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As abortions become harder to access, groups in Kentucky and Indiana raise money to help people get them

Women in the crowd at an abortion rights rally are dressed as characters from the TV show Handmaid's Tale. Others hold up pink signs that read "bans off our bodies."
Ryan Van Velzer
A woman dressed as a handmaid t an abortion rights rally in downtown Louisville following the U.S. Supreme Court decision that undercut abortion rights across the country.

Abortion is almost totally outlawed in Kentucky but remains legal in Indiana while each state’s anti-abortion laws are challenged in court.

Organizations across the country provide financial and other assistance to people seeking an abortion. And for a lot of people, it became much harder – and more expensive – to get an abortion after the U.S. Supreme Court eliminated a nationwide right to abortion last summer.

Kentucky outlawed nearly all abortions last year. So now Kentuckians have to go to clinics in other states, like Illinois, Indiana and Virginia, to legally access abortion.

“Folks are typically driving hundreds of miles. It could be 200, could be 400. Sometimes it’s 1,000,” said Savannah Trebuna, director of the Kentucky Health Justice Network’s Abortion Support Fund.

KHJN helps people in that situation by helping cover the cost of an abortion and related travel expenses. Trebuna said their total spending on travel assistance jumped from $11,000 in 2021 to more than $27,000 in 2022.

Meanwhile in Indiana, Jessica Marchbank of the Hoosier Abortion Fund said an influx of donations due to last year’s Supreme Court ruling enabled her organization to dramatically increase the number of people it assists.

A year ago, she said the Hoosier Abortion Fund – which is part of the nonprofit All-Options – might give financial assistance to 70 people in a month.

Last week alone, they helped 90 people – a new record.

Marchbank said abortion funds like the one she oversees all want to provide assistance to as many people as possible as abortion access becomes increasingly restricted in many states.

That’s why the Hoosier Abortion Fund, the Kentucky Health Justice Network and other abortion funds across America are participating in an annual fundraiser called the National Abortion Access Fund-a-Thon.

They say the donations they get will fuel the direct aid they give to people.

Fund-a-Thon is key for pretty much every abortion fund in the country,” Marchbank said. “And I do not want to go back to a world where I have to tell someone who’s eight weeks pregnant and has three kids at home: ‘I’m sorry, I can’t help you this week. We’re out of money.’”

Different abortion funds work together and often combine money to help someone get to a clinic, Marchbank said. To highlight that collaboration, the Hoosier Abortion Fund will team up with the KHJN and other Midwestern groups to fundraise together during Fund-a-Thon’s final two weeks.

KHJN hopes to raise $50,000 for its organization by the end of May. That money will support their reproductive rights work as well as their efforts to provide direct aid to transgender Kentuckians who need help accessing health care.

“We want to be supported by our communities because we know we’re the only folks that can take care of each other,” said Trebuna, who runs their abortion support fund. “The systems in place weren’t designed to take care of us.”

Oliver Hall is KHJN’s director of trans health, and they said more people have sought support from the organization since the Kentucky Legislature passed an anti-trans law in March that prohibits doctors from providing certain types of gender-affirming medical care for trans kids. The health care ban is set to take effect in late June, but it’s being challenged in court.

Hall said KHJN offers financial assistance to trans Kentuckians in need. That can include covering the co-pays for doctor’s appointments or their utility bill during a hard month.

“Anything that is a barrier for trans folks being able to live full, healthy lives, we view as an aspect of health care,” they said.

As part of the Fund-a-Thon, KHJN is hosting its first-ever FAT Gala Friday, featuring drag performances, a silent auction and music.

Trebuna said it isn’t just about bringing in donations. It’s about connection.

“The idea is for people to be able to celebrate their authentic selves and have a night of joy,” she said. “This year, especially, has been very hard for folks in Kentucky. So we want to raise funds, but we also want folks to have a night to be in community and just experience joy and celebrate our authentic selves.”

Morgan is LPM's health & environment reporter. Email Morgan at mwatkins@lpm.org.

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