MidPoint: abortion access in Tampa Bay

abortion rights rally
"Political Puppets NOT Jurists" sign at rally for reproductive rights in St. Petersburg, Florida. By Seán Kinane/WMNF News (3 May 2022).

Last week, POLITICO released a draft of an opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court in the case of Dobbs v. Mississippi. The draft opinion indicates the Court is poised to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case that protects the right to abortion throughout the United States. With the draft likely set to become law banning abortions in the coming months, the conversation surrounding abortion access is at the forefront of the news. This week on MidPoint, guests Kelly, Jackie, and Kris from the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund spoke about their organization’s work and the future of abortion access post-Roe.

Listen to the full episode here:

For six years, the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund’s sole mission has been to provide abortion access for no-income or low-income people seeking abortions. TBAF works with 7 clinics in the region as a resource for patients. Whether patients/clients need financial assistance to afford the procedure, transportation to and from a clinic, childcare during their procedure, or other support, TBAF is in place to serve those in need through a network of volunteers.

How Does it Work?

Often clients are referred to TBAF by the clinics when the client learns they can’t afford the cost of their abortion. TBAF has an intake call line that gathers minimal information about the client, just in order to understand what they need and how best to provide it. As volunteer Kris noted, they avoid deeply personal questions and only ask what’s necessary to provide care.

The costs for abortion vary depending on the procedure and the clinic. Procedures done in a clinic can cost approximately $625, and medication can also be costly. National funds, such as Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Fund, can supply up to 20% of the cost for those who qualify. In addition to this funding, the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund can provide up to $500 for a client. If appropriate, in the first trimester, self-managed medication abortion is much cheaper, costing around $150. Self-managed abortion involves taking pills over 3 or 4 days and then essentially going through a miscarriage at home.

As a nonprofit organization, about 30% of TBAF’s funding comes from donations, while the rest comes from numerous institutional grants.

TBAF is not a healthcare provider or a clinic itself. It works with clinics to get clients abortion healthcare. In addition, there are some key differences between the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund and other abortion rights organizations: While other organizations such as Planned Parenthood and NARAL focus more on abortion advocacy and litigation, and may associate with political parties and lobby legislators for legislation and policy, the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund, part of a National network of abortion funds, remains an organization whose sole purpose and dedication is providing access, support and care on the ground to low income abortion clients.

Important Topics: Plan B, Florida Locations, and More

When discussing medical abortions, there is a general confusion between Plan B and an abortion pill. There IS a difference.

Plan B is a brand name, but the pill itself is emergency contraception, meant for immediate use within three days after unprotected sex. While Plan B and other emergency contraception is generally available as a non-prescription, over-the-counter drug, often it is not openly displayed and must be requested from a pharmacist. The cost can range from $7 to around $50. However, as in any contraceptive method, it is not 100% fail-safe. Often unknown is a woman’s weight is a factor in its effectiveness. Most emergency contraception only works well for women under 150 pounds. But for those women who weigh more than 150 pounds, effective emergency contraception, a brand named Ella, is available by a doctor’s prescription only.

Medication abortion pills, available only for self-managed first-trimester abortions, on the other hand, are not found in drugstores. They are given either by a healthcare clinic or they can be ordered online from around the world. The guests stressed the fact that ordering online from abroad can be risky; pills must be received and taken in a timely fashion, and laws restricting telemedicine in the state of Florida could be troublesome. Medication abortion pills are only available for the first trimester of pregnancy and operate with 2 pills. The first pill is given at the clinic, and the second is self-administered at home.

Beyond the first trimester of pregnancy, limited options for abortion procedures are available. In this region, there are currently 2 clinics that provide 2nd-trimester abortions, until 23.3 weeks. In Ft. Lauderdale, it’s available for up to 24 weeks. However, once the 15-week abortion ban becomes effective in Florida on July 1, those procedures will likely no longer be available in this state. The Tampa Bay Abortion Fund will continue to help connect clients with other organizations in the U.S, where later-term abortions are still lawful, to ensure that they receive care wherever possible.

When or What if Roe v. Wade is overturned?

While social media messages have broadcast that society is ‘going back’ to a repressive and regressive time of unsafe back-alley and coat-hanger abortions, TBAF sees it very differently. There will always be abortions regardless of the law, and today, there is no reason for anyone to subject themselves to unsafe abortion. In the 21st century, there will be no ‘going back’, only moving forward. Organizations like TBAF across the nation will continue to exist, will be more creative (consider the possibility of off-shore hospital ships outfitted as abortion clinics in international waters!) and even with more restrictive laws, there will still be options for safe abortions. From self-managed abortion pills to herbal remedies, the TBAF stressed that there will be no return to the dark ages nor devolving into a Handmaid’s Tale society. Safe abortion is available and will be made accessible.

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