Poverty, Abortion Access, and Heartbreak

26 May

Volunteering with an abortion fund enables me to pride myself  on helping women access the abortions they need. Whether it’s helping with $50 or $450, funds do everything we can to fill in the gap between how much an abortion costs and how much a woman can afford to pay. But what happens when the gap is too big? When you know that no matter how much national fundraising you do, the woman you’re trying to help just won’t be able to have an abortion?

Getting an abortion is not just a matter of covering the cost. There is an entire system of inequity at play here–not enough clinics that provide later abortion services, no federal funding for most abortion procedures, lack of sex education that keeps women from knowing signs of pregnancy or the best birth control options, a complex web of anti-abortion laws designed to complicate, restrict and ultimately deter women from having abortions. The list goes on and on. Abortion funds are supposed to help women navigate this system, and when we can’t help someone access the care she desperately needs, well, it feels pretty shitty.

Angela (name changed) was one such a case. She called our hotline when she was well over the legal limit for an abortion–over 24 weeks. She had been trying to have an abortion for two months, but because of various medical conditions and never having enough money, she was turned away from many local providers.  She’s in a conundrum. She needs to have an abortion. The only provider that will see her is 5000 miles away, and that abortion is $9000, not to mention travel and lodging. Angela couldn’t afford to feed her children last week. Where will she come up with $9000?

There is no easy solution here. I wish I had a big bag of abortion money and could grant Angela the abortion of her dreams. Unfortunately, Angela couldn’t get that abortion. I wish I could’ve called Congress and put her on speaker phone. I wish I could call Henry Hyde and have him listen to her cry. My heart aches for her and for all women in her situation. Until politicians hear the voices and experiences of women like her, restrictions on this legal medical procedure will continue to roll out of Capitol Hill and states across the nation. Until the broader pro-choice movement embraces later abortion access as a matter of justice and equality, Angela and all women in her situation will continue to suffer, lacking the ability to get the care they need.


9 Responses to “Poverty, Abortion Access, and Heartbreak”

  1. Ceecee May 26, 2011 at 8:54 pm #

    Hey, maybe you can’t get her the abortion, but you can help her buy food and supplies for her kids. If you really care, there are ways to help with her rent, or you and your friends can throw her a baby shower to help with baby supplies, that’s if she hasn’t decided to put the baby up for adoption.
    If she was turned away from abortion clinics for medical conditions, then she’s a poor candidate for abortion anyway. It could lead to fatal complications. It may be for the best that the only one crazy enough to risk it is so far away and so expensive. Keeping her away from abortion may save, not just the child’s life, but the mother’s life as well.
    So if you really care about her, tell her to suck it up, and see what else can be done to ease her life, and the lives of her children, both born and unborn.

  2. R May 27, 2011 at 12:30 am #

    This breaks my heart too. It feels so wrong to tell someone no, there’s nothing more I can do, and all systems have failed her and I’m so sorry about that but now it’s just out of my hands and hers. I worry about what will happen to her after I give her prenatal referrals and we say goodbye. Ugh, ugh, how is society OK with this?

  3. Kaitlyn May 27, 2011 at 9:53 am #

    R: Thanks for your comment.

    CeeCee: The things you’re suggesting are great for supporting a pregnant woman, especially a pregnant woman in difficult economic circumstances, who wants to keep her baby. However, the things you are suggesting are not helpful for a pregnant woman who is as desperate to terminate as the one described here. This woman is clear that her life as she knows it will end if she has to carry this pregnancy through. That’s a possibility she will do anything in her power to avoid. Aid and charity for the children she has would be wonderful, and I’m sure people provide that, occasionally. But aid and charity are limited – if they weren’t, this woman would never wonder how to feed her children, and she does. One more child might prevent her from ever achieving her dreams, getting an education, earning enough money to provide a stable living for the children she already has. Not to mention the cost and burden of simply *being pregnant*, even if she decides to give the baby up for adoption, which is not the simple solution, for so many reasons, that people make it out to be.

    We’re certainly not suggesting that a woman should have an abortion if it puts her life at risk, although that is her decision to make. (It’s probably important to think about how someone could be so desperate not to be pregnant that she *would* put her health at risk, though.) The real problem with the woman’s circumstance was that she over the 24 week limit, after which abortions can still be performed safely. One of the insidious things about the antichoice movement is how inaccessible they have made abortion. As a result, people believe that inaccessibility is a judgment call on the part of the medical community, when in reality it is government interference with health care.

  4. Dee May 27, 2011 at 11:34 am #

    I agree with everything Kaitlyn just said. Ceecee’s idea of charity to help this woman ignores the woman’s desperation, her obvious determination to end the pregnancy, and any number of long term financial troubles she will have (a baby shower does not even begin to cover the costs of that child’s first year, let alone its life). As Kaitlyn said, if she’s willing to risk her life to have an abortion (as so many women are, when abortion is made illegal/inaccessible), then she clearly feels very strongly about it.

  5. Jameson May 28, 2011 at 3:07 am #

    Only a pro-liar would say something as callous as “suck it up” to a woman clearly in need.

    Proving that once again, pro-liars don’t care about helping women. At all. It’s always been, and will always be, about punishing women for exercising their right to freedom.

  6. Steph L May 28, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

    Pro-liars only care from conception until birth. In the epic words of George Carlin: “Pro life conservatives are obsessed with the fetus from conception until nine months. If you’re pre-born, you’re fine…if you’re pre-school, you’re fucked.”

  7. placenta sandwich May 29, 2011 at 9:31 pm #

    “tell her to suck it up”. I think that says it all, eh Ceecee?

  8. placenta sandwich May 29, 2011 at 9:33 pm #

    (Ceecee has commented at Abortioneers, too, with almost the exact same stuff about “helping” via a baby shower or adoption. A baby shower! Maybe that sounds sweet, but it also kinda adds insult to injury when the situation is so devastating and it’s such little REAL help.)


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