What Happens When You Pay For Someone Else’s Abortion?

A few months ago, a friend asked me to come speak to her class of Women and Gender Studies students about abortion. I came prepared with links for charts and graphs and a list of prepared answers to their insightful questions. They were a very engaged audience and things took an emotional turn near the very end when the topic of abortion funding inevitably came up.

Someone in the crowd asked: How much do abortions cost?

I explained that at Founder's Women's Health Center (FWHC), surgical abortion starts at $425 for first trimester pregnancies and the cost goes up each week in the second trimester. Different things can impact the cost: Rh factor of blood type, body mass index, and pain management medications.

Someone asked: How do patients pay for abortions at FWHC? Is there some government entity or insurance company that pays for their abortions?

“Speaking with regards to the clinic I work for, no. Actually, at FWHC, patients pay completely out of pocket with cash or debit card on the day of their surgery,” I replied. "Our clinic does not accept insurance because we want to keep the costs flat for all patients regardless of what their insurance situation is."

"And submitting claims to an insurance company (a third party) breaches our promise of confidentiality. Once your request to pay for the abortion procedure is sent to your insurance company, we have no control over who finds out about your abortion. Due to stigma, many patients do not want anyone to know about their abortion, including their insurance companies. Some patients are relieved that we won’t be submitting a claim to their insurance provider. Patients who do want help from their insurance company can submit their receipt for reimbursement themselves. But that’s if they even have insurance. Some patients do not. Which is why it’s important to keep a flat price for everyone."

Another person asked: “Why is abortion so expensive?"

“Any surgical procedure is going to be costly,” I explained. "The medical facility needs to charge enough so they can pay wages for the doctor, nurses, medical assistant, and phlebotomist. That's in addition to paying for medications, medical equipment, supplies, and the cost of keeping the facility clean and well lit. It is not cheap to operate an ambulatory surgical facility."

Then someone asked: “What happens when the patient cannot afford to pay for the abortion?"

Of all the questions asked that day, this is the only one that made me shed some tears. I wasn’t planning to cry in front of a room full of college students, yet here I was getting overwhelmed by the emotions that come from seeing determined patients go to great lengths to just to afford their abortions.

“This is one of the hardest parts of my job - delivering the news about how much the procedure costs to a woman who has nothing to give. I am saddened by the thought of someone being forced to continue a pregnancy against her will just because she can't afford an abortion," I said with wet eyes.

"We do our best to help patients who are in desperate need of funding. We reach out to multiple abortion funds like National Network of Abortion Funds who can choose to donate to a woman’s surgical costs. However, there are never enough funds to help everyone. In those situations, patients will pawn belongings or borrow money from friends or family. I had one patient who was in an extremely abusive relationship so she didn’t have any money. But she was so determined to get her abortion that she went from person-to-person asking for each individual for $10 until she had enough to cover her remaining balance. That situation and so many more stick with me. Being able to help these patients find funding is truly rewarding."

Months later, I still think about those same patients whose stories made me cry that day in front of those students. I wonder if those patients' lives are better. I wonder if their dreams are coming true. I wonder if they were able to escape the abuse or hardships they were facing when they came to the clinic. I take some small comfort in knowing that abortion funding probably made the aspirations and goals of these patients a tiny bit easier to reach. It helped ease their minds of one less worry in a sea of thousands of worries.

When people get together and raise funds for abortion, it can be life-changing for the women who need those funds the most. Two patients from FWHC recently gave us permission to share their abortion funding stories. Their testimonies are below:

I am a single mother of three beautiful babies and we are currently homeless at this time. Your funding help has made a very sticky situation better for myself and my children. I don’t believe I could have survived on the streets being pregnant and trying to keep my other children safe. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
— FWHC patient who received funding from Women Have Options and Women’s Reproductive Rights Assistance Project (WRAPP)
I really appreciate what y’all have done. I was in a rough situation. Didn’t know what to do. I had a baby six months ago. He was born with an omphalocele* at birth. I was a high-risk pregnancy. It was really scary. He stayed at Children’s [Hospital] for 26 days. Just a hard time and I really appreciate there’s help out here for single working mothers and non-working mothers. I wouldn’t know what to do with another baby. Thanks again from the bottom of my heart.
— FWHC patient who received funding from Women Have Options and FWHC's Pledge-A-Protester Fund

These are just a couple examples of what happens when people like you donate to pay for someone else's abortion. I wish we could provide funding for every single patient, but unfortunately, donations gets used up very quickly. The more people who donate to abortion funds, the more likely it is that low-income women will receive the financial assistance they need to pay for their procedures.

One of my favorite ways to raise money for abortion funding is the annual National Abortion Access Bowl-A-Thon event in Columbus, which is hosted by Women Have Options. Every April, pro-choice businesses and community members go "balls out" to sponsor a bowling event that raises money specifically for women in Ohio who are in need of abortion funding. Last year, they raised more than $20,000! Fundraising has begun again for this year's awesome event, so now is the time to sign up your team!

For those of you who don't want to leave the house, there are still other ways to donate! Check out the links below:

*The CDC describes omphalocele as “a birth defect of the abdominal (belly) wall. The infant’s intestines, liver, or other organs stick outside of the belly through the belly button. The organs are covered in a thin, nearly transparent sac that hardly ever is open or broken. Many babies born with an omphalocele also have other birth defects, such as heart defects, neural tube defects, and chromosomal abnormalities.”

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