New abortion fund report highlights the limits of access

infographic about barriers to abortion access
Infographic from Third Wave about barriers to abortion access. Click for a much larger version.

Third Wave Foundation
has just released a new report on data gathered from their Emergency Abortion Fund (EAF). The fund helps folks with the cost of abortion.

The data paints a picture similar to what I learned working on a different abortion fund and what I hear from folks who work on funds. This is intersectionality not as theory but lived reality, a snapshot of how multiple systems of oppression work together to keep people from accessing the health care they need. And it shows what many of us in the movement for abortion access keep saying: legal abortion means very little to many people when extreme barriers to access stand in their way. As Amanda Marcotte wrote in a recent piece, there are a number of states where abortion is virtually illegal for many people.

Rye Young, who authored the report, explains the impact of anti-choice laws shown in the data:

Legislative restrictions on abortion since Roe v Wade, including the Hyde Amendment, mandatory waiting periods, Consent and Notification laws, mandatory sonograms, etc. all make abortion more expensive either for clinics to provide the service or because it wastes time which increases the cost and term of the pregnancy. Low-income people, especially people of color and youth, are faced with climbing prices, and are racing against early state-mandated term limits. At the same time, clinics are closing their doors at a disastrous rate. What we are seeing is that there are location barriers and financial barriers to accessing abortion, both of which fall most heavily on low-income people, youth, undocumented people, and people of color.

Some key findings from the report:

  • The vast majority of minors we pledged to were legally required to notify their parents, or obtain consent from them. Of the 148 pledges made to minors, 64 (nearly half) had their abortions in states requiring parental consent, and 47 required parental notification. In addition, 13 minors deemed it necessary to seek a judicial bypass – that is, appealing to a judge to override the parental consent or notification mandate – for their own safety.
  • 85% of pledges were directed towards second trimester procedures. 10% went towards first trimester procedures. 5% of pledges went towards third trimester abortions.
  • 83% of pledges were made to people of color.
  • 49% of pledge recipients had at least one child at the time of their abortion. Of the people with children, the vast majority had no involvement of a partner.
  • 16% of all pledge recipients were pregnant as a result of rape. Of those pledge recipients, 10% were pregnant as a result of incest. Of the people we funded under the age of 14, 48% disclosed that they were pregnant as a result of rape.
  • 9% of people we funded told us they were experiencing violence from their partner. Overall, partner involvement was very low; only 15% of pledge recipients had a partner involved. Of those cases where a partner was involved, 57% involved physical violence. Of the 505 people we funded, only 6% had a partner involved who wasn’t physically violent.
  • 17% of pledge recipients were homeless compared with 10% in 2009 and 6.5% in 2008.

This report is an important step forward in shifting the conversation around gender and abortion. Third Wave chose to use gender neutral language to speak the people who have abortions. Rye explains why they made this choice:

We choose to write about abortion in a gender neutral manner because someone does not need to be female identified to have an abortion. Framing reproductive issues such as abortion as a “women’s issue” creates an environment that silences transgender, gender variant, intersex, and two-spirit people who may need an abortion. Since these groups are particularly vulnerable to economic exploitation, sexual abuse, interpersonal and state violence, we feel that barriers to accessing abortion disproportionately affect people who might not be female identified or who might not appear female to everyone.

You can find the full report here.

Boston, MA

Jos Truitt is Executive Director of Development at Feministing. She joined the team in July 2009, became an Editor in August 2011, and Executive Director in September 2013. She writes about a range of topics including transgender issues, abortion access, and media representation. Jos first got involved with organizing when she led a walk out against the Iraq war at her high school, the Boston Arts Academy. She was introduced to the reproductive justice movement while at Hampshire College, where she organized the Civil Liberties and Public Policy Program’s annual reproductive justice conference. She has worked on the National Abortion Federation’s hotline, was a Field Organizer at Choice USA, and has volunteered as a Pro-Choice Clinic Escort. Jos has written for publications including The Guardian, Bilerico, RH Reality Check, Metro Weekly, and the Columbia Journalism Review. She has spoken and trained at numerous national conferences and college campuses about trans issues, reproductive justice, blogging, feminism, and grassroots organizing. Jos completed her MFA in Printmaking at the San Francisco Art Institute in Spring 2013. In her "spare time" she likes to bake and work on projects about mermaids.

Jos Truitt is an Executive Director of Feministing in charge of Development.

Read more about Jos

Join the Conversation

  • Chrisstina

    I think it is ridiculous all the hoops and rings of fire women have to go though to obtain something that we have the right make this discussion for our selves and no one should have to go threw with all that too get a procedure done. it is sad and needs to be accessible to anyone who needs it due. I am wanting to get involved in my local chapter to get this fixed

  • Seamster

    Hey Feministing, you should post good descriptions in your title-text to improve access.

    (Especially in an article about barriers to access!)

    Image info:

    Title at top: “what it really takes to get an abortion.” Central image: a woman packs a variety of items into a suitcase. The woman and the items are all drawn stylistically, and each item in the suitcase has a line connecting it to a blurb on the side. Blurbs and items are:

    Calendar (with dates crossed out and increasing amounts of money each week, from $2000 to $4200): “The Clock is Ticking.” With every few days that passes (sic), an abortion becomes more expensive – and fewer clinics will perform them.

