BUFFALO, N.Y. – Abortion fund patients who get aid to help
pay for abortions are younger and more likely to be African
American when compared to general abortion patients in the U.S.,
according to the findings of a study just published online in the
journal Social Work in Health Care.
These patients receive over $1,000 in aid on average to pay for
procedures that would otherwise be unaffordable, given their
“The patients in this study are trying to fund procedures
that can cost over $2,000 on average, while they report having
about $500 of their own resources to contribute to the procedure.
These are vulnerable patients who are piecing together funding from
a variety of sources,” said Gretchen Ely, an associate
professor in the University at Buffalo School of Social Work.
The longer it takes for patients to gather the funding the
longer the procedure is delayed, which in turn increases cost.
“Given that findings suggest that aid for second-trimester
procedures has increased from 2010 to 2015, it appears that the
quest for funding may be causing delays in accessing an abortion.
This parallels increasing state-level restrictions,” said
“It shows the dire circumstances of people who are
vulnerable – that includes vulnerability because of race or
where they live.”
Abortion funds are advocacy organizations that also help
patients pay for the cost of an abortion by pledging financial
assistance directly to a health-care provider. In the U.S., the
National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF) is the main umbrella
organization for 70 independent-member abortion funds. The NNAF
also maintains the Tiller Memorial Fund, its own abortion fund,
which provides financial assistance to patients who are unable to
cover the entire cost of the procedure on their own. Data of
patients funded through the Tiller fund was used for this
“These abortion funds are filling in where public health
policy should be picking up the costs,” said Ely.
Ely analyzed nearly 4,000 NNAF case records between 2010 and
2015 and compared the data with the demographics from the Abortion
Surveillance Report, which collects data on the national level from
The results suggest that women who couldn’t afford an
abortion and received funding to pay for their procedures were more
likely to be single, young adolescent or African-American,
populations that also sought to fund expensive procedures performed
later in the pregnancy, averaging about $2,000, but received about
half that in aid.
The increase in funding pledges for second trimester abortions
parallels the unprecedented state-level restrictions on abortion
that picked up after the 2010 midterm elections, according to
The legality of abortion does not always translate into
access. In fact, Ely said, although it varies by region,
abortion services are very inaccessible in the U.S.
Texas recently finalized new laws requiring fetal remains to be
buried or cremated. Utah recently became the first state to require
doctors to administer anesthesia to women having abortions.
Tennessee now has a mandatory waiting period that involves visiting
a doctor two days before an abortion, then returning for the
Ely said these kinds of requirements cause delays and increase
costs, impeding the process and pushing abortions into the second
“A good many people who need abortion services are already
using Medicaid,” said Ely. “If funds were available to
everyone, they would not have to piece together financing, which
would promote access to very early, less expensive first trimester
abortions,” she said.