The REACH Fund of Connecticut, a nonprofit organization dedicated to funding abortion care, has begun making grants to abortion providers.
“People think that because abortion is legal here and Connecticut has a lot of wealthy areas that there isn’t a need, but there is,” said co-founder Jessica Puk.
Medicaid covers abortion in Connecticut, but Puk says the fund will address a need among 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 copay costs.
“These are real people who need to access real health care and are hitting real barriers to it,” she said.
Puk and three other women began organizing the fund in the summer of 2021. They launched a fundraising campaign in June 2022, just one week before the Supreme Court opened the way for states to ban abortion with the Dobbs decision that overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade, which had provided a constitutional right to an abortion.
That timing energized donors, who gave more than $13,000 the following month.
While donations moderated somewhat after that initial burst, the fund gained steady support and made its $50,000 goal in just over four months. Puk says 95% of the money has come from small, individual donations and collective efforts. A tattoo parlor in Southington raised $4,000, and REACH received another significant gift from a Unitarian congregation in New London.
Hitting the goal has allowed the fund to begin making block grants to abortion providers as of Nov. 1. Puk said the amount of the monthly grants to the clinics will fluctuate based on revenue, cash flow, and the needs of patients. She would not provide specific grant amounts.
Unlike most abortion funds, REACH will not deal directly with patients. Instead, it is disbursing money to the 14 clinics that Planned Parenthood of Southern New England operates within Connecticut and the state’s one independent clinic, the Hartford GYN Center in Bloomfield.
The clinics have the discretion to award money to patients who come to them in financial need.
Roxanne Sutocky, director of community engagement for The Women’s Centers, which runs the Hartford GYN Center, says that’s an important model because patients can access care and financial help with one phone call.
“The individuals who are working with the patients to schedule them, to do their financial counseling, can use discretion about how much of those funds each patient might need,” she said. “Or people who come into the office and scan further than they expected and their cost of care has increased – it means not having to go home. When the patient is in front of us, oftentimes that’s when we’re figuring out unexpected financial consequences.”
Sutocky says the money can be used for patients traveling to Connecticut from states where abortion is banned.
“We’re seeing more people incurring higher costs due to travel, and delays in accessing their services increasing the cost because they’re seeking more advanced abortion services,” she said. “People are needing to access multiple funds, many times.”
Abortion care has been described in one study as a “catastrophic health expenditure” for many households. Costs vary depending on the procedure and the location. Last year the median costs nationally for people paying out of pocket in the first trimester were $568 for a medication abortion and $625 for a procedural abortion, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.
Operating on the block grant model also makes things simpler for the REACH Fund, which does not need to staff an emergency hotline as many other abortion funds do.
“Another reason that has become more important in this age of digital security is that by not having an intake process on our end, we don’t hold any patient information,” Puk said. “It’s just one less place that a patient would need to give their personal information and worry about the safety and security of it.”
For Puk, reaching the milestone of beginning to fund abortions in the state is personally meaningful. She had a second-trimester abortion six years ago for what she says was a very wanted pregnancy that became unviable.
“I was incredibly lucky in that I hit no roadblocks when I needed access to abortion,” she said. “And my abortion experience changed the way I think about community, the way I think about society, the way I think about how we show up for each other. You shouldn’t have to be lucky to get the care you need.”
This story was originally published Nov. 10, 2022, by the Connecticut Health Investigative Team.