Advocates push Minneapolis to provide money to support abortion access

Abortion fund Our Justice, along with Pro-Choice Minnesota and Minneapolis City Council members Aisha Chughtai and Robin Wonsley, have launched a campaign to get the city to provide direct funding for access to abortion.

When the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, ending nationwide constitutional protections for abortion, Minnesota became an island among surrounding states with restrictive abortion laws and limited services. Providers and advocates say they are already seeing an increase in the need for support and services.

“We’re already at double the demands we were at this time last year,” said Megumi Rierson, director of communications at abortion fund Our Justice.

“We’re seeing a lot more patients coming specifically from Texas, which will probably mean the claims will be a bit more expensive,” they continued, “Because it’s not just going to be funding abortion, it’s will also act for us to get a hotel room for people.And also referring to travel assistance.

Those travel costs, especially right now with inflation, can be significant.

With several states limiting access to abortion, patients are now forced to request appointments in remote locations, often on short notice. That means booking a last-minute flight, which can cost hundreds – or thousands – of dollars, or potentially travel hundreds of miles. And that doesn’t include other costs, like several hotel nights, local transportation, childcare costs, potentially lost wages, and the cost of the procedure itself.

This is what has led these groups to follow in the footsteps of other cities like Portland, Chicago and New York, which have all allocated money to abortion funds as part of their city budgets.

Rierson said they were asking the city to create a general line item in the budget for $800,000 that would go to the fund. It would be run by the city’s health department and available through an open request for proposals process to “any group that operates in Minneapolis to provide abortion care funding, abortion funding, support practical and assistance with travel and accommodation”.

So far, several members of the Minneapolis City Council have said they would support the fund. Others either didn’t respond or said they didn’t have time to review the proposal.

In an interview with MPR News, Mayor Frey said that since the release of the leaked draft Dobbs notice in early May, he has spoken with Planned Parenthood officials – and now Hennepin County stakeholders – to see how the city can best use its resources to support people seeking abortions.

As for creating an abortion fund, Frey said no idea was “currently on the table.”

“I love the proposal, in that we want to have a fund available for people who have access to it, or who need it, to be able to travel to our city, to travel to our state, to have safe abortions because we view our state as a safe haven,” the mayor said. “Exactly how is this funded and where does it come from is part of the work that needs to be done now to move forward. before. And also where our city’s resources are best used. »

Some proponents say this model, of having established organizations request funding and then distributing it to people in their networks, is the best way for cities to ensure financial support gets to the right place quickly.

“When a city is considering funding an initiative, it’s often more effective to launch that program by funding work already underway in the community. And it’s a way for public funds to immediately connect to important work that’s already underway,” said Neesha Davé, deputy director of the Texas-based Lilith Fund.

She previously worked in an Austin City Council office when the budget amendment passed in 2019 to create a fund to help pay for costs associated with abortions, such as childcare, accommodations and travel. .

“Abortion access organizations, like abortion funds and practice support organizations, have a wealth of expertise in helping people access abortion care and filling the gaps where governments have failed. “Dave said.

Rierson said they are currently working to garner public support for this campaign. As of July 21, they had about 3,000 signatures on an online petition. They plan to deliver the signatures to the mayor in mid-August, before he submits his draft budget.

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