Within months, thousands of people from nearby states traveled to Oklahoma to get help with an abortion—that is, if they could make an appointment and could afford the trip. Now that local legislators have passed the nation’s harshest anti-abortion law, they may have to travel even further to get medical care. Many will not be able to afford the trip.
The fight continues to escalate as the nation awaits a U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Mississippi case that could effectively overturn Roe v. Roe. Wade, a landmark 1973 ruling establishing federal abortion rights in a case that originated in Dallas County. A decision is expected within the next month.
Before Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt signed a near-complete abortion ban, funds to get out-of-state patients to Oklahoma clinics were no longer enough to meet demand: One nonprofit operator said a fund specifically designed to support those living in the state without money around the middle of the month. About 5,000 people had an abortion in Oklahoma in 2019, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
While abortion funds have received growing support from states and individuals following a leaked draft Supreme Court ruling that could overturn Roe vs. Wade, the money may not be enough to cover the rising costs of people who have to travel farther to get the procedure they need, as access to abortion services is almost completely banned in states like Oklahoma. Democratic-led states have pledged millions of dollars to clinics and nonprofits to keep abortions open, but existing systems may still struggle to help everyone. According to the National Network of Abortion Funds, its 90 partner organizations were only able to support 26% of the requests they received in 2019.
“Most of the abortions we fund, which used to cost $500, now cost $1,000,” said Sylvia Gazaria, executive director of the nonprofit Women’s Reproductive Rights Project. Last year, the organization gave just under $540,000 to help 2,560 patients, and Kazarian expects payments to exceed $1 million this year.
California lawmakers have pledged $125 million to expand the state’s existing abortion access system, while New York Gov. Kathy Hochul has pledged $35 million. Carey White, lead researcher at the Texas Policy Assessment Project, warned that such fixes help, but not everyone can make ends meet.
“The funding that these other states are offering won’t cover the cost of lost wages or childcare that people will have if they have to travel even longer care distances,” she said. “Easing some of the financial burden will provide support in some way, but we can still expect financial, logistical and emotional impacts” from expanding the abortion desert.
In September, Texas imposed a ban on…