Heading into its 10th year, a Richmond group that pays for low-income women's abortions says that it's raised $20,000 with a month left in its 2013 fund drive.
Organizers of the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project say they expect to bring in less than the $40,000 they raised in 2012 — a year when women's issues and talk of mandatory trans-vaginal ultrasounds dominated state political news.
One of the organizers, Emily Johnson, says that even with the reduced donations the group will remain positioned to continue helping women who want or need abortions but can't otherwise afford them.
Supporters of the group view their work as critical to guaranteeing "true reproductive freedom" for women — regardless of class and socio-economic status. To them, the logic is simple: What good is the right to an abortion if the cost of the procedure itself makes it unattainable to many low-income women?
"A lot of times, we're the link between them being able to do it or not," says Johnson, 29, a student at Virginia Commonwealth University. "When we interview the clients, they are scrounging for money. They are asking all their friends and family for money. They're pawning things."
If you haven't heard of the project, it's by design. Johnson says that aside from its annual fundraiser, the group tries to stay behind the scenes. Most referrals come from clinics.
A typical abortion costs about $400, Johnson says. Clinics across the state refer qualifying patients to the reproductive freedom project's hot line. Following an intake interview and after financial eligibility is determined, the group puts up an average of $100 to help cover the cost.
The group says it provides aid to between 10 and 15 women a month, distributing a total of about $2,000.