You may see the words "abortion access" a lot, but you might not completely know what we mean when we say that. As an abortion fund, we make abortion more accessible for people who can't afford it, but why do we do this? The short answer is that abortion access is an economic, racial, and gender justice issue, and there are discriminatory policies and cultural forces at work that make it almost impossible for low-income and marginalized people to access abortion, even though they technically have a right to one.
Let's walk through what those policies and cultural forces are and why they matter.
The Hyde Amendment
In 1973, the United States Supreme Court granted the right to an abortion for all people in the United States in the Roe vs. Wade decision. For a period of 3 years, Medicaid covered abortion access. Then, in 1976, congress placed the Hyde Amendment on the federal budget. This rider on the budget has been in place since then, blocking Medicaid coverage of abortion access. What does this mean? It means that while all people in the United States have a right to an abortion, this discriminatory policy means that some people can access the procedure while others cannot. The Hyde Amendment codifies inequity in healthcare access in the federal budget.
Individual State Laws
In 1992, the Supreme Court made a decision in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey that states could place restrictions on abortion access as long as they didn't create an "undue burden." They didn't really define "undue burden," though. States have enacted over 1,000 laws to restrict access to abortion over time, and this incremental approach has allowed those who oppose abortion access to restrict it without many people taking notice. Some of these laws include mandatory sonogram laws, waiting periods of 24, 48, or even 72 hours, laws that require abortion providers to lie to patients about the dangers of abortion, and parental consent laws. How do these laws pose discriminatory barriers to access? Waiting periods, for instance, are more of a burden on low-income people because they require someone who is likely an hourly wage worker to take two days from work instead of one. One TEA Fund client let us know that her procedure cost her $500 in lost wages! Also, 70% of our clients already have at least one child, which means that a two-day procedure places extra burdens on them for childcare costs as well.
What Does This Have to Do With Abortion Funding?
You might already know about state-level attacks on reproductive rights and abortion access, but you may be wondering what this has to do with abortion funding. The truth is that every barrier drives up the cost of the procedure. Someone seeking an abortion needs childcare? That increases the costs associated with abortion. Someone seeking an abortion needs to travel because of clinic closures? That increases the cost. Patient is pushed into later pregnancy because of fewer clinics and longer wait times? That increases the cost. And even before state-level attacks, the Hyde Amendment has been barring access to abortion for low-income people in the United States and coercing reproductive choice.
And barriers to abortion access disproportionately impact women of color, LGBTQ folks, immigrant people, and young people. A lot of our callers also come from economically depressed rural communities. Whether or not someone can access an abortion often comes down to where they live.
TEA Fund and abortion funds around the United States push back against these policies by directly funding abortion access to offset the costs and gaps in care created by the Hyde Amendment and state-level restrictions. At TEA Fund, we also work to build support for removing those barriers all together and change the conversation around abortion access so that people can experience true reproductive freedom. We do this because even in the movement for reproductive health, rights, and justice, low-income people who are barred from accessing abortion are often the last people anyone thinks about. We talk a lot about covering birth control, family planning, and reproductive health care, but often the word "abortion" is left out of that conversation. Those things are important, but: