It’s Been 2 Years Since Dobbs and Abortion Funds Say ‘Rage Donations’ Are Gone

"Anger donations have diminished and decreased at a time when the demand and cost for services has only increased,” the director of the abortion travel fund Brigid Alliance told Jezebel.

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It’s Been 2 Years Since Dobbs and Abortion Funds Say ‘Rage Donations’ Are Gone

In August 2022, a Louisiana woman named Nancy Davis learned her fetus wasn’t viable due to a rare congenital disorder known as acrania in which part or all of the skull is missing. But, because the state’s criminal abortion ban threatens doctors with prison time, she couldn’t find anyone in her home state to provide an emergency abortion since the fetus still had a heartbeat. Davis, a mother of two young children, and her partner had to make travel arrangements to get later abortion care elsewhere. That’s where the Brigid Alliance stepped in.

“They were my light in the dark,” Davis told Jezebel. “When you’re in a tragic situation like that, the last thing on your mind is booking tickets, research, finding a place to stay…” Since 2018, Brigid has helped people who need to travel for abortion care, with a focus on people who need abortion later in pregnancy. But Brigid doesn’t just send a check, they also organize all their travel, and lodging, and provide meal stipends and child care as needed. Brigid arranged for Davis to travel to New York for her abortion in September 2022. “Nothing came out-of-pocket,” she said. “We were completely taken care of.”

May marks Brigid’s sixth anniversary, as well as the second anniversary as the night we learned the Supreme Court was planning to overturn Roe v. Wade. The transformative shifts in the legal landscape around abortion access between 2018 and now have inevitably transformed Brigid’s work, and the ever-expanding needs of their clients, too. According to data Brigid shared with Jezebel, they’ve gone from supporting an average of 40 abortion-seeking clients per month in 2019 to now serving 150 per month. More recently, costs to support their clients have spiked: From 2021 to 2023, travel-related costs increased 16% from $836 to $993 per client, and in that same period, average lodging costs increased 29% from $242 to $345. It doesn’t help that the average distance clients need to travel has also increased by 30% between 2022 and 2023, from 1,000 miles to 1,300 due to the spread of abortion bans. As another reference point, from 2018 to 2019, Brigid served 523 total clients traveling an average of 1,244 miles, at an average cost of $732.47.

Recent events in Florida, where a six-week abortion ban just took effect and decimated abortion access across the South, reflect how dire the situation is in parts of the country: Now, the closest state where Floridians can access abortion is North Carolina—about 650 miles away—and only up to 12 weeks.

 

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According to Serra Sippel, interim executive director of Brigid, other cost-increasing factors include inflation and the fact that abortion is available in far fewer states now. Consequently, the procedure is in much higher demand in the states where it remains available. Two years after the end of Roe, everything is only getting more expensive. On Friday, Jezebel reported that across the board, abortion funds are spending substantially more money post-Dobbs. In 2023, Texas’ Lilith Fund spent $1 million, the Baltimore Abortion Fund also spent $1 million, the Abortion Fund of Ohio spent about $1.5 million, New York Abortion Access Fund spent $1.7 million, and the DC Abortion Fund spent $2 million. 

In the immediate aftermath of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision, Sippel remembers a “spike” in donations. But many of those were one-time donations. “This is a long-term need. Spikes don’t sustain our work for the long-term,” Sippel told Jezebel. “Anger donations have diminished and decreased at a time when the demand for services has only increased, the cost of services have only increased.” Brigid’s work, Sippel says, and their ability to help patients like Davis—some navigating personal tragedies, others navigating the simple terror of an unwanted pregnancy—demands more than an “ebb-and-flow” of inconsistent support.

Other abortion funds report similar problems. Rachael Lorenzo co-founded Indigenous Women Rising to help fund reproductive care for Indigenous people, young people, and undocumented people. Lorenzo told Jezebel that the demands on their fund—in terms of both financial need from their clients and labor from them and their colleagues—have increased exponentially in the last two years. 

Donations haven’t.

Clients need to travel farther and stay for longer (because of waiting periods, wait times, or more complicated procedures for later abortions due to delays) for their abortion appointments. In particular, Lorenzo says IWR’s Indigenous clients sometimes face extra travel-related barriers including obtaining proper IDs, which can be both costly and complicated, or booking flights if they haven’t traveled via airports before. IWR is also trying to set up a legal fund as criminal risk around seeking abortion care looms large, and Lorenzo points to the disproportionate state policing of Indigenous people’s pregnancies and reproductive decisions. “Through all of this, it becomes harder and harder to balance a patient and client-centered approach, with the capacity of our fund as human beings,” Lorenzo said. Like Sippel, Lorenzo’s frustrated with the “ebb and flow” and inconsistency of donations, the bulk of which are usually driven by viral moments in the news cycle. But monthly donations—“no matter how small”—are vital to making their work possible. 

