As the response to COVID-19 continues to ramp up, abortion funds are taking the hit. Eleven states have attempted to enact some sort of ban on abortion: from banning certain methods to closing clinics outright, pregnant people are being left with little option.
With increased amounts of uncertainty, pregnant people in need of abortion are forced to delay their procedures and find out-of-state alternatives. This also means that people are relying less on their own personal networks to find funding for their expenses (which can include things like childcare, transportation, and the cost of the procedure itself) and relying more on their local abortion funds.
Abortion funds, however, are also facing the serious impact of COVID-19. Fewer people are able to donate due to increased unemployment and job uncertainty as businesses close and people are forced to socially distance and work from home.
The Tampa Bay Abortion Fund is no exception to this trend. Some Florida clinics have had to temporarily close or limit their hours. Many have eliminated procedural abortion. Because of these delays to care, Floridians are forced to delay their procedures--which means a more expensive procedure.
But the amazing volunteers behind the TBAF are no strangers to hardship and hard work. Their collective began in 2017 after the first Women’s March. While the group began as a way to hand out condoms and educational information on sexual and reproductive health, it became an official nonprofit in 2018. That year, they raised over $10,000 for their neighborhood clinic, Bread & Roses in Clearwater. This gave the collective the ability to expand its programming to add services such as mammograms and pap tests in addition to a distribution program that gave menstrual hygiene products, diapers, and condoms to local domestic violence shelters and food pantries.
Since then, TBAF has radically increased its impact. The National Abortion Federation became a strategic partner in efforts to funding seven clinics. More volunteers joined the Fund and thousands upon thousands of dollars have been raised not only to aid pregnant people seeking abortion care, but to supplying period products to shelters and working with homeless women on finding housing, transportation, and job mentoring.
However, Florida is a red state. Despite abortion-related work being over 80% of their function, it’s not always possible for the Fund to be public about this. “Many people do know our true purpose and passion,” said Lily, one of the lead volunteers with TBAF. “But we were once rejected by a church after they found out about us where we had placed one of our homeless women. She was a parishioner and had a part-time job cleaning pews. So we prefer to keep under the radar for the sake of the women and families we help.”
But this hasn’t stopped these incredible volunteers from protecting abortion access. This year, they have diligently worked with over 50 women to provide funding, transportation, and childcare for their procedures. They’ve also partnered with two doulas who provide much needed emotional and physical support for patients.
Their work is far from over, and something like a pandemic certainly won’t stand in their way. As TBAF volunteer, Lily, said in a statement to 1A, “In the best of times, abortion is essential health care and time-sensitive. In the time of Corona, [it’s] even more time-sensitive. We are seeing an influx of callers who are having adverse situations due to COVID and can no longer afford to have a child or to cover the cost of their procedure. They are also facing incredible barriers because clinics are having reduced hours and reduced procedures so we are working to ensure that everyone who needs to have this essential, time-sensitive procedure is able in the Tampa Bay area.”
This year, TBAF hopes expand their work by increasing their connections to the trans community, continue to learn about abortion medication and self-managed abortion, parter with more doulas, and to at least double the amount of fundraising they are able to do.
So far, so good. Despite setbacks due to the coronavirus, TBAF has expanded its partner clinics to include local Planned Parenthood affiliates and it’s outreach now includes Orlando, Gainesville, and Jacksonville. Their abortion kits--goody bags given to patients receiving abortion care--now include things like free emergency contraception, face masks, and more. To boost abortion clinic staff morale, TBAF has been delivering care kits with pizza, chocolate, and wine to thank them for their tireless service.
But the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund can’t do it alone. Without the continued support of pro-choice supporters, TBAF can’t continue to provide the necessary funding towards abortion-related costs. If you are able, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund here..
*Steph Black is a feminist, activist, and writer on the frontlines of D.C. When she isn't fighting for abortion access or protesting, she can be found curled up with a good book next to her cat, Goose. Read her work on her website, stephblack.blog and subscribe to her newsletter, The Repro Queen of D.C. here..