🚗 🚙 Turn your trusty old car into trustworthy journalism Learn more

Abortion funds and clinics in the South expand their reach across state lines

Paige Pfleger Feb 20, 2023
Heard on:
HTML EMBED:
COPY
Protesters stand on the steps of Nashville’s courthouse on Aug. 25, the day Tennessee’s full abortion ban took effect. Paige Pfleger/WPLN

Abortion funds and clinics in the South expand their reach across state lines

Paige Pfleger Feb 20, 2023
Heard on:
Protesters stand on the steps of Nashville’s courthouse on Aug. 25, the day Tennessee’s full abortion ban took effect. Paige Pfleger/WPLN
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Hannah never thought she’d get an abortion.

“I thought that if I did all the right things and was careful and acted responsible, I would never have to make the decision myself,” she said. Marketplace is not using her last name to protect her privacy.

But after protection failed, Hannah realized she was pregnant. She didn’t want to have a baby, but she lives in Tennessee — home to one of the most restrictive abortions bans in the country.

I took about three weeks to decide,” Hannah said. “So I ended up traveling out of state my seventh week and getting an abortion, a medical abortion.”

She took multiple days off work and paid for gas to drive the hundreds of miles to Virginia. Then, she handed over more than $500 out of pocket for the abortion pill.

“I’m incredibly lucky I had those resources,” Hannah said, “and it really made me very aware of how privileged I was.”

When the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, it triggered restrictive abortion bans across Southern states. It made the rising price tag of seeking an abortion the new reality — people are faced with the costs of time off work, child care and traveling across state lines.

But Robyn Baldridge of Abortion Care for Tennessee said most residents of the state don’t have the resources.

Already the cost of just accessing an abortion within the state of Tennessee was inaccessible for the majority of patients attempting to access it,” she said.

Her organization, which is Tennessee’s abortion fund, has had to pivot from giving grants to clinics within the state to giving them to clinics in surrounding states — with the money earmarked for Tennessee residents.

They can use our block grant for anything the patient needs,” Baldridge said. “Whether it’s also offering them a gas card to help get there or just anything associated with these mounting costs, now that Tennessee patients have to travel out of state for care.

Baldridge estimates that since the Supreme Court decision, Abortion Care for Tennessee has pumped hundreds of thousands of dollars into out-of-state clinics and has helped over 1,000 people.

But Tennessee’s abortion clinics are also taking on the costs of leaving by opening clinics in neighboring states.

Jennifer Pepper is the CEO of Choices, a Memphis clinic that opened a new location in Carbondale, Illinois, a little more than 200 miles away.

She said that once someone takes care of money and travel, there’s still the issue of being able to get an appointment.

“There are fewer clinics in the U.S., and there are still about the same number of patients needing to access care,” Pepper said. “And that is just a math problem that doesn’t work out in favor of patient access.”

Since the Illinois clinic opened in October, Pepper said, bookings have poured in from Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi and even faraway Texas.

A version of this story originally aired on WPLN’s daily show, “This Is Nashville.”

There’s a lot happening in the world.  Through it all, Marketplace is here for you. 

You rely on Marketplace to break down the world’s events and tell you how it affects you in a fact-based, approachable way. We rely on your financial support to keep making that possible. 

Your donation today powers the independent journalism that you rely on. For just $5/month, you can help sustain Marketplace so we can keep reporting on the things that matter to you.