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Barbara Alvarez: A welcome new bill tackles abortion funding

Barbara Alvarez
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This column originally was published on FFRF’s blog site, FreethoughtNow.org, on Dec. 19.

By Barbara Alvarez

Abortion funding is an imperative part of abortion rights — and a recently introduced bill aims to address that.

The Reproductive Health Travel Fund Act would set up a grant program, authorized at $350 million a year through 2027, to help ease the financial burden associated with traveling long distances to access safe and legal reproductive health care. 

With abortion care legally unavailable or severely restricted in nearly half the country, people must journey significant distances to access the nearest clinic. In FFRF’s home state of Wisconsin, residents must travel and spend anywhere between $700 and $2,000 on transportation, procedures and hotels. Such costs only exacerbate existing inequities for people who are already struggling to make ends meet.

Abortion is a common medical procedure that nearly one in four women will have by the time they are 45 years old. Research shows that abortion is an extremely safe procedure with major complication occurring in less than a quarter of 1 percent. For context, there are more complications from wisdom tooth removals and tonsillectomies than from abortions. Furthermore, studies have found that 99 percent of women who have an abortion feel relief — not regret.

Indeed, there is no evidence-based reason to deny abortion care; only religion-based dogma can attempt to justify this. Abortion bans of any kind worsen maternal health outcomes. In fact, women are 14 times more likely to die during childbirth than they are from any abortion complications. And without abortion care available in many states, birth rates are expected to rise. University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers predict up to a 4 percent increase in births in the Badger State. Pregnancy specialists assert that this will disproportionately harm Black women in a state that already has the highest Black infant mortality rate in the country.

FFRF has a long history of not only supporting the legalization of abortion, but also funding for abortion care. In fact, FFRF’s principal co-founder Anne Nicol Gaylor founded the Women’s Medical Fund of Wisconsin in 1972 for this exact purpose. As one of the oldest abortion funds in the nation, Women’s Medical Fund supports an average of 1,000 Wisconsinites per year. 

Access to abortion is a core component of bodily autonomy and human dignity. Let’s not only fight for the legalization of abortion care, but also its accessibility. The Reproductive Health Travel Fund Act provides a glimmer of hope on this front during these bleak times.

Barbara Alvarez is a contributing writer for FFRF. 

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