Solving The Access Puzzle for Low-income Women
I read with great admiration Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe’s “My Own Public Funding Story” (Vol. XXXVI, No. 2). As I followed the story detailing how public assistance touched her family, I could not help but think of how familiar the story is for thousands of people seeking abortion care in the US.
To be more specific: The DC Abortion Fund helpline screened more than 3,400 calls on our free, confidential helpline last year—many from callers who would be eligible for public assistance, if only it would cover abortion.
These patients call us for a simple, heartbreaking reason: They cannot afford the full cost of their abortion care because of predatory abortion restrictions that target low-income people. The callers with whom DCAF speaks every day contact us because these policies have created stratification in our healthcare system. A whole sector of women can’t exercise the right to choose simply because they are poor. To us, that is simply unacceptable.
For far too long, this country has penalized low-income people seeking abortion by forcing those who have the least to pay the most in order to access the services they need. The DC Abortion Fund works to right that wrong and provides funding no matter where a person lives or how much money they make. Whether they are struggling mothers, frightened high school students, women facing tragic fetal anomalies or just someone who doesn’t want to be pregnant anymore, DCAF fills in the critical missing piece of the access puzzle. Otherwise, the gap between what they need and what they can afford can ruin their chances for a better life.
But as demand ticks up, it’s harder and harder for us to meet the desperate needs our patients have. There are so many people in the DC, Maryland and Virginia area who struggle to make ends meet and are living paycheck to paycheck. They are forced to cover the cost of their abortion or carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. This can push poor people deeper into poverty.
Rights shouldn’t depend on your wallet, but until politics reflects that reality, we’ll be here to help one patient after another access care.
KERSHA DEIBEL MSW, MPH
DC Abortion Fund