    Orange vest with “security” written on it: “Escort.” The outside of a clinic is often surrounded by protestors. A volunteer escort can help you enter a clinic amidst intimidation and threats.

    ID card: “Government-issued ID.” From clinics to courts to hotels, many institutions along the way require an official ID. Without proof of legal residency, you are not eligible for Medicaid coverage of your abortion.

    Keys: “House key.” Without a permanent residence, it is difficult if not impossible to secure a line of credit or register for Medicaid or other public benefits in order to pay for an abortion.

    Car keys: “Transport.” Only 13% of US counties have an abortion provider, and of those, state laws further restrict their ability to operate. Many people must travel in order to find a provider, adding additional cost.

    A credit card, and stylized stacks of bills filling the bottom of the suitcase: “Credit card & Cash.” Most clinics only accept cash. Many hotels require a credit card and deposit. Without both a line of credit and available cash, it can be impossible to have an abortion.

    Medical equipment: “Blood test.” Depending on your blood type, clinics may charge up to hundreds of dollars in additional fees to cover the costs of an unlikely transfusion.

    Cell phone: “Cell phone.” A secure, safe way to make calls to clinics, abortion funds, and hotels is necessary to coordinate an abortion.

    Ultrasound image: “Ultrasound.” Every clinic requires a sonogram, which adds extra cost. If the clinic cannot legally perform an abortion due to how many weeks pregnant you are, your new clinic must perform their own sonogram. Some states mandate expensive medical imaging that goes beyond determining trimester, adding further financial and psychological burden.

    Scales as a symbol of justice: “Judicial bypass.” Many states require consent or notification of a parent or guardian for minors seeking an abortion. The only exception to this law is if a minor obtains a judicial bypass. Even if successful, the time it takes to process a bypass can result in a much more expensive procedure.

    Hotel “do not disturb” sign: “Lodgings.” If travel is required to reach a clinic, or if your procedure is scheduled over multiple days, the clinic may require proof of lodging at a hotel, adding unforeseen costs.

    The image contains an accreditation to Third Wave Foundation, with a logo of three intersecting circles, and a url of

    Text at bottom of image: Abortion never happens in isolation. This graphic calls attention to the barriers to obtaining an abortion that are overshadowed in current debates. For low-income and no-income young people, getting an abortion is a frantic race against time, and is complicated by limited access to money, safety, shelter, transportation, and documentation. Abortion funds can only address some of these concerns. Our advocacy will be most effective when we understand abortion access as a matter of gender, economic, racial, and social justice.

  • andrea

    I’m very concerned about this report, because of what is termed as a “barrier.”
    Keys? Really? Cash? Transport? ID?
    These are the same barriers that anyone having any kind of procedure done need. I needed more than that to have dental surgery.
    When we focus on such trivialities, we lose focus on real barriers.
    And blood tests? A blood typing test is incredibly inexpensive. For any invasive procedure it’s only done if the patient does not know theirs, for the reasons listed in the article.
    As far as Christina’s response, the requirements, save the judicial bypass, which is rarely invoked, are a medical standard for the safety of the patient. Please don’t make them out to be particular, specific and created only because the procedure is an abortion. I’ve worked in medicine, I’ve worked in clinics, and this article does the industry no favors. There are real barriers, why don’t we focus on those?

    • davenj

      “These are the same barriers that anyone having any kind of procedure done need. I needed more than that to have dental surgery.”

      But transport can be a bigger issue if there are only a few abortion providers in your state, and all of them are extremely far away. The attempt to shut down clinics manages to prevent abortions using these tactics.

    • Seamster

      Such barriers may also be less surmountable in abortion care because of the stigma of abortion, which may prevent people from relying on relatives or putting expenses on shared accounts.

  • xeiah

    A judicial bypass is a matter of safety for some people. Particularly when a family has a strong religious belief against abortion. Anyone who is pregnant has the right to keep that pregnancy secrete and to end it however and whenever they choose. When I worked in abortion care we had a least five judicial bypasses a week. I’d say that was about 1/3 of the teens we saw. That option is heavily used at least here in the Midwest.

    Many patients had to drive from over an hour away. Many were too young to drive and had no money for gas let alone the procedure. Those who had to have two day procedures had it even worse since they had to find a way to get back and forth twice and were not allowed to drive themselves due to age and/or anesthesia.

    The clinic had limited hours and the judge only saw people for JBs on Fridays. So it was often that you would get the JB on a Friday but then have to come back on the next Thursday and Friday to finally not be pregnant anymore.

    Imagine what this hassle would be like to a scared fourteen your old? And since you could not drive yourself, it basically guarantees you have to tell someone somewhere that you are pregnant and planning an abortion. Even if it is not your parents, that is most certainly not private.

    I actually spent a great deal of time helping young people devise strategies to get to and from the clinic for their care, but that is another matter.

  • Jessica “Jess” Victoria Carillo

    Thanks for the poster!!!!! Really useful just in case of one or their freind/relative needing an abortion