The Iowa Abortion Access Fund is the second-oldest fund of its type in the country and its mission today remains the same as when it was founded in 1978: Not letting cost be a burden to care.
The nonprofit provides grants to Iowans and Illinois residents who live in seven counties near the Quad Cities for abortion services, but it can connect clients to practical support funds for travel and other related expenses if necessary.
The basic qualification to receive a grant is living in a zip code in the fund’s service area.
How it works is a client schedules an appointment at a clinic where abortion services are provided (the fund also works with clinics outside of Iowa and Illinois). If the client needs financial assistance, they tell the clinic and the clinic provides the fund’s hotline number which is manned by a part-time client liaison.
The liaison answers the calls, checks the voicemails, and acts as the go-between for the clinic and the client to confirm grant funding.
Leah Vanden Bosch, the Iowa Abortion Access Fund’s development and outreach director, said the amount of funding varies, but it’s typically around $600 per client. Each clinic and service provider the fund works with sends a monthly billing statement, which removes a barrier for clients and ensures donations are used properly.
“We do fund directly to the clinics—I love that—so donors, we know exactly where that money is going,” Vanden Bosch said. “There are a lot of, unfortunately, scammers and people out there right now dipping into abortion funds so it’s nice to know we have that security and we don’t have to worry about vetting people through.”
In the first 10 months of 2023, the fund provided 810 grants to clients, a 24% increase over 2022. Vanden Bosch has thoughts on why the uptick took place.
“It’s lack of accessibility, for sure,” she said. “Costs are increasing with not only the actual care being provided, but costs now includes travel costs, gas—[and] with Iowa’s 24-hour waiting period, you have to make two trips and that right there is double if you have to have child care.”
Abortion remains legal in Iowa as Iowa Republicans’ latest abortion ban works its way through the courts, but wait times here have increased up to four weeks in some cases. Vanden Bosch noted the impact these wait times can have on clients.
“The further along you are in gestational age, the more expensive your procedure can be,” she said. “If you prefer a medication abortion—I think it’s 10 or 11 weeks until you can’t have that anymore, and then you have to move into the in-clinic procedure. That right there is going to be, starting, at least a couple extra hundred dollars.”
Vanden Bosch’s role is new and she is the fund’s first full-time employee. She previously volunteered for four years on its board of directors and was also a Planned Parenthood storyteller. The fund was able to hire Vanden Bosch after a slew of post-Roe donations.
“Honestly, my goal is for my job to not have to exist. I would love to live in a world where we don’t need abortion funds because it’s affordable, accessible health care,” she said.
A lot of Vanden Bosch’s focus this year was figuring out what should be her main priorities.
“It’s a lot of funding and building stability, but there’s also a lot of opportunity with getting us organized with our direct services and we’ve got constant movement with Planned Parenthood clinics closing and moving around their services and, obviously, getting people care is the No. 1 priority,” she said.
“I’m just trying to keep the plates spinning with all the responsibilities right now [and] making sure no matter what happens with the upcoming legislative session we’re set up and we’re in a good place to still be able to get people care,” she continued.
Vanden Bosch said the fund works closely with abortion access funds from other states—especially Illinois and Minnesota where abortion rights are constitutionally protected—and like-minded local partners including the American Civil Liberties Union of Iowa, the Emma Goldman Clinic in Iowa City, and Planned Parenthood.
“Planned Parenthood does a really good job of bringing us all together,” Vanden Bosch said, noting they all participate in a monthly call. “That’s really the key right now, we all have a critical role to play.”
For people who are interested in supporting the fund, Vanden Bosch said people can stay engaged via the monthly outreach email, attend the group’s events, host a fundraiser, or just make a direct contribution.
“I hate to say this, but it always comes down to money and right now financially is just the best way you can support,” Vanden Bosch said. “Even if it’s just $5 a month … we really need to increase our monthly donor list. So again five bucks can go a long way because our requests have increased so much.”
Vaden Bosch noted when she joined the fund’s board four years ago, they averaged about 40-something requests per month. The fund had a record 103 grant requests in August and the numbers continue to rise. Vanden Bosch said they distributed about $43,000 in grants in October.
“We’re just trying to do what we can to continue. We’re not pulling the same amounts,” Vanden Bosch said of donations. “At this point, we’re dipping into our bank accounts, which we have with this influx from last year, but it’s going to run out at some point.”
Update (Dec. 7, 2023, 8:09 a,m,): The Iowa Abortion Access Fund clarified a month for grant distributions.
To make a tax-deductible one-time or recurring donation to the Iowa Abortion Access Fund, visit www.iowaabortionaccessfund.org/shop.
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