Sierra Dobbs-Brown, development coordinator at the Abortion Fund of Ohio, told Jezebel that she and her team “always knew that rage donations after Dobbs would drop off,” but the situation with funding abortion in Ohio became especially complicated by the state’s ballot measure campaign for abortion rights last year. The measure—Issue 1—passed but challenges remain. “A lot of donors and attention focused on the ballot, but there are so many barriers to accessing abortion, where the legal right isn’t just this magic wand,” Dobbs-Brown said. “There are still so many financial barriers and we’re trying to bridge that gap, but money being spent on the ballot really sucked up so many people’s financials over directly funding abortion, and now, so many people just think everything’s fine now.”

Like Lorenzo, Dobbs-Brown emphasized the importance of recurring, monthly donations: “Even if it’s $1 per month, it’s $1 we know we can count on, that can help us plan and know what we’re going to have in July, or in December,” she explained.

Rising costs and inconsistent, diminished donations post-Dobbs have presented a major challenge to their fund, but Dobbs-Brown also cites the increasing difficulty of her colleagues’ work as the landscape around abortion access is “so confusing and complicated, to experts and to everyday people both.” Helping callers navigate this system can be exhausting, on top of the labor of balancing the fund’s budget and trying to fund people’s abortions.


All of this—knowledge gaps, confusion, high costs, and significant travel demands—has resulted in a particularly burdensome consequence. Delayed abortion access means more later abortions, sometimes “five, six weeks later than someone wanted to have their abortion,” Sippel told Jezebel. Inevitably, the later an abortion, the “more complicated and more expensive.”

Matt Reeves is the executive director and founder of DuPont Clinic in Washington, D.C., one of few clinics in the country that provides abortion during all trimesters, which is sometimes necessary due to severe fetal anomalies and medical emergencies. DuPont, which opened in 2017, has been working closely with Brigid to help people across the country access later abortion care since Brigid launched. 

 

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At an anniversary event hosted by Brigid on May 1 in New York City, Jill Hartle, a South Carolina resident and former Ms. South Carolina, shared her experience turning to DuPont for later abortion care in 2022 after being turned away by doctors in her home state, thanks to South Carolina’s criminal abortion ban. Eighteen weeks into her pregnancy, Hartle learned her fetus was missing the entire left side of its heart. “Our medical teams were not even able to fully discuss options for care with us based on advice from their lawyers,” Hartle said. “I understand their hands were tied. But in a moment of devastating pain and impending loss, they were not able to give me the guidance that I needed, and I had to wait extra weeks to get the abortion care I needed.” She and her partner ultimately relied on the expertise and financial support of Brigid’s staff to travel to D.C. and receive the procedure at DuPont. “When people ask if what I went through was difficult, I tell them my trauma does not come from my abortion. My trauma comes from the 49 days I was forced to wait for it.”

Speaking to Jezebel, Reeves stressed that long before the Dobbs decision, “everything changed, really, with S.B. 8 in Texas.” The state’s notorious “bounty hunter” law allows people to sue anyone in the state who helps someone get an abortion for at least $10,000. “We saw a surge in later abortions after S.B. 8, and then the combination of that with the aftermath of Dobbs,” Reeves said, because abortion bans and “logistical nightmares” were “delaying when so many people who otherwise could have gotten care much earlier” were able to have abortions. And, again: When abortion occurs later, the costs of everything increase—the procedure, the lodging and travel, all of it. 

Then, of course, there’s everything after the abortion. “The problems, the complications, the costs [from abortion bans]—it’s unending,” Sippel said. She’s heard of people who have lost their jobs from being forced to miss work to travel for abortions. She’s heard from people who lost significant wages from missing work for abortion care, and consequently struggled to pay rent and cover other living costs. “It can set them back for a long time,” Sippel explained. “The short-sightedness of imposing these bans, the impact it has on the economic infrastructure when so many people are going to lose wages, lose jobs, lose housing—the ripple effect is massive.”


Since Davis’ abortion in New York in September 2022, she started a foundation to support people who, like her, “have endured trauma due to a prenatal developmental defect during pregnancy.” Davis is currently pregnant and due any day to give birth to her third child. “I don’t know how I would be here without Brigid,” she told Jezebel. 

But she’s still frustrated she needed to travel for abortion at all. And, clearly, supposed medical exceptions “don’t work” if someone in her situation could still be denied care, she said. Davis believes that if someone does find themselves forced to travel out-of-state for an abortion, they should be able to receive the level of care and support that she received from Brigid. 

But two years after Dobbs, that depends entirely on whether abortion funds and organizations like Brigid can count on more than short-term “rage donations.”

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