Abortion Funds Spend More as Cost of Abortion Travel Soars

Midwest Access Coalition is spending upwards of $2,500 for some patients

Oct 3, 2022 at 11:27 am
click to enlarge Patients face additional travel and childcare costs as states ban abortion. - Theo Welling
Theo Welling
Patients face additional travel and childcare costs as states ban abortion.

This reporting was supported by the International Women's Media Foundation's Reproductive Rights Reporting Fund.

It’s been a busy three months for abortion funds.

In the months since the Supreme Court’s overturn of Roe v. Wade, abortion funds have juggled a larger patient load in tandem with higher travel costs.

The New York Times reports that abortion funds across the country are spending sometimes hundreds of dollars more per patient this year compared to 2021.

Alison Dreith, director of strategic partnerships for Midwest Access Coalition, told the Times that a typical patient’s expenses once cost around $1,000.

Now, the cost per patient has risen to nearly twice that much. Midwest Access’s wraparound service cost is “easily becoming $2,000 per client or more,” Drieth said.

The abortion fund’s caseload has also jumped “astronomically” in the last few months.

“In 2021, we saw 800 people,” Dreith tells the RFT. “We hit that number in July this year.”

Fourteen states have banned most abortions since the court’s decision in June. Missouri and several southern states have some of the most restrictive laws, causing abortion seekers to travel farther and stay longer.

The Times article presumes rural Missourians would spend $2,368 to fly to St. Louis and then Chicago to receive abortion care.

Dreith says such a path is “atypical” for rural residents. Most Missourians tend to drive for abortion care, or take a bus or train.

“Typically, people use ground transportation, unless someone is later in pregnancy and needs to go to Colorado or Washington, D.C.,” Dreith says.

Though Midwest Access is spending more on some patients, the abortion fund’s average patient cost has actually decreased in recent years.

From 2021 to 2022, the average Midwest Access patient cost dropped from $346 to $338.

Dreith attributes the decrease to a change in Midwest Access’ services. Prior to 2022, the abortion fund paid for a support person to travel with an abortion seeker.

But Midwest Access stopped funding most patients’ support people in January as demand started ticking upwards, Dreith says. A new law in Texas banned most abortions, so more patients sought abortion care in the Midwest.

“I think that saved us money,” Dreith says. “While we’re maybe spending more per person in some cases, we’re not paying for an additional person to travel with them.”

Abortion access has been close to nonexistent in Missouri for the past few years, Dreith adds. Many of Midwest Access’ patients now come from southern states. Most local patients just need help getting to Illinois.

“I had a client from Arkansas traveling to Chicago who cost me $2,500 right around the Supreme Court decision,” Dreith says. “But then we have people who live in St. Louis and need to get to the Hope Clinic, and that’s a $30 Uber. It balances out in the end.”