NCRP Emergency Funder Call updates sector on what’s needed to help local clinics and funders fighting abortion bans in Texas and other states
When the Supreme Court refused to block Texas’s radical anti-abortion law stand in the first week of September, reproductive justice leaders were not surprised. In a healthy, safe and equitable world, all pregnant people should have access to high-quality abortion care. But that has never been a reality, especially for queer, Black, immigrant and indigenous people and people of color.
What can philanthropy do? Be bold and vocal about direct and flexible funding to local abortion funds and clinics.
That was one of the main takeaways from NCRP’s Sept.14 emergency funder call, “What Texas Tells Us About Our Health: The Reality of Abortion Access & Philanthropy’s Duty Today.” The call, co-sponsored by Funders for Reproductive Equity, the Women’s Funder’s Network and the United Philanthropy Forum, was pulled together to give funders an opportunity to learn directly from those working on the ground in Texas what they could do immediately to help local, independent abortion clinics and funds.
NCRP staff members, Stephanie Peng and Brandi Collins-Calhoun were joined by frontline leaders Rosann Mariappuram of Jane’s Due Process and Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi of Pegasus Health Justice Center. The panel also included Elise Belusa, Director of Programs and Operations at Tara Health Foundation.
Together, they spoke about their experiences dealing directly with the issue, the impact that the Texas ban has had on their work thus far, and what philanthropy can do now to help local, independent abortion clinics and funds.
MORE THAN JUST A BAN
Panelists talked about how the issue was more than just restricting access but also restricting the entire health care system in Texas.
“This is not just an abortion ban that restricts abortion but this is a ban that makes pregnancy in our state incredibly dangerous.” said Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi. “Even for people with wanted pregnancies, our state already has a dismal maternal mortality rate, especially for black people, and the communities that I take care of are going to be even more impacted for wanted and undesired pregnancies so birth justice is very much tied up into this issue.”
Since the ban went into effect on September 1, abortion funds have experienced an increase in demand for abortion care. Unfortunately, they have struggled to keep up with the needs of patients due to a continued lack of funding and resources. As NCRP’s 2021 Abortion Access Fact Sheet shows, local abortion funds were already struggling to provide abortion care with restrictions that were complicated by the pandemic.
“A lot of our abortion funds are spending what they would normally spend in one month in a week because the need is so high.,” said Mariappuram. And practical support funding which is travel so getting a rental car and covering a hotel stay, the need for that has exponentially expanded. And yet there’s only a handful of funds who are doing that work and now we’re all trying to meet that need and do what we can.”
Dr. Moayedi also discussed how limiting reproductive health options also impact a number of different communities, including immigrants.
“Immigration justice is a huge component in this as well, for our folks that live in our border communities they actually can’t leave if they’re undocumented to go get abortion care anywhere. And that has been a problem, a long-standing problem in Texas. I trained in El Paso, and I proudly served by the national community. And I often cared for women who were undocumented and couldn’t be transferred to other hospitals for higher levels of care in our state because of our immigration policies. I’ve cared for people whose, whose wanted babies had to die because of our immigration policies and because they could not be transferred to Houston, or to Dallas, from El Paso. So, these issues; immigration issues, Medicaid issues might not seem like they’re connected but they’re deeply connected to abortion care in our state too.”
This mirrors the general funding trends that NCRP found around foundation funding for immigrant and refugee services and movements in Texas. Our 2020 report, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” showed that while 16% of Texas is foreign-born, only 0.7% of local funding Is directed toward the immigrant and refugee community.
CLEAR DEMANDS: FLEXIBLE FUNDING TO LOCALS
Panelists were clear in their demands with funders when asked what they needed now and in the future.
“One big need right now is unrestricted multi-year funding because our future is so unclear. When you hear abortion funds you might just think of the direct service piece but we’re also the advocates,” said Mariappuram “We’re the abortion storytellers. And we are the pipeline of the people most impacted being centered in the policy fights in the press, and so when you give multi-year unrestricted funding to grassroots or to abortion funds, you really are investing in real policy change on the local and state level.”
“Give your money away now,” said Belusa. “Get it out the door, it’s not doing any good sitting in your bank account and try if you can to get the process reduced to get the money out the door. I recognize it’s harder at larger foundations but to the extent you can, don’t ask for proposals, just make general support funding available.”
“We need this law overturned and we have to stop it from happening in other states. For that, we need bold funding from funders who are not afraid to fund civil disobedience and are not afraid to fund actions that maybe could get them in trouble,” said Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi.
Other actions that movement leaders on and off the call have suggested funders can do to further fund the frontlines and help incorporate abortion into their healthcare, racial equity, gender justice, LGBTQ rights and economic equality work include:
• Checking your portfolios for intersectionality
• Funding abortion access by supporting local clinics
• Showing your support body, publicly and consistently
• Shifting your funding practice to meet real needs, not line items
• Elevating and following the knowledge of local leaders
Bold Funding is Urgently Needed
This abortion ban is not just a Texas issue. As panelists reiterated several times, Florida, South Dakota and Oklahoma already have similar legislation in the works. However, these bills – and these bans — did not spring up overnight. Political and economic pressure has led to the closure of over a quarter of clinics since 2015 alone. Far-right bans on access have flourished during the pandemic.
Yet only 20% of US foundations’ reproductive rights funding goes to abortion rights and services, with less than 3% designated for local abortion funds. That includes immigrant and refugee communities in Texas, where only 2% of total foundation funding for reproductive rights issues benefitted local organizations from 2014-2018.
Local abortion fund and reproductive justice leaders — BiPOC, undocumented and trans people in particular — have named this truth for years, all while saving lives and providing necessary care for our communities. The work they are doing on our collective safety amidst the threat of state violence protects both our overall health and our agency over our bodies.
Philanthropy has a duty to play an active and public role. Leaders say that they can start by listening to and taking actions that are in direct support of the needs of frontline leaders in this moment and beyond.