Today, amid increasing restrictions on abortion care, the National Abortion Federation (NAF) and its 40-year-old Hotline have announced a new pilot program to help some member clinics provide pre-paid gas cards to patients seeking abortion care.
The cost of the actual abortion procedure is only one expense women must manage when they need an abortion. Since there are a limited number of providers and states continue to impose additional restrictions, many women have to travel long distances to reach the closest provider who can help them. And this situation will only worsen as the political environment continues to become more hostile toward abortion rights. According to a recent report by the Guttmacher Institute and Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH) at the University of California, San Francisco, if Roe v. Wade were overturned or weakened, increases in travel distances would likely prevent 93,500 to 143,500 individuals from obtaining abortion care.
To help address this issue and ensure that patients can obtain care quickly and with dignity, NAF is piloting a program to give pre-paid gas cards through its Hotline’s Dr. Tiller Patient Assistance Fund. The Dr. Tiller Patient Assistance Fund primarily helps cover travel-related expenses for women seeking abortion care. This fund honors the legacy of long-time NAF member, Dr. George Tiller who was murdered by an anti-abortion extremist in 2009. The pilot program will start with a small group of NAF-member independent abortion clinics in states where the majority of their patients drive to the clinic and where there are a number of factors like onerous state-mandated waiting periods and laws that require women to make two visits to the clinic, which make access harder for patients. After a three-month pilot, NAF hopes to expand this project to other NAF-member clinics across the U.S.
Statement from The Very Reverend Katherine Ragsdale, Interim President and CEO of NAF:
“Our Hotline has been helping people obtain the abortion care they need for the past 40 years. We receive thousands of calls each week from women, their partners, families, and friends who have questions about abortion or need help getting care. In addition to helping patients cover the cost of their procedure, we also provide case management support and help covering travel-related expenses. We are always looking for ways to provide more support for patients so they can make, and act on, the best decisions for themselves and their families.
We have already seen an increase in distances patients have had to travel to obtain the abortion care they need and expect this trend only to get worse. Whether it’s having to drive longer distances or struggling just to get across town for multiple state-mandated appointments, paying for both their procedure and the gas it takes to get to their appointments can be an insurmountable barrier for too many women seeking abortion care. This program will help remove the barriers too many women are facing.
Travel-related assistance is a service that shouldn’t have to be provided. People should have easy access to the health care they need—including abortion care—without the help of hotlines and donated funds. Unfortunately, due to the anti-abortion bans and medically-unnecessary anti-abortion restrictions, politicians have made it impossible for many to obtain the care they need. We’re here to do something about it.”