September 1, 2017
Emergency Abortion Fund Established For Women Impacted By Harvey

The number of people who have been impacted by Hurricane Harvey is still unknown but likely ranges into the tens or even hundreds of thousands. The immediate needs of those have have had their lives turned upside down by what could end up being the costliest natural disaster in U.S. history range from food, shelter, and clothing to medical care, and donations have been pouring in to the tune of tens of millions of dollars as fellow Americans strive to do what they can to ease their neighbors' burdens at this difficult time.

Hundreds of organizations are currently raising money for Harvey victims, but only one of those groups is raising money to address the pressing medical need of emergency abortion services among those impacted by the monster storm. Lilith Fund for Reproductive Equity, an Austin-based organization, let it be known this week that they are raising money to help women impacted by Hurricane Harvey pay for the emergency abortion services they may desperately need, and have so far collected $4,000 to be used for this express purpose.

According to the organization, the need for emergency abortion services in the wake of Harvey was sparked by emergency clinic closures, displacement, loss of income/assets, and more. Many abortion procedures were scheduled to take place during the storm, procedures that were by necessity cancelled, and many more women have been left without abortion access as the Houston area struggles to recover from the damage of Hurricane Harvey.

Amanda Williams, the executive director of Lilith Fund, claims that her organization has received many calls from women whose abortion procedures had to be cancelled due to the storm, reports Fox News. Now, with many medical clinics closed or otherwise inaccessible, every day that goes by puts affected women closer to the legal abortion threshold, 20 weeks in Texas. Racing against the time in a situation where access to abortion providers has vanished has resulted in some women facing a real need for emergency abortion services and funding.

"In the days and weeks before the storm, Lilith Fund heard from many callers who had appointments scheduled in Houston -- but when Harvey hit, clinics had to temporarily close and appointments had to be cancelled."
Because many women who had previously scheduled abortion procedures will likely have to wait significantly longer to have the procedures performed, potentially even beyond the Texas 20-week cut-off, the costs of obtaining an abortion are likely to increase exponentially. It is also likely that abortion services in post-Harvey Houston will be next to impossible to facilitate, at least temporarily, meaning that women who require abortion care may require emergency funding to cover their travel costs, too.
"All people deserve the rights and resources they need to live safely, freely, and with dignity and support."
As Romper reports, even before Hurricane Harvey battered Houston, abortion access in Texas wasn't easy to come by. Recent legislation in the state caused the majority of Texas abortion-providing clinics to be shut down. Texas anti-abortion laws coupled with the aftermath of Harvey leaves a significant number of women at danger of completely losing their abortion access, particularly if they are also facing financial hardship.

The largest abortion provider in Texas is Houston Women's Clinic. According to representative Kathy Kleinfeld, she is working diligently to get her clinic back up and running, and to reach out to those patients whose abortions were impeded by Hurricane Harvey. She says that the women in question are, obviously, still in need of abortion services, and arrangements are being made to complete those procedures when it's feasible and safe to do so.

However, for most in Houston, it's impossible to gauge just when that will be. It has been estimated that as many as half a million vehicles were destroyed by Hurricane Harvey. Public transit systems are still out of commission. Public utility services aren't fully operational. Shelters are still overflowing with evacuees. Still, as Kleinfeld points out, "pregnancy doesn't stop because of a hurricane."
"This delay, of course, has caused these patients to advance in the pregnancy because the pregnancy doesn't stop because of a hurricane. So we're looking at issues with women being further into the pregnancy than they were, and sometimes that will put them into a different type of procedure or the cost may go up as a result of having to wait a week. And it really looks like it's going to be about a week for most patients."
In addition, Texas implements a mandatory 24-hour waiting period before any abortion procedure. This means that women who are seeking abortions in post-Harvey will have to make not just one trip to the clinic but two.
"So women have to go to the clinic not once, but twice, through the challenging flood waters. So that has been, and will remain, a problem. It's going to be hard enough to get to the clinic once, let alone twice."
While Lilith Fund is working diligently to raise money to help women fund a most basic health care need in the wake of a devastating natural disaster, not everyone is happy that donations are being solicited for emergency abortion services. As Independent Journal Review reports, many social media users have taken to Twitter and other outlets to share their disdain for the fundraising campaign.
What are your thoughts regarding raising funds for emergency abortion services in the wake of Hurricane Harvey? Do you believe that the folks at Lilith Fund are addressing a valid public need or do you think that the campaign is inappropriate? Let us know in the comments section below.

[Featured Image by Rena Schild/Shutterstock]