The REACH Fund of Connecticut, a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding abortion care, has begun making grants to abortion providers.
“People think because abortion is legal here and Connecticut has a lot of affluent areas, there isn’t a need, but there is,” said co-founder Jessica Puk.
Medicaid covers abortions in Connecticut, but Puk says the fund will address a need of many marginalized groups, including undocumented women, low-income people who earn too much to be covered by Medicaid, and those who have private insurance with a high deductible or co-payment have costs.
“These are real people who need access to real health care and face real barriers to doing so,” she said.
Puk and three other women began organizing the fund in the summer of 2021. They launched a fundraiser in June 2022, just a week before the Supreme Court ruled in the Dobbs decision that opened the landmark Roe v. Wade, which had provided for a constitutional right to abortion.
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That timing spurred donors, who donated more than $13,000 the following month.
While donations tailed off somewhat after that initial outburst, the fund gained steady support and reached its $50,000 goal in just over four months. According to Puk, 95% of the money comes from small, individual donations and collective efforts. A tattoo parlor in Southington raised $4,000, and REACH received another significant gift from a Unitarian church in New London.
Achieving the goal has allowed the fund to provide block grants to abortion providers starting November 1. Puk said the amount of monthly grants to the clinics will fluctuate based on revenue, cash flow and patient needs. She did not want to name specific grant amounts.
Unlike most abortion funds, REACH does not deal directly with patients. Instead, it pays money to the 14 clinics that Planned Parenthood of Southern New England operates in Connecticut and to the state’s only independent clinic, the Hartford GYN Center in Bloomfield.
It is at the discretion of the clinics to give money to patients who come to them in financial need.
Roxanne Sutocky, director of community engagement at The Women’s Centers, which operates the Hartford GYN Center, says it’s an important model because patients can access care and financial help with one call.
“The people who work with patients to plan for them and deliver their financial counseling have discretion as to how much of those funds each patient needs,” she said. “Or people who come into the office and scan further than expected and their care costs have gone up – that means they don’t have to go home. When the patient is in front of us, we often anticipate unexpected financial consequences.”
According to Sutocky, the money can be used for patients traveling to Connecticut from states that ban abortion.
“We’re seeing more people incurring higher costs because of travel and delays in accessing their services increasing costs because they’re seeking more advanced abortion services,” she said. “People often need to access multiple funds.”
Abortion treatment was described in one study as a “catastrophic health expense” for many households. Costs vary by procedure and location. Last year, the average cost for people paying out of pocket in the first trimester was $568 for a medical abortion and $625 for a procedural abortion, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Working under the block grant model also makes it easier for the REACH fund, which does not have to staff an emergency hotline like many other abortion funds do.
“Another reason, which has become increasingly important in the age of digital security, is that we don’t store patient information as we don’t have an onboarding process on our end,” Puk said. “It’s just one less place where a patient would have to provide their personal information and worry about its security.”
Reaching the milestone of beginning funding for abortion in the state is personally significant for Puk. She had a second trimester abortion six years ago for what she felt was a very wanted pregnancy that became unprofitable.
“I was incredibly lucky not to encounter any roadblocks when I needed abortion access,” she said. “And my abortion experience has changed the way I think about community, the way I think about society, the way I think about how we stand up for each other. You shouldn’t have to be lucky to get the care you need.”
This story was originally published on November 10, 2022 by the Connecticut Health Investigative Team.