I'm a Case Manager for My Local Abortion Fund: Here's What Happens When You Call For Help

Abortion funds are nonprofit organizations that raise money specifically to help women and girls pay for their abortions.
Publish date:
July 18, 2013
abortion, Texas, abortion fund, women's rights

You guys, I don’t know about you, but I can’t even with the news lately. And I’m a reporter. But what with Texas basically decimating access to abortion clinics and Ohio deciding that a fetus has more rights than the woman carrying it WEEKS BEFORE IT EVEN EXISTS and Virginia closing its busiest abortion clinic, I have pretty much had it. And that’s only the abortion stories.

You’re all probably caught up to speed on all of this because my role model and spirit animal Alison has been just nailin’ coverage here. And because we all care about women here (even if we don’t choose to identify as feminists), you know and I know that even though states are restricting access to abortions, that doesn’t actually reduce the number of abortions women have. Restricted access just makes safe and legal abortions harder to get.

And do you know how expensive an abortion is? They range from about $300 for a medical abortion (that’d be the abortion pill; NOT Plan B, which cannot terminate an existing pregnancy) to upwards of $1,000 or more for a second trimester surgical abortion. Medical expenses are no joke. And when only 15 states allow for Medicaid to pay for most or all of an abortion, that leaves a lot of women scraping for funds.

And that’s where abortion funds come in. Abortion funds are nonprofit organizations that raise money specifically to help women and girls pay for their abortions, and sometimes the incidental costs that come up with getting the procedure (like childcare, gas money to get to the clinic, etc.). Lots of people don’t know they exist, and when they need one, they’re not sure what to expect when they call. I’m here to tell you, because I’m a case manager for my local abortion fund.

Every abortion fund is different, so your mileage may vary, but here’s what to expect if you ever need our services.

You’re going to go directly to voicemail.

This isn’t true for some other funds (in fact, you need to get through to a person directly to get funds from the National Abortion Federation, and other funds require you to call only at certain times on certain days, like 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Monday, etc.), but in general, these organizations are staffed entirely by volunteers. So we’ve got day jobs, too.

You’ll leave a message and let the case manager on duty know your name, if you have an appointment with a clinic, the date of your last monthly period, and how/when to get in touch with you. Someone will call you back shortly thereafter.

We’re going to ask you a lot of questions. Most women call us after they’ve set up an appointment with a clinic and gotten a price quote, but even though you’re ready to roll, we will still have questions for you. Some of them might be a pain, but we want to get a good idea of your situation and how we might best be able to team up and help you pay for your abortion.

If you have a savings account, if you’ll have to pay someone to watch your child while you’re at your appointment, if you have a vehicle -- all of that stuff matters. We want to know what it’s going to take to get you over the finish line. So when we ask questions that might feel irrelevant, like about your ethnicity, your income, whether you’ve been pregnant before, know that the answers won’t affect whether or not you get funding. That said…

We likely won’t fund your whole procedure.

At the DC Abortion Fund, our average pledge is around $200. But as a case manager, I’ve got a budget to stick to, and a lot of calls to get through. We would love to be able to fund everyone’s abortions. We really would. It’s just not feasible.

But it’s our job to work with you to help you get enough money so you can have your abortion. We’ll offer a bunch of suggestions on how you might get more money (calling NAF and other national and regional funds, selling clothes, doing odd jobs, asking friends for loans, etc.), and we’ll work together to make sure that come your appointment day, you’re ready to go. And it’s a sad fact that while we try to help everyone who calls us, sometimes abortion funds have to turn people away (especially the smaller regional funds). That really sucks.

It might take some time.

Most of our patients call us back a few times, because rallying a few hundred dollars or more is hard, and takes some time. If you’ve called our particular fund before your pregnancy is nine weeks along, we aren’t able to help you at all, so you might have to wait for your procedure. Or you might think of a new way to get another $20 or $30, or we might have been able to find another abortion fund to help pitch in, too. The back-and-forth can be frustrating for everyone, but trust that we want to help you as quickly as we can.

We’re not counselors.

I am a lot of things (charming, devoted to my cat, a bit of an oversharer), but social worker isn’t one. We’ll never advise you on whether you should or shouldn’t get an abortion -- that’s up to you and you alone. Most of the time, when people call us, they’ve already made an appointment. They’re comfortable with their decision. But for those who call to suss out their options -- we wish we could help you, but we can’t. We will refer you to those who can, including NAF and Planned Parenthood. Check those out. Maybe we’ll hear from you again, and maybe we won’t. That’s OK.

We’ll work directly with the clinic.

You’ll never have to worry about hustling across town to get a check or anything like that. When you tell us you’ve got your share of the money, we send a pledge to the clinic where you’ve got your appointment. Easy enough. Oh, and we only work with clinics we know are safe. We won’t fund abortions at clinics we know to be not up to our standards. We value your health, safety and comfort as much as you do. You and your case manager will never see each other, but we’re there to support you.

We want you to volunteer with us.

Not everyone is cut out for case managing (although I love it). But maybe you want to be a monthly donor, or pitch in at an annual fundraiser. We would love that. We could use that. You can find your local abortion fund, and how to volunteer or donate, through the National Network of Abortion Funds. NNAF is especially fun because it rallies many local abortion funds for an annual bowl-a-thon. I don’t want to let you think I take it too seriously.

If there’s not an abortion fund near you, there are plenty ofgood onesto donate to. Or you could always start your own! NNAF can help you there, too.

There’s nothing I wish more than that abortion was safe, legal, rare and covered for all women. And of course, I’m doing everything I can to make that a reality. I hope you are, too. Until that day, though, I’ll be a phone call away, just in case you ever need me. Odds are, you might.

Lindsey is getting riled up about abortion on Twitter: @lindseywoho.