Money pours in for groups assisting with abortions

Meredith Cohn
The Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE — The U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning the landmark Roe v. Wade precedent has prompted donations large and small to aid those in Maryland and from out of state seeking abortions.

Abortion remains legal in Maryland, and providers are gearing up to accept a larger influx of people from other states seeking care here.

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott pledged $300,000 to help that cause immediately after the ruling was issued last week, with the money going to create an account at the Baltimore Civic Fund to provide grants to organizations that provide abortion and family planning services.

On Monday, the Open Society Institute-Baltimore committed $250,000 to such organizations. The Democratic mayor plans a news conference Tuesday about the funding, along with representatives from Open Society Institute, the City Council, Planned Parenthood and the Baltimore Civic Fund.

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“This Supreme Court decision is a devastating blow to people around the country, particularly women of color, who will be disproportionately impacted,” said Danielle Torain, director of OSI-Baltimore and Open Society-US’s Leadership and Innovation Program, in a statement. “We are grateful for the city’s partnership in this effort, and we hope that funders and civic leaders around the country can come together on similar efforts.”

The group specifically said it was in discussions with the Baltimore Abortion Fund, a nonprofit that aids people in Maryland and from other states in arranging abortions and providing assistance for travel, lodging and other needs. The Baltimore fund is part of a national network of 80 such funds.

The group will take on a larger role, as people already have begun seeking services in Maryland from as far away as Texas now that the procedures are banned in many states. An estimated 26 states are expected to ban or curtail abortions following the court ruling that there is no constitutional right to the procedure.

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In the past year, due to increasing restrictions before the Roe decision was overturned, about half of the fund’s clients came from outside of Maryland, said Lynn McCann, spokeswoman for the Baltimore Abortion Fund. The trend is expected to accelerate now, she said.

She also cited the effects specifically on minority groups and people with low incomes.

“Abortion access is both an urgent and ongoing public health crisis,” McCann said. “For years, escalating attacks on reproductive care have disproportionately harmed people of color, those with limited incomes, and other groups that already face discrimination in our health care system.”

The fund has raised more than $130,000 since the Roe decision was overturned, primarily from “grassroots donors who care deeply about abortion access,” she said.

Kim Becker-Cooper of Parkville stands with her daughter, Ellie Cooper, 9, who holds a sign June 24, 2022, outside the federal courthouse in Baltimore. (Karl Merton Ferron/Baltimore Sun/TNS)

The group provided $250,000 in financial and logistical support to Maryland residents and others from out of state in 2021 and, McCann said, it expects individuals and local grant makers to double or triple their level of support this year.

But she said officials anticipate that $6 million to $8 million will be needed in the next six months to meet the needs of people seeking abortion services in the state. That will require organized philanthropy, specifically private foundation and public grants, to provide long-term resources, she said.

The fund also received more than 200 applications to volunteer since June 24, four times the number on its active volunteer roster.

McCann expressed gratitude and said she hopes the involvement continues into the future, and “people will get involved with our work as monthly donors, learning more about our movement for reproductive justice and by amplifying our message.”

Since a draft of the Roe decision was leaked this spring, Planned Parenthood of Maryland’s new Abortion Access Campaign has raised $90,000 in individual donations. Most of that amount, more than 1,000 donations totaling more than $70,000, has come in since the decision became official June 24. The group said when the total reaches $100,000, that will be matched by a gift from the Hackerman Foundation.

Planned Parenthood of Maryland “will continue to build the infrastructure needed to support both Marylanders and any patients traveling to Maryland for abortion services,” the group said in a statement.

Nationally, money has poured into other groups. ActBlue, the Democratic fundraising platform, reported in a Twitter post that donors gave $12 million immediately after a draft of the Roe decision was leaked May 2. The funds were destined for a host of groups, such as abortion funds and advocates, including those in Maryland.

Major corporations also have said they will pay the costs for employees in states where abortion is banned to travel to states such as Maryland. They include Amazon, Starbucks and Walt Disney Co.

Abortions are legal in Maryland up until fetal viability, at about 24 weeks, and later for the health of the pregnant person or for a fetal anomaly. The state is the most southern state to provide the complex late term abortions.

In anticipation of greater need for services, Maryland lawmakers moved this year to expand who can perform an abortion to include nurse practitioners, nurse midwives and physician assistants. The law, which takes effect Friday, also requires public and private insurers to cover the cost of the procedures.

During the coronavirus pandemic, the state moved to expand telehealth services. People in Maryland can have such a visit with a provider and get a prescription for a medication abortion, a method that accounts for an estimated half of all abortions nationally. That’s expected to help open up in-person appointments to those from out of state, who need to meet with a provider within Maryland’s borders.

The Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights research organization, estimates there were 30,750 abortions performed in Maryland in 2020. It also reported there were 25 clinics in operating in the state in 2017, though about two-thirds of the counties had no provider.

The state-operated Medicaid program for low-income residents covers abortion, except for those who are only eligible for the program because they are pregnant. The number of abortions funded by Medicaid in Maryland in recent years has crept up, with just over 10,000 performed in fiscal 2021, state budget documents show. The cost came to $668 per abortion, and most were performed in local clinics.