Abortion is not only fundamental rights issue. When women are unable to get an abortion, the impacts are real and long-lasting. In the landmark Turnaway Study, a cohort of women who sought abortions was followed for five years to learn what happens when they received or were denied the abortion. The findings are stark:

  • Health: Tragically, the higher risks of childbirth were demonstrated in the study by two women who were denied an abortion and died following delivery. (No women died from an abortion).[ii] Women who were denied an abortion and gave birth reported more chronic conditions, and they experienced more anxiety, lower self-esteem, and lower life satisfaction in the months after seeking an abortion.[iii]
  • Economic: Women who were denied an abortion and went on to give birth were more likely to live in poverty following the birth than those who received an abortion.[iv] Being denied an abortion also lowered credit scores, while increasing debt and negative public financial records, such as bankruptcies and evictions.[v]
  • Family stability: Five years later, women denied abortions were more likely to raise children alone—without family members or male partners—compared to women who had received an abortion.[vi] When family violence was a factor, physical violence from the man involved in the pregnancy decreased for women who received abortions but not for the women who were denied abortions and gave birth.[vii]
  • Children’s wellbeing: The children that women already had when they were denied an abortion show worse childhood development than the children of women who received one.[viii] Carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term after being denied an abortion is associated with poorer maternal-child bonding.[ix]

As we sit on the precipice of millions more women losing access to abortion, it is time to take stock of how we think about abortion and its funding. For decades, philanthropic funding has been concentrated within a relatively small group of foundations.

In this ever-evolving landscape, we are again called to examine whether we are deploying our funding to have the greatest impact. While we remain committed to long-term policy and systems change, we are obliged to do all we can to mitigate the harms that decreased access to abortion services will cause in the near term. We need to center women and their needs—urgently. This means funding an ecosystem of actors and institutions that includes:

  • Strengthening providers in regions that will see an influx of patients.
  • Helping women pay for services and practical support.
  • Medical and legal guidance.

We invite funders focused on health more broadly to join us in this effort to support the dignity of women and families, protect women’s lives, and mitigate the health, economic, and social harms that can result from being denied an abortion. As we have seen in Texas, the upcoming Supreme Court decision could thrust us into a world of even greater inequities in abortion access, and the very real possibility of harm resulting to women and families.

Read the full article about abortion access by Christine Clark at Grantmakers in Health.