Nonprofit awards $5 million to widen abortion access in Oregon

Oregon is one of the few states nationwide with few restrictions on abortion access. But that doesn’t mean that abortions are widely available.

Three-quarters of Oregon’s 36 counties have no abortion providers, according to a release Tuesday from Seeding Justice, a Portland-based nonprofit that helps underserved communities. More than 20% of Oregon women live in those counties, it said. 

Oregon also mandates that insurers pay for reproductive health care, but federal employees and others with health insurance through federal programs do not have that coverage.

To help increase abortion access, Seeding Justice announced Tuesday it has awarded $5 million to 18 organizations to support projects focused on immediately lowering barriers to reproductive health care, including helping providers. The money stems from a $15 million allocation by the Legislature in 2022 to increase abortion access.

Since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last June, the demand for abortions in Oregon has been on the rise. A report released in June from the Society of Family Planning, a nonprofit that provides health care guidance on reproductive health care, said that before Roe, Oregon had an average of 820 abortions a month. Afterwards, that increased to 957, with the number of abortions reaching a high of 1,070 a month in August, 2022, and soaring past 1,000 in December 2022 and January and March of this year.

That demand has increased requests to the Northwest Abortion Access Fund, which gives women in and outside the region grants to obtain an abortion in the region, for example by paying for travel, hotels and child care.The fund has experienced an increase of more than 250% in demand for grants since Roe from women in other states, the release said. Fund officials did not respond to a request for details. An automated response said that nearly half of those seeking assistance were in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska. It said the rest traveled to the region from Texas, California, South Carolina, Nebraska, Florida, Montana, Hawaii, Arizona, Utah, Arkansas, Nevada, Georgia, Michigan, Colorado and New Mexico.

Seeding Justice said it was giving $1 million to the fund – its single biggest allocation. The state’s Planned Parenthood organizations were the next big recipients: They received $500,000 each. Planned  Southwestern Oregon has clinics in the Eugene/Springfield area, Grants Pass and Medford and Planned Parenthood Columbia Willamette has clinics in the Portland area, Salem, Bend and Ontario. Other big recipients include Multnomah County Community Health Centers; Haymarket Pole Collective, a Portland-based organization for sex workers; Daisy C.H.A.I.N., a nonprofit based in Eugene that caters to Spanish speakers; and Cascade AIDS, a nonprofit that provides health care in Portland. 

A total of $2.4 million of the grants is going to reproductive health care providers to upgrade facilities, expand capacity, train abortion providers and support patients. Seeding Justice also awarded $1.7 million to organizations in historically underserved communities to support expanded outreach and patient navigation services.

The awards are going to reproductive health care providers (blue), community organizations providing patient support and navigation services (purple), and abortion funds (pink).

The grants were awarded following a competitive process led by a steering committee of community and reproductive health experts and advocates. Seeding Justice said the remaining $10 million from lawmakers will be awarded later this year to projects emphasizing equity in reproductive health care over the long term, with a goal to help those who’ve been left behind. 

“Disparities in access to health care, including reproductive health care, are well documented in Oregon,” Mariana Garcia Medina, co-chair of the steering committee, said in the release. “The end of Roe v. Wade has exacerbated these iniquities. The fund helps individuals in communities that need more support to obtain the care they need and deserve. It’s the start we need, but it’s only the start.”

The grants come a month after the Legislature passed House Bill 2002, which Gov. Tina Kotek signed into law last week. That bill nearly brought the session to an end following an historic six-week walkout by GOP senators. Initially, it included a provision to allow anyone to obtain an abortion without parental approval. Democrats walked that back to get Republican senators to return to the floor for votes back by shifting responsibility to providers who can waive the need for parental consent for children younger than 15 if they deem that child would be harmed by informing parents.

For more information on the grants, go to Seeding Justice’s website.

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Lynne Terry has more than 30 years of journalism experience, including a recent stint as editor of The Lund Report, a highly regarded health news site. She reported on health and food safety in her 18 years at The Oregonian, was a senior producer at Oregon Public Broadcasting and Paris correspondent for National Public Radio for nine years. She has won state, regional and national awards, including a National Headliner Award for a long-term care facility story and a top award from the National Association of Health Care Journalists for an investigation into government failures to protect the public from repeated salmonella outbreaks. She loves to cook and entertain, speaks French and is learning Portuguese.