Home Nonprofit organization WMNF | ‘Not a short-term fight’: The Tampa Bay Abortion Fund is here for the long haul

WMNF | ‘Not a short-term fight’: The Tampa Bay Abortion Fund is here for the long haul


The overturning of the landmark by the United States Supreme Court Roe vs. Wade decision last week, ending the federal constitutional right to abortion, has triggered a wave of emotions.

Shock. To fear. Despair. And for anti-abortion advocates, a sense of triumph.

But, according to a local abortion fund, the news also brought something else: a massive influx of what they call “rage donations” from members of the Tampa Bay community.

“We raised enough money to fund about 280 abortions,” Tampa Bay Abortion Fund volunteer Livia told WMNF on Wednesday. Over the past week, several local businesses have held fundraisers for TBAF, including Shuffle in Tampa, Bandit in St. Pete, and more. “It was really exciting to see the community support at a time when access to abortion is so restricted across the country,” she said.

The Tampa Bay Abortion Fund is a nonpartisan organization, first established in 2018. They are part of a nationwide network of approximately 90 abortion funds, largely run by trained volunteers. They strive to remove financial and logistical barriers for people seeking abortions.

The nonprofit group here in Tampa Bay directly funds abortion procedures and works to remove barriers such as the need for childcare or transportation that can make it harder for people – especially those with low income – to seek abortion services.

McKenna Kelley, a volunteer with the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund, told WMNF that her group was not caught off guard by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling. “We prepared for this decision [on Roe v. Wade] for months, even years,” Kelley said.

And they consider themselves lucky. While abortion funds and clinics in some other states have had to close since Friday’s ruling due to legal issues, the local abortion fund has not.

They continued to fundraise. They fielded calls from those in panic and received direct messages from people on social media wanting to help. They attended community events, like the St. Pete Pride Parade last weekend, to spread credible information about abortion access in Florida and the work they do locally.

Kelley said it helped her and community members cope with the news. “Being able to talk to people, share information, make sure people know who we are, how to contact us, make sure they have information about self-managed abortion and what their options are in Florida, especially with our upcoming 15 week ban – this has been helpful to me personally, and I know it’s helpful to our community.

Florida Abortion Restrictions

Abortion is still legal in Florida. But a new Florida law that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with no exceptions for cases of rape or incest, is set to go into effect Friday, July 1. Previously, abortions were allowed up to 24 weeks.

Florida’s 15-week ban was signed by Florida Governor Ron ReDeSantis in April. On Thursday, a day before the law takes effect, a Florida judge ruled in favor of temporarily blocking the law, but not before it takes effect as scheduled.

It comes after several groups, including Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and health care providers, sued the state over the law, arguing that it violates a privacy clause in the state’s constitution. the state of Florida.

Judge John C. Cooper, who is overseeing the case, agreed. “Women have a right to privacy under the state constitution not to have that right affected until at least 24 weeks,” Judge Cooper said Thursday. According to Tampa Bay Weathera spokesman for Governor Ron DeSantis – who supports the strict abortion ban – said his office plans to appeal the decision.

Hillsborough County State’s Attorney Andrew Warren, who recently pledged not to enforce the abortion ban, called the law “unconstitutional on its face” because of the clause confidentiality in the Florida constitution.

In for the long haul

In the meantime, the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund is going nowhere. “This is not a short-term fight. This is something where we need to be in community with each other,” Kelley said. “We need to be dedicated to ensuring access to abortion for all those in long-term need.”

While the nonprofit has temporarily stopped training new volunteers to contribute to their work, they say there are other ways for locals passionate about reproductive justice to get involved.

Abortion Access Front, for example, is another nonprofit that offers training to help people learn about reproductive justice from leaders in the movement, and how they themselves can get hooked up.

Both Kelley and Livia emphasize that all skills are needed in the fight for reproductive justice, from graphic design to communications, t-shirt production, dating and cybersecurity.

“Even if you think, you know, this has nothing to do with reproductive justice, I’m pretty sure we’ll find a way to use your skills,” Kelley said. “And it is necessary. So you know, come in. We will find a place for you if you dedicate yourself to this work.

Andrea Mercado, executive director of nonprofit Florida Rising, shared a similar sentiment. “Everyone has a role to play. And so whether you feel motivated to go and stand outside a courthouse to voice your dissent, or donate to an abortion fund, or, you know, run for office , I mean, I think there are different ways people can exercise their voice,” Mercado told WMNF. “And the important thing is that we act together and build an unstoppable movement. defense of the right to abortion.

The Tampa Bay Abortion Fund says the best way for people to support their work, especially right now, is to become a monthly donor and turn “rage donations” into lasting financial support.

“We’ve seen in the past, when abortion restrictions come down, we get a wave of rage donations, which is amazing,” Livia said. “But often these donations dry up in a few weeks, a few months later. And sometimes we have to make decisions about closing the helpline or adjusting the way we fund people to make it through the end of the month.

Currently, the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund does not assess the resources of the people it helps. They help anyone at any income level, although the fund is largely intended to provide assistance to those who cannot afford to pay for an abortion themselves.

Access to abortion is a class issue

According to the Guttmacher Institute, abortion patients are disproportionately poor and low-income — 49% live below the federal poverty line. And insurance often doesn’t cover abortion care. In 2020, a first-trimester abortion cost about $515 on average, University of California researchers found, not including additional expenses, such as lost wages, childcare and transportation.

Most patients pay for the abortion out of pocket. In addition, the federal Hyde Amendment prohibits the use of federal funds for abortion except for life-threatening, rape, or incest cases. Some states use their own Medicaid funds to cover abortion, but Florida does not.

TBAF works with several health clinics in the Tampa Bay area that offer abortion services. And not everyone they help is local. As the Tampa Bay Weather reported last Friday, the motivated network of volunteers has helped hundreds of people across the South access abortions each year, including some who travel from out of state.

Before Roe’s fall, the United States had more than two dozen “abortion deserts,” or major cities where someone had to travel 100 miles or more to access abortion care. Medical abortion is another option, but there are concerns that conservatives will further restrict access to that, as well as contraceptives, in addition to pushing for an even more restrictive abortion law here in the Sunshine State. .

About what comes next, Livia with TBAF said this: “Let’s use this anger and channel this anger and, you know, wake up every morning and think about how we can make sure everyone has access to abortion.

For more on the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund, you can hear TBAF Founder Kelly on WMNF Midpoint Program with Dr. Rachel, a local abortion care provider.