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.

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