This article was originally distributed by American Forum.
While Roe v. Wade ensures that abortion is legal in every state, the
reality of abortion access today is increasingly dependent upon a
woman’s socioeconomic status and geographic location. The average cost
of an abortion for a woman up to 12 weeks pregnant is $450 to $600 in
the Northwest region, and costs increase markedly after 12 weeks.
Hyde Amendment, passed in 1976, ended the use of federal Medicaid
funding for abortion, except when the woman’s life would be endangered
by a full-term pregnancy, or in cases of rape or incest. As the debate
about the direction of health care reform takes off, the Obama
administration should recognize the critical importance of repealing
this fundamental barrier to women’s access to comprehensive health care.
Washington uses its own funds to cover the cost of abortion procedures
for women who qualify for Medicaid. However, women living in
neighboring states of Idaho and Oregon have limited government
assistance for the cost of their procedures.
Oregon does cover
abortion procedures through its Oregon Health Plan (OHP) program;
however, the program has seen significant budget cuts over the past
year making it difficult for women to receive OHP funding for abortion
in a timely manner.
Idaho does not use state funds to cover
abortion, except in cases of life endangerment, rape or incest. Idaho
even bans private insurance from covering abortion (except in cases of
life endangerment) without payment of an additional premium.
in rural Washington, Oregon, and much of Idaho also experience limited
access to abortion providers. In fact, it is not possible to get an
abortion past 14 weeks in the state of Idaho. These women are faced
with the added time and expense of travel to get an abortion.
And this was before the economic crisis hit.
rising unemployment and cuts in social services added to the already
challenging landscape of abortion access in the Pacific Northwest,
increasing numbers of women experiencing an unintended pregnancy are
finding themselves in an economic crisis of their own.
1994 and 2001, the rate of unintended pregnancy increased by 29 percent
among U.S. women whose income was below the poverty line, while it
decreased 20 percent among women with incomes at least twice the
federal poverty level.
During this time, state level
restrictions to abortion access, from dwindling numbers of abortion
providers particularly in rural areas, to state budget shortfalls
leading to cuts in Medicaid funding (as in the case of Oregon), have
left many poor women with few options when faced with an unintended
Private abortion funds seek to fill some of the gaps
left by inadequate state laws and funding by providing women with some
or all of the funds needed to obtain an abortion.
Abortion Information and Resource (CAIR) Project is an all-volunteer
regional organization that provides abortion funding and hotline
support to women in Washington, Alaska, Idaho and Oregon. The fund
empowers women in need to be able to afford abortions and other
associated costs, such as travel and childcare. In 2007, the CAIR
Project gave $25,700 to women in need — leveraging the $171,500 the
women were able to contribute to the cost of their procedures
Since 1999, the CAIR Project has worked tirelessly
to break down financial barriers to abortion and improve reproductive
health care access for all women. As the gap between rich and poor in
our country continues to widen, each year we find that the number of
women who require our services increases.
Much of this increased
need is a result of a dramatic rise in the number of women calling us
from Oregon. In 2005, only 27 percent of our clients were from Oregon;
but in 2007, Oregon women made up 48 percent of the women we serve. The
drastic cuts to Oregon’s Medicaid funding have led to virtually no new
Medicaid enrollments and indefinite processing times for applications.
As these women wait, the cost of their abortion and their financial
stress rise. Compounding the financial difficulty facing Oregon’s
women, the state’s unemployment rate soared above the national average
to 12 percent in April 2009.
As unemployment continues to rise
while social services are being slashed in our region, we expect the
need for our services will continue to increase. While it is critical
that we continue to engage in legal and political advocacy to improve
state and national policies around abortion and reproductive health, we
must also offer support to those who are in need of help now and can’t