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Roe v. Wade leaked draft causes spike in abortion fund donations

Valerie Plesch/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- The leak of a draft opinion showing the Supreme Court's conservative majority of justices is poised to overturn abortion rights established by Roe v. Wade has led to a sharp increase in donations to abortion funds, grassroots organizations that help people access abortion care.

The National Network of Abortion Funds, a network of more than 90 funds across the country, said it has received more than $1.5 million in donations since the draft ruling was published by Politico Monday night.

"That is only what is being funneled through the National Network of Abortion Funds and we've heard from our local members that many people are also donating directly to abortion funds," Debasri Ghosh, managing director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, told ABC News' Good Morning America. "Given the groundswell of support ... we wouldn't be surprised if those numbers were pretty high as well."

In North Dakota, the WIN Fund, which helps people access abortion care at the state's sole abortion clinic and travel to other states for care, has also seen an "exponential" increase in donations since Monday, according to Destini Spaeth, one of the volunteers who runs the fund.

"There’s absolutely been an influx of donations," Spaeth told GMA, adding that people from across the country had donated. "The only thing that I can compare it to on even some type of scale was the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, when we also saw an influx of donations."

Spaeth said that donations are the lifeline of WIN Fund, a 501(c)(3) organization that, like all abortion funds, relies purely on donations and does not receive any government funding.

"We pride ourselves on being able to say yes to every caller," said Spaeth. "We believe that abortion is a human right and that nobody should be denied access because of financial barriers."

Abortion funds like WIN Fund began to form over three decades ago in response to the Hyde Amendment, a provision that since 1976 has banned federal funding for most abortions, according to Ghosh.

"So many people who use government insurance, including Medicaid recipients in most states, cannot have their abortion covered by their insurance," she said. "So we were seeing droves and droves of people trying to put together funding for this out-of-pocket health care expense."

Abortion funds now exist at the local, state and regional levels, but they are primarily locally-based organizations that provide on-the-ground resources for people, from providing direct funding for abortions to offering transportation money, child care, lodging and doula support.

The average funding given to people supported by the WIN Fund, for example, is around $250, according to Spaeth.

"People are traveling great distances so travel assistance is something we see quite a bit of," said Spaeth, who said the fund often works with college students and members of North Dakota's rural and indigenous populations. "Many of the patients travel three to four hours from Western parts of the state and also from Minnesota and we see a lot of patients from South Dakota as well."

In West Virginia, a team of mostly volunteers runs the Holler Health Justice Fund, an abortion fund that serves people across the Appalachian Region, from West Virginia to Kentucky and Tennessee.

The volunteers coordinate care for people in the region who come from rural communities and often lack funds to pay for abortion or to travel, according to Hayley McMahon, a member of the fund's board of directors.

West Virginia currently has one abortion clinic in the state, where abortion is currently allowed up to 20 weeks of pregnancy.

McMahon said the fund has been "overwhelmed" with support since Monday, but said even more donations will be needed if Roe v. Wade is overturned and West Virginia and nearby states enact abortion bans.

Last year, the fund was able to help over 530 people get abortion care, averaging donations of around $260 per person, according to McMahon.

"A lot of our folks are going to need to leave the state to get care, which means it’s going to be harder to coordinate and more expensive," she said. "We expect to see higher gestations which means higher costs for the procedure and greater transportation needs."

It's a concern echoed by abortion funds across the country as they brace for the impact of the Supreme Court's final decision in the case of Mississippi, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health, the source of the draft opinion that was leaked.

If the Court rules in Mississippi's favor and fully overturns Roe v. Wade, more than half of the nation's 50 states are prepared to ban abortion, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights organization.

Twenty-one states already have laws on the books that would immediately ban abortion if Roe were overturned. Five additional states are likely to ban abortion should Roe be overturned, the Guttmacher report said.

In response to potential bans, leaders of abortion funds say they plan to continue to do their work, but will need increased resources as they help more people who will likely need to travel further.

Because the states that plan to ban abortion are focused in specific geographic regions, including the South, an expected effect is that women will have to travel much longer distances, at a greater cost and inconvenience, to seek abortion care, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

"North Dakotans aren’t going to stop needing and wanting abortions just because abortion becomes illegal here, and the North Dakota WIN Fund won't be going anywhere," said Spaeth. "I know the sentiment is true for other abortion funds in abortion-hostile states as well."

Spaeth said she and other abortion fund leaders are looking at the example set by funds in Texas, where a law went into effect last year that bans nearly all abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

"We've seen the amazing work that the Texas funds have done in getting their callers out of state and into surrounding states where they can have the abortions they want and need, so we can look to Texas and learn from them," said Spaeth, who added that collaboration is also already happening between abortion funds in states where abortion access is limited and those where it is not.

Ghosh, of the National Network of Abortion Funds, said she hopes the current spotlight placed on abortion funds keeps the support coming for the long-term.

"I hope that individuals, that institutional philanthropy will really rethink the way that we connect and resource abortion funds, beyond this one-time, crisis moment," she said, adding, "People shouldn't have to privately fundraise and rely on private philanthropy to have a basic health care need met, but this is where we are, and we have an infrastructure to do it."

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