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Some states are restricting abortion. Others are spending millions to fund it

Abortion rights supporters demonstrate outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, 2022, in response to its decision in <em>Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization</em>.
Brandon Bell
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Abortion rights supporters demonstrate outside the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, 2022, in response to its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization.

As a growing number of states restrict abortion, other states and some local municipalities are substantially increasing funding for abortion and other reproductive health services.

At least 15 municipal and six state governments allocated nearly $208 million to pay for contraception, abortion and support services for people seeking abortions in the year since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, according to data provided to NPR by the National Institute for Reproductive Health.

That's far more than the roughly $55 million spent on similar services in the three years before the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization decision last June allowed abortion restrictions to take effect around the country.

"We've seen unrivaled action across states and localities at the municipal level to bolster access to reproductive healthcare, and especially around abortion, as a really immediate and direct response," NIRH President Andrea Miller said in an interview with NPR.

Money has been set aside for a variety of purposes, Miller said, including allocations for abortion funds and support networks that provide financial assistance to people struggling to pay for procedures, travel and other associated costs. California, for example, set aside $20 million to help out-of-state patients travel there for abortions; Chicago's public health department allocated $500,000 to be split between Planned Parenthood of Illinois and the Chicago Abortion Fund.

Miller said she hopes to see those kinds of organizations become less dependent on private donations.

"We're hearing from abortion funds and practical support networks that the requests they're getting are astronomical, and they are so far beyond what they've ever been before," she said.

During a recent call with reporters, Oriaku Njoku, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, said organizations in the network are "fielding more calls than ever and supporting more people than ever" while facing increasingly complex logistics as more states enact restrictions. Njoku said more callers report they are delaying abortions because of difficulties with access.

In addition to helping patients travel and pay for abortion, some states have funded efforts to expand their capacity to provide abortions for people traveling from states with bans.

"Those are states where abortion remains legal and largely accessible, and where the demand is increasing exponentially," Miller said.

New Mexico's Democratic governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, has pledged $10 million to help build a new reproductive health clinic in the state. New Jersey is providing $6 million in state loans to expand women's health clinics.

NIRH also tracks legislation designed to protect patients who travel across state lines, healthcare providers and others who assist them, from potential lawsuits or prosecution. Since the Dobbs decision, at least 11 states have passed what are known as "shield laws" designed to guard against out-of-state legal action.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Sarah McCammon
Sarah McCammon is a National Correspondent covering the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast for NPR. Her work focuses on political, social and cultural divides in America, including abortion and reproductive rights, and the intersections of politics and religion. She's also a frequent guest host for NPR news magazines, podcasts and special coverage.