As abortion rights are under attack around the country, New York City has taken a historical step to help patients seeking abortions. On Saturday, the New York City City Council approved the allocation of $250,000 of the city’s 2020 budget for the New York Abortion Access Fund (NYAAF), an abortion fund that provides resources to patients who need an abortion but face barriers to access, such as cost.
According to a statement made on June 16 from NYAAF, this is the first time any U.S. city has contributed to an abortion fund. “As it gets harder for people to access abortion in conservative states, NYC will likely see an increase in out-of-state folks seeking abortion,” reads the statement. “This city funding means NYAAF will be better equipped to keep up with the increasing demand and to continue building a movement to lift barriers to abortion access here in New York and across the country.” The funds are coming to the NYAAF after a hard-fought campaign called #FundAbortionNYC, which lobbied City Council for the money.
According to Janna Oberdorf, a NYAAF board member, the funds will be used to provide abortion care for patients who otherwise wouldn’t be able to pay for the procedure. (Some outlets have reported that NYAAF will also fund travel expenses for abortion care with the new funding, but Oberdorf says that is not the case.)
For patients without medical insurance, abortions, like other medical procedures, can be prohibitively expensive. The average cost of a medical abortion, where the patient takes prescription pills to terminate a pregnancy, is around $500, but it can cost over $1,600, according to reporting from The Cut last year. In addition to medical abortions, there are two types of surgical abortion a patient can have: an aspiration abortion (sometimes known as a suction abortion) and a dilation and evacuation abortion (also called a D&E). An aspiration abortion costs about $500 on average in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy, after 10 weeks the procedure becomes more expensive. D&E procedures are typically performed for people who are later than the early first term of the pregnancy, and cost between $500 and upwards of $3,000. Later-term abortions, which typically occur in the third trimester, cost several thousand dollars.
Based on the average cost of abortions, Oberdorf estimates that the $250,000 in new funds will help approximately 500 people. For many patients, however, the cost of getting an abortion doesn’t end with the cost medicine or the surgical procedure.
Many parts of the country are totally without abortion clinics, forcing patients to travel sometimes very long distances (even out of state) in order to get an abortion. In these cases, additional costs incurred can include the travel itself, time away from work to get the abortion that may not be paid, and lodging.
Both patients in rural areas and people of color who can get pregnant are disproportionately harmed by restrictions on abortion. Anti-abortion groups have typically been more aggressive about marketing “pro-life” sentiments and policies in Black and Latinx communities. Women of color (especially Black women) are also at much higher risk for certain pregnancy complications, including maternal mortality, for a variety of factors, including discrimination in the medical field and the decline of vital ob-gyn services in rural communities, such as maternity wards in hospitals.
Because Republicans are pushing more and more significant barriers to abortion access, abortion funds are all the more necessary. “[A]s more restrictive legislation is put into place, there’s likely to be a chilling effect where people delay seeking care longer than they might have otherwise,” Oberdorf explains. If people who need abortions have to wait longer to seek abortion care, it “means that the cost of the care will be more expensive and complicated. We’re looking at a landscape where we will see an increase in clients who need our services and the cost of that care is going to increase.”