The National Network of Abortion Funds is deeply incensed to hear the United States Supreme Court has opted not hear a critical case regarding medication abortion access in Arkansas. In declining to hear challenges to Planned Parenthood v. Jegley, the Supreme Court is denying Arkansans seeking abortions an important outlet to present the evidence and personal stories needed to ensure safe and accessible abortion access. When this safe and effective method of abortion is effectively banned, people needing abortions suffer unnecessarily. Medication abortion is a needed option for people accessing their abortion rights, especially those in Arkansas, which has limited access to abortion clinics, limited access to jobs with paid time off and affordable childcare, an underserved rural population, and a history of systemic racist economic injustice that continues to block people’s access to healthcare today. This decision comes on the heels of a groundbreaking National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine report which found that not only is abortion safe, but the restrictions being placed on the procedure are medically unnecessary, and there is no evidence that restrictions like admitting privileges are needed. As the utilization of medication abortion is growing across the nation, the state of Arkansas is using restrictions to effectively ban the procedure.
Said Melissa Torres-Montoya, Policy Director at the National Network of Abortion Funds,
“With their refusal to hear challenges in the case of Planned Parenthood v. Jegley, the United States Supreme Court is leaving abortion patients in Arkansas without access to medication abortion, which becomes a de facto ban on the procedure. People seeking abortion care deserve to have all of their options available to them, including medication abortion. Medication abortion can be a preferred method for abortion fund callers who do not have access to paid time off of work, childcare, and have to travel long distances to the nearest clinic.
Abortion funds are disappointed in the Supreme Court Justices and their decision. It reinforces a healthcare system that continues to devalue people accessing reproductive care. In showing a lack of compassion for the people of Arkansas, the Supreme Court demonstrates a shocking disconnect from the everyday obstacles that disproportionately affect people of color, people with low incomes, and people in rural areas. In the Supreme Court decision for Whole Woman’s Health vs. Hellerstedt, Justices heard the important voices of people who need abortions, but in declining to hear this case, they’re leaving behind the people in Arkansas who are tangibly affected by that decision. They’re allowing Arkansas to play politics with the technicalities of that decision, and ensuring Arkansans are harmed in that process. “
Data from the National Network of Abortion Funds’ own abortion fund, The George Tiller Memorial Abortion Abortion Fund (named for Dr. George Tiller, assassinated May 31, 2009), found that medically unnecessary restrictions on abortion have led to increased need for abortion funding, particularly in states without expanded Medicaid. The research presented in this report (download PDF) is comprised of secondary data analyses of 3,999 administrative cases in the U.S. showing how the Tiller Fund has been used over five years, from 2010 to 2015, including demographic information, circumstances at play in the lives of people who called the Tiller Fund for abortion funding, and changes over time that demonstrate how abortion restrictions are discriminatory, burdensome, and have the potential to create stress and even exacerbate trauma in patients with an existing trauma history unrelated to abortion. Tiller Fund data was also compared to national data on general abortion patients.
“Age was collected categorically in years, with the largest cluster (53%) falling within 20-29, slightly less than abortion patients nationally (58%). More patients (22%) were adolescents (11-19) relative to patients nationally (14%). In terms of race, the sample was predominantly African American (50%), notably higher than patients nationally (38%). Fewer (24%) were white, considerably lower than patients nationally (37%). Ten percent were Latinx compared to a higher national average of 22%. In regards to gestational stage, compared to 91% of those in the national dataset only 22% of the current sample was in their first trimester.”
Costs, funding assistance, patient resources, and changes over time in pledges for second-trimester procedures were also examined. This data is especially important in the context of requests for funding later abortions, which increased over time. This increase in requests demonstrates how financial burdens imposed by existing policy restrictions on abortion are, in fact, delaying abortions, which adversely impact single women and African American women at greater rates.
Out of nearly 2,000 people who called the Tiller Fund and gave geographic information, we learned that the majority of pledges are made to residents of states without expanded Medicaid access to abortion and states that have private insurance restrictions on abortion coverage. Most of the people who were funded were residents of the South followed by residents of the Midwest. Restrictions at the state level in the United States are crafted to decrease accessibility of abortion care, which increases patient costs and the subsequent need for the financial assistance provided by abortion funds.