After a day of phone calls from Austin women, I’d say on average that 7 out of 10 are in need of financial assistance for the procedure. About 5 out of 7 of those women are eligible. This means that about 5 out of 10 women who call to make an appointment are at 100% of the poverty line.
What does “100% of the poverty line” look like? It looks like a single mom who still can’t spare $100 even after pawning her TV and jewelry. It looks like a college student with a part-time job that only covers her rent and bills. It looks like a woman who hasn’t received child support in 6 months and has 2 kids to feed. Or a minimum wage employee with no friends or family to support her.
Nope, these aren’t the extreme scenarios. In the two years that I’ve been answering women’s calls, I’ve found that they are slowly becoming the standard.
So what do we do about it?
1.) We counsel. We let her know that she’s not alone. She, along with the 4 women I just spoke to, along with a lot of other people I know right now just don’t have ~$400 in their pockets. It’s common, it’s not their personal fault and we will try to help with as much as we can. In this world, an ’emergency savings account’ is a real luxury.
2.) We brainstorm. Will your insurance cover it? What can you pawn? Can you get an advance in pay? Can you put it on a credit card? Do you have 5 friends that you can each ask for $20? These are the questions that I find myself routinely asking. Oftentimes the answer is ‘no’ to all of the above. So then what?
3.) We fund. After determining their eligibility, we help them financially. On top of that, we find out if we can somehow offer an extra discount (student, military, medicaid, travel) and together, we add up what we have versus what we need.
4.) We refer. At this point, even after a percentage of the procedure has been taken care of, even after a student discount, even after going through a list of friends and family that could loan a small amount, sometimes she’s still short. The Lilith Fund, the Texas Equal Access Fund , our own small reserve called the Stigma Relief Fund and all of their volunteers truly pull through for women.* Keep in mind that even some women have to be turned away from these, as there’s only so much in each of their budgets. All the same, we’ve had many women break down in tears of relief when they know a voucher for the final $50 has been sent in their name.
These are emotionally tasking, lengthy processes. If (or when) the state legislates against whatever avenues of financial assistance for abortion are left or indirectly effects the cost of the procedure, the funding that women are currently relying on will not be able to hold the weight of the new demands.
We sure hope that when we, the Lilith Fund and the TEA Fund have exhausted our resources for women thereby leaving them with no other option than to have a child, that the state of Texas will take over the job of individually listening to, caring for and helping women when they’re down… But we’re not going to bet on it.
*These funds are always accepting donations in any amount. Find links to donate on their respective websites. To donate to the Stigma Relief Fund, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org