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If the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the court’s previous decision in Roe v. Wade, organizations such as the Blue Ridge Abortion Fund say they are prepared to keep helping people seeking abortion care.
The local abortion fund, founded in 1989, has been building up staff in recent years to better meet demand for its services and prepare for further growth. Last year, the fund fielded more than 1,800 calls and gave out more than $600,000.
By comparison, the fund received 697 calls in 2017 and gave out about $150,000, according to its 2021 impact report. In the organization’s 30-year history, more than 7,500 people have received assistance, and 6,000 of those came in the last five years.
Tannis Fuller, the fund’s executive director, said more people have learned about the about the fund and during the pandemic, people had fewer resources and relied more upon the organization.
Fuller was hired in 2020 as the organization shifted from being run by volunteers to having paid staffers. Five people are on staff now, including two who help callers navigate their situations.
The fund serves people throughout Virginia on a first-come, first-served basis. Fuller said the organization also has recently seen more people recently West Virginia where there is one clinic as well as more people from Texas following the enactment of a stricter abortion law.
There are 84 funds across the country, Fuller said, four in Virginia with 16 clinics located in Roanoke, Charlottesville, Richmond, Northern Virginia and the Tidewater region.
In the Virginia, abortions can cost anywhere from $375 to $2,200. Medicaid doesn’t cover the procedure and private insurance plans are “hit or miss,” Fuller said. In addition to helping pay for the procedure, the fund assists with costs of transportation, lodging and other needs.
If Roe is overturned and more states move to restrict access to abortions, Fuller is expecting to see more people seeking out the fund and others like it across the country. However, the court’s decision won’t immediately affect Virginians as state law protects a person’s ability to have an abortion.
“Virginia is uniquely suited to provide a fair amount of abortion care to states around us,” she said. “The more money we have, the more people we can support.”
Blue Ridge fund staffers and volunteers help those seeking abortions navigate the process. That help is critical, Fuller said.
“When you are navigating health care on your best day, it’s unnecessarily complicated,” she said. “Abortion is at the intersection of cultural stigma, religious objections and financial, geographic and language barriers.”
Unlike other medical procedures, abortions can be isolating, and Fuller said fund workers and volunteers are there to support those seeking care beyond just providing financial assistance. When people call, they don’t ask for an explanation.
“Abortion funds are a safe spot to have that support,” she said.
Fuller said she and others have been expecting the Supreme Court to roll back constitutional protections for abortions. A draft opinion, published Monday by Politico, indicated that a majority of justices were prepared to do just that.
Chief Justice John Roberts said in a statement Tuesday that the draft was authentic but not the court’s final decision in a case about whether a Mississippi law that prohibited nearly all abortions after 15 weeks was constitutional.
Fuller said for her fund, the court’s decision will not change their work immediately.
“We’ll do what we do, which is get people to their appointments,” she said. “We have a lot of experience helping people get to their appointments. We’re prepared to do that as much as anybody can be prepared for the great unknown.”
To do that, the fund will need more money, Fuller said.
Following the draft’s publication, community members called on others to donate to the fund, and Fuller said donations have increased, though a specific number was not available by press time.
Fuller encouraged people concerned about the potential Supreme Court decision to support the fund’s work.
“I love to see people care,” she said. “I want people to understand that this is a long game. Abortion is increasingly common. We all know someone who will need an abortion.”