Nonprofits that aid women seeking abortions plan to steer more of their funds to sending women out of state to get the procedure in the face of new Republican restrictions across the South, but the list of destinations is shrinking.
The added time and expense will drain resources from the abortion funds, which help women who can’t afford the procedure on their own. The new restrictions will hit low-income Black women, who are a significant portion of their clientele, the hardest. Texas’s new restrictions, which ban abortions after six weeks and allow anyone to sue providers suspected of violating the measure, only ratchet up the pressure on abortion funds as more Republican-led states watch to see if the law survives legal scrutiny.
“For the first time in the history of this organization, we’re going to have tell Black women ‘no,’ and we’re not going to be able to really help. That’s 90% of the people we serve,” said Marsha Jones, co-founder and executive director of the Afiya Center, a reproductive rights center in Dallas.
Black women had the highest rate of abortions in 2017, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
The Texas ban will also scare low-income and minority women who are at highest risk of some cancers from seeking other regular health screenings provided by groups like Planned Parenthood, advocates fear.
Traveling Across State Lines
The cost of abortions depends on many different factors, including how far along the child-bearer is, who the provider is, which method will be used, and sometimes where they are. They typically start around $300 and can go up to at least $1,500 for medication and procedure, according to various abortion advocacy groups.
Moving patients to states such as Colorado or New Mexico costs funds like the Mississippi Reproductive Freedom Fund $2,000 a month on average, but the new abortion restrictions could increase that number, said Laurie Bertram Roberts, co-founder of the Mississippi fund and executive director of the Yellowhammer Fund in Alabama.
Coming up with money for an abortion was already a barrier before the new Texas law, especially for low-income Black women, but the longer the wait, the more an abortion costs, said Kamyon Conner, the executive director of the Texas Equal Access Fund.
“Now imagine thinking, ‘I can’t get an abortion in the state of Texas, so I’m going to have to travel somewhere, and it’s likely going to take me at least two more weeks to plan that,’ which means the price goes up more than it would if they were able to access their abortion the week that they found out that they were pregnant.”
Historically, Black mothers have had the highest maternal mortality rates. The maternal mortality rate for non-Hispanic Black women was 44 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2019, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s 2.5 times more than white women and 3.5 times the rate for Hispanic women.
“You’re going to force people to carry a full-term pregnancy that, we know, in the state of Texas, in and of itself, if they’re Black, can result in death. The maternal mortality rate is still not where we needed to be,” Jones said.
Black women in Texas account for 31% of deaths despite being only 11% of live births, according to data from the state’s health department.
Other States Feel Pinch
New Mexico is a likely destination for women seeking abortions after Texas’s six week window, Jones said.
However, Oklahoma, which is readying new abortion restrictions of its own, has seen an uptick in requests since the Texas measure took effect, said Susan Braselton, board member and coordinator of clinic escorts at the Roe Fund in Oklahoma.
“Normally, we would have 20-30 maybe. But last week, I think we had more than 50,” she said.
Crossing state lines often means draining the funds of two different nonprofits, Roberts said.
“For those Texas patients to be served, they have to go outside of Texas, which means it’s not just Texas funds helping them,” Roberts said.
“Some people aren’t even calling Texas funds. They’re calling the funds where they’re going. If you’re going to come to Alabama, you call the Alabama fund. So, we’re already seeing those calls.”
Jobs at Risk
For women seeking aid, traveling to get an abortion not only affects their health but can also jeopardize their employment. The aid can help cover travel expenses and a hotel stay, but women who need the aid of abortion funds often work low-income jobs with little or no sick leave.
The six-week window to obtain an abortion in Texas hits those women harder because they have so little time to gather the money necessary.
“Their jobs aren’t what society deems essential, even though they are,” Jones said
“These are the folks who work at fast foods. These are the Uber drivers. These are the folks who deliver our groceries. But because they can’t bounce back from what could be a 3-4-day trip, they could potentially lose their jobs. That’s huge.”
Other Screens Get Skipped
Another effect of the Texas law is that some women may skip wellness checks and other gynecology services that groups like Planned Parenthood provide, Jones said.
“It’s the feeling or fear of, ‘If I can’t get abortion, I can’t get anything else there. And I’m not going to go there because I don’t want folks to think I’m getting an abortion,’” she said.
Black women typically get HPV-associated cervical cancer at higher rates than women of other races or ethnicities, likely due to the lack of access to screening tests or follow-up treatment, according to the CDC.
“And because of that, we won’t catch cancers, like breast and cervical cancers, soon enough, especially if they don’t have access or can’t afford an exam,” Jones added.
“Those well women’s exams that they need may not happen. We won’t get good womb care, which could affect long-term decisions around parenting down the line. There are people who still depend on Planned Parenthood to get their HIV testing other sexually transmitted infections that will potentially harm parenting choices later in the future,” she said.
Planned Parenthood receives funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the charitable organization founded by Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg Law is operated by entities controlled by Michael Bloomberg.