrow wane, Funds will need sustained support, Kelley said, whether it’s a recurring donation or patience as the group progresses through training. of the new wave of volunteers.
“We want people to remember this is a long term fight,” she said.
For Piñeiro, it’s important to support organizations that fought for access to abortion long before Roe was overthrown. Along with the donations, she encouraged people to push back against the social stigma surrounding abortion.
“People who have had abortions deserve compassion and support,” said Piñeiro, who has had the procedure twice, “and there is a lot of misinformation about abortion rooted in stigma to shame people in the process. ‘a health decision they shouldn’t be ashamed of.
Sachs also highlighted the need for recurring donations and told the story of an 18-year-old who became pregnant in high school years ago and relied on EMA funding to get an abortion. .
The woman recently contacted the group, Sachs said, and said she has since become an accountant, happily married with children. The woman said she wanted to help.
“I started crying,” Sachs said. “That’s why we do what we do.”
Kathryn Varn is a statewide business reporter for the Gannett/USA Today Network – Florida. You can reach her at [email protected] or 727-238-5315.