Melinda Gates Donate to Abortion Funds Challenge

The billionaire philanthropist is back in the news with a smattering of adoring headlines for donating $1 billion to feminist organizations. Great! Unfortunately, none of that went to mutual aid groups like abortion funds, though.

Melinda Gates Donate to Abortion Funds Challenge

Billionaire philanthropist Melinda French Gates has opened her wallet yet again, after recently sharing that she plans to resign from her foundation, Pivotal Ventures, on June 7. On Tuesday, French Gates shared that her foundation would award grants worth $1 billion to more than a dozen feminist groups, including the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Ms. Foundation for Women, the National Women’s Law Center, the Collaborative for Gender + Reproductive Equity, the MomsRising Education Fund, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, and the embattled Time’s Up Legal Defense Fund. Pivotal Ventures will also share funding with the 19th, a nonprofit news organization focused on gender and politics.

“With the rollback of women’s rights and headwinds to social progress in the U.S. and around the world, Melinda believes that now is the time to provide urgent capital to people and organizations fighting to protect and further equality and remove the barriers that hold women back,” Pivotal Ventures said in its rollout of the grants. In a New York Times op-ed announcing the donations on Tuesday, French Gates wrote, “As a young woman, I could never have imagined that one day I would be part of an effort like this. Because I have been given this extraordinary opportunity, I am determined to do everything I can to seize it and to set an agenda that helps other women and girls set theirs, too.”

That’s all well and good, and there are obviously far worse places to which French Gates could be giving $1 billion. But conspicuously left out of the foundations and fairly large nonprofits that French Gates is donating to are abortion funds and other groups that directly support abortion seekers—at a time when they’re being fairly vocal about their financial struggles two years after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Earlier this month, Jezebel reported that across the board, abortion funds are spending significantly more money since the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health ruling that prompted a wave of abortion bans. This is because literally everything costs more, now: travel, lodging, child care, missed work, the abortion procedure itself. Pregnant people are traveling farther and having abortions later in their pregnancies, which makes the procedure more costly. 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.

The Brigid Alliance, which financially supports people who need to travel for abortion care with a focus on people who need abortion later in pregnancy, helps clients book all their travel and lodging, and also provides meal stipends and child care as needed. The organization marked its sixth anniversary this year and told Jezebel they’ve gone from supporting an average of 40 abortion-seeking clients per month in 2019 to now serving 150 per month. Costs to support their clients have also 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.

“Anger donations have diminished and decreased at a time when the demand for services has only increased, the cost of services have only increased,” Serra Sippel, interim executive director of Brigid, previously told Jezebel. It’s a sentiment that other abortion funds have shared with us.

It’s abortion funds that are often performing the most grueling labor with the least resources and without as much name recognition or anywhere near as much reliable funding as some of the organizations French Gates is donating to. The philanthropist has previously donated to organizations like the International Planned Parenthood Federation and has long advocated for women’s rights with both her platform and financial resources. But with the massive amount of wealth Pivotal Ventures holds, French Gates and her foundation have an obligation to actually listen to the people most impacted by abortion bans about what would directly help them the most—and certainly, that would include donating directly to abortion funds.

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