NCRP: Now is the time to Raise Your Voices — and Funds — to Support Reproductive Justice

Philanthropic support is needed more than ever as abortion bans threaten  access & health equity.

Washington, DC — On September 1, Texas’ 6-week abortion ban went into effect, prohibiting nearly all abortion care in the state.  Any hope for immediate relief was soon dashed when the United States Supreme Court’s initially refused to block the ban late Wednesday evening.

Both actions confirmed the echoes that activists, organizers, reporters and other leaders have been hearing from the frontlines. That a world where abortion is illegal was not some dystopia reimagined by abortion advocates, but a reality that was quickly approaching across the nation as  nearly 100 abortion restrictions have been passed in 2021 alone, more than any previous year finds a report released by Guttmacher Institute.

The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP) hears abortion leaders and supports the decision of if, when and how people experience reproductive parenthood, and recognizes SB 8, and all other heartbeat bans, for the unconstitutional violations to abortion access that they are.

Philanthropy’s Current Funding Role

In 2020, after listening to organizers on the ground, NCRP committed to exploring philanthropy’s investment in the reproductive justice movement and those providing abortion services on the frontlines and were troubled by some of our findings.

“It was shocking to realize how the philanthropic sector has largely ignored a critical intervention site for outcomes core to the mission of many funders working on health equity, racial justice and economic equality,” said Brandi Collins Calhoun, Senior Movement Engagement Associate for NCRP.

Not only were many funding this issue silently, and primarily through national, reproductive rights initiatives, grantmaking itself had become a barrier to access. From 2014-2018, roughly $24 million, or only 2% of total foundation funding for reproductive rights issues benefitted organizations in Texas. The amount available from philanthropy for reproductive rights in Texas in these 5 years is about half the yearly revenue of the Dallas Museum of Art.

“Abortion funds in Texas, frontline organizations that increase abortion access through financial and logistical support, received less than $1 million from philanthropy, or only 4% of all funding for reproductive rights in Texas from 2014-2018,” said NCRP’s Senior  Associate for Movement Research Stephanie Peng. “Meanwhile, 15% of all families with children, or roughly 3.5 million families, live under the poverty line in Texas.”

Abortion frontlines suspected the sector had embraced the idea that a new year and a new presidential administration might signal greater cooperation with federal agencies, a delusion at the expense of access, that was later endorsed by philanthropies’ alarming silence this week.

“Funders must understand that this isn’t just a Texas problem,” said Aaron Dorfman, NCRP’s president & CEO. “Many Republican-controlled states are or will be advancing similar measures soon. Florida, South Dakota and Oklahoma already have similar legislation in the works. Clinics in red state and blue states need resources now to respond to this crisis.”

What Can Donors & Grantmakers Do?

Philanthropy must be vocal and responsive in this urgent moment. NCRP urges the sector to also move beyond the mainstream feminist funding approach that, among other things, privileges legal advocacy over the direct support on the ground.

Donors and grantmaking institutions can start by referencing some of the following resources that our Movement Investment Project assembled with abortion advocates on the frontlines in Texas for guidance:

  • The Cost of COVID: How the Pandemic Shifted Abortion and the Funds that Safeguard Access, Rights and Justice: a report on the status of abortion access and demands from the ground in response to states, including Texas, weaponizing COVID-19 to restrict abortion access.
  • Funding to the Frontlines: A Roadmap to Supporting Health Equity Through Abortion Access: through data, direct experience from patients and providers
    showing how reproductive access is a linchpin for public health, racial equity and economic equality, this includes:

    • Why I Fund the Fronltines: NCRP Board Member & The Libra Foundation President Crystal Hayling writes on why it’s so important for foundations to invest in abortion access. Libra is also a funder of the Afiya Center, a Black led reproductive justice organization that operates an abortion fund out of Texas, one of several abortion funds providing practical support, such as travel cost to patients now that the ban has gone in effect.
    • The Providers Perspective: a letter addressed to philanthropy from southwest providers, including Texas’ own Dr. Ghazaleh Moayedi, DO, MPH, FACOG of Pegasus Health Justice Center, urging philanthropy to include abortion providers and clinics in their grantmaking. Many physicians and clinic staff are now out of work, ineligible for unemployment and vulnerable to legal fees associated with risk tied to the ban’s legal bounty.
    • Angels Story: a testimonial from a Texas resident and We Testify abortion storyteller, explaining her experience living in Amarillo, Texas where she had no local access to an abortion clinic and was required to travel four hours to Alburquerque, New Mexico for her procedure. A reality that many Texans will face due to SB 8.

In many ways, the these  abortion bans are another reminder that much of current grantmaking reflects the erroneous assumption of reproductive rights as an exclusively white, cis-woman issue centered on the national legal debate. By now, it should be clear that this a framework is insufficient to meet the current challenge, much less those that lie ahead.

NCRP projects leads, Brandi Collins-Calhoun and Stephanie Peng, as well as other NCRP leader, are available to speak about philanthropy’s role in supporting this important work and what organizers say they need from the sector to do in these urgent times.


About NCRP

For more than 45 years, the National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy has been amplifying the voice of nonprofits and the communities they serve in the philanthropic sector. We work to push for a sector that serves the public good, is responsive to people with the least wealth and opportunity, and accountable to the highest standards of integrity and openness. Through research and advocacy, it works to ensure that grantmakers and donors contribute to the creation of a fair, just and equitable world.

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