Abortion funds feel frustrated and grateful for ‘giving anger’

Casie Pierce doesn’t usually work on Fridays. But on the Friday after Draft Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. calf was leaked, Pierce, the development director of a Dallas-based abortion fund that helps people pay for the procedure and the logistics involved, had to be at her computer.

She oversaw the “rage giving.”

“Am I optimistic seeing how the funds are flowing? Of course I am,” she said. “But unfortunately it takes a tragedy to wake people from their sleep to start giving because that’s what we were here to do all along.”

In response to the May 2 leaked draft, which signaled the likely removal of legal abortion rights in the United States, donors angrily clicked donate buttons and sent checks.

An annual fundraiser organized by the National Network of Abortion Funds raised more than $2.4 million by the end of May to support about 90 abortion funds, more than in any previous year. In 2019, NNAF said these abortion funds have helped 56,000 people — just about one in four of those who have reached out to them for help.


abortion fund, unlike clinics or advocacy groups, focus on providing people with money for abortions as well as helping with logistics like travel, childcare, and support. As a result, they have smaller budgets than broader reproductive rights organizations like Planned Parenthood.

Kelly Nelson, who founded an abortion fund in Tampa, Fla., felt two ways about what she called “anger donors.”

“I love her,” she said. “We really benefited from that. But you know, I don’t think we’ll ever see many of them again.”

Given the scale of the need, she said, abortion funds need multi-year philanthropic grants.

“We really want to make this a long-term thing where people realize the court battle is over now and we lost,” Nelson said. “We have to help the local people today and tomorrow. We need to get them to their appointments.”


She added, “This is the time for philanthropy to get creative and reach out to abortion funds, which have traditionally been underfunded in the reproductive health world.”

An analysis of philanthropic giving conducted by the progressive group National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) found that between 2015 and 2019 the $1.7 billion spent by reproductive rights foundationsless than 3% were specifically earmarked for abortion funds, while 21% were earmarked for other abortion-related work, such as by lawyers or clinics.

Anti-abortion groups have also seen a big surge in funding since the Supreme Court signaled openness to new abortion restrictions in December. That’s what the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America is planning spend more on political campaigns this election cycle than ever before – $78 million. They did not respond to a request for comment on their donors’ response to the leaked draft statement.


Since 2017, the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund has been operated entirely by volunteers, including Nelson, and during that time has reduced its reliance on individual donors relative to its budget. Even so, Nelson said, the organization often only has a month’s worth of funding.

Prior to May 2, he had run out of money three times that year, forcing the phone line customers use to contact her to be shut down.

“That’s how we’re from paycheck to paycheck,” Nelson said.

Even before some states restricted abortion rights in recent years, many people couldn’t afford one.

“If abortion funds have to close their doors on the 15th of the month, that’s 15 days with callers not getting funding,” said NCRP’s Brandi Collins-Calhoun. “These are people who will not have access to their abortions. And this is not due to a lack of roe. This is due to the lack of funding.”


The unpredictability of temper tantrums or funding fads can be detrimental to movements. “It’s very harmful,” Collins-Calhoun said. “And we urge funders not to get too caught up in it.”

Collins-Calhoun argues that despite legal restrictions, philanthropic giving can still make a transformative difference if foundations and large donors would increase their giving to abortion access organizations and sustain those giving over time.

“That means lack of investment: It means you have to go back to the same thing every 50 years,” said Paris Hatcher, executive director of Black Feminist Future, citing the generational struggle over access to abortion in the United States

She argues with other organizers whose focus isn’t specifically on reproductive justice that her work for racial or economic equality is intertwined with access to abortion.

Further analysis by The Bridgespan Group, a philanthropic advisory group, and Shake the Table, a feminist philanthropic advisory group, found this to be the case less than 1% of the total foundation donation went to women’s rights organizations around the world in 2017. It further concluded that feminist funds are capable of distributing ten times the amount of philanthropic donations than is currently the case.


In the weeks since the leaked decision, Nelson’s Tampa Fund has again received donations from multiple foundations, as well as a first-time grant of $50,000, the largest they have ever received.

Federal funds through programs like Medicaid cannot be used to pay for abortions unless a pregnancy is the result of rape or incest or endangers the patient’s life.

Pierce of the Texas Equal Access Fund in Dallas said she hoped that could change in the long term. Until then, she urged donors to be bold.

“I really want to say to donors not to be shy and not afraid of the stigma around the word ‘abortion,'” she said.

However, Pierce suggests that those who do not wish to be included on the fund’s tax return may: a Donor Advised Funda type of charitable investment account where donations don’t have to be named.


Pierce is trying to raise $2.5 million to fund travel and other support for half of her callers, and hires a new employee to handle those logistics. The fund’s current annual budget is $800,000.

Both the Dallas and Tampa abortion funds promote monthly donation programs for individual donors as the preferred way to receive donations. And some have responded.

Before the May 2 Supreme Court leak, monthly donors gave the Tampa fund a total of $470 a month, “which isn’t much. This is a procedure. But we knew we could cover this one procedure,” said Nelson.

After a month of “giving anger,” Nelson said, 111 monthly donors signed up to give nearly $4,000 in total.


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https://www.local10.com/news/politics/2022/06/10/abortion-funds-feel-frustration-gratitude-at-rage-giving/ Abortion funds feel frustrated and grateful for ‘giving anger’

Sarah Y. Kim

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