A sense of urgency has galvanized more Latinas across the country to volunteer money and time to strengthen existing networks that help people with abortion needs.
After the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade nearly three weeks ago, one woman became a volunteer with an abortion organization. A business owner created a cocktail to raise money in support of abortion rights. Another woman is offering a spare room at her house to anyone who needs to travel for an abortion.
With nearly two dozen states making the procedure inaccessible, grassroots groups powering abortion access networks say these new volunteers and allies are crucial as they build up resources to meet the increased need for care.
Groups say this is particularly crucial in the Southeast, where people are sometimes traveling across multiple state lines to access care. The growing abortion restrictions, organizations say, disproportionately affect Latino families in the region: Hispanics in the South account for 29% of the nation’s Hispanic population growth.
Florida Access Network co-executive director Stephanie Loraine Piñeiro, who heads the only abortion fund led by queer people of color in the state, said her organization has seen an increase in support and donations.
The Florida Access Network is in the process of reviewing more than 400 new volunteer applications, many from Latinas in the state, Piñeiro said. She has also been able to fundraise more than $200,000 over the past three months, allowing her organization to double their average pledge, from $200 to $400, toward paying for an abortion appointment, she added.
“That represents more than a year of abortion funding, from what we were able to pledge,” Piñeiro told NBC News. In most cases, they offer partial financial help to people seeking an abortion.
“We fill in a lot of the gaps in an economy that makes it impossible for people to live and to have savings,” Piñeiro said.
When the organization receives a request for help, they assess what kinds of resources a person needs to be able to access an abortion, including stipends for childcare or gas and other needs. If the Florida Access Network is unable to fully meet a person's financial needs, they reach out to other organizations that do similar work across the country to help make up the difference, Piñeiro said.
Such fundraising efforts often need to happen in tight time frames. Piñeiro recalled a case in which she needed to help a person who was 12 weeks pregnant fundraise $1,200 for an abortion appointment before running up against Florida's new 15-week abortion ban.
In these kinds of scenarios, abortion funds often rely on recurrent and longtime donors. They tap into an existing network of professional women who are able to offer quick financial help to people in need of an abortion, usually using mobile payment services to send needed funds directly.
“It all started with a few phone calls from a few professional women who are deeply invested in the issue — private-sector people who are just good feminists and womanists,” said one Latina philanthropist who is a part of that network and asked not to be named for privacy reasons. “Now there’s an ecosystem of women and women-led non-profits building their muscle.”
While reproductive age women of all races and ethnicities are at risk of unintended pregnancy, Hispanic and Black women face a disproportionally higher risk, according to research published in 2020 in the peer-reviewed journal Contraception and Reproductive Medicine.
Only 29 states and Washington, D.C., report racial and ethnic data on abortion to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to the Pew Research Center. In 2019, about 66% of all the women who had abortions were women of color.
Among those ages 15 to 44, there were 23.8 abortions per 1,000 Black women; 11.7 abortions per 1,000 Hispanic women; 6.6 abortions per 1,000 white women; and 13 abortions per 1,000 women of other races or ethnicities.
'One of the longest fights of our time'
About three-quarters of Salamanca’s restaurant employees are women, mostly Latinas, and they do not share the same views on abortion. Despite their differences, Salamanca said they were able to reach common ground and create a fundraising campaign featuring a newly created cocktail to be named after Mexican activist Verónica Cruz Sánchez, founder of Las Libres, a group that has been instrumental in pushing for greater reproductive rights as a human rights issue.
Salamanca and her employees will be donating some of the fundraising proceeds to a local reproductive health care nonprofit of their choosing. But understanding that the fight to reclaim abortion rights is a long one, Salamanca said she has also offered to donate her restaurant as a space for abortion rights supporters to organize.
“This is going to be one of the longest fights of our time,” she told NBC News. “I hope we are ready to face it.”
In Washington, D.C., Daniela Ochoa of All* Above All, a nonprofit organization promoting affordable access to abortions, has donated more money to local abortion funds, particularly grassroots ones.
Many small abortion funds started to quickly run out of capital after receiving a growing number of funding support requests for abortion appointments, according to the National Network of Abortion Funds, a coalition that does collaborative fundraising and volunteering.
Groups like the Florida Access Network are part of the coalition.
These grassroots groups urgently need the funds not only to subsidize abortion care services, but to train and integrate more volunteers, Ochoa told NBC News.
Christine, 50, of Florida, started volunteering with a local reproductive health organization in January and, when the Supreme Court draft opinion striking down Roe was leaked in May, she doubled down on her efforts and joined a second organization, the Florida Access Network, as a driver and an escort.
Since then, she has "seen an uptick in the support needed," Christine, who requested to only be identified by her first name to maintain her privacy, told NBC News.
The role of volunteers like Christine has become indispensable since Roe was officially overturned, with abortion clinics nationwide turned into epicenters of clashing demonstrations.
The “verbal back and forth can be very overwhelming to patients,” Christine said. As an escort accompanying someone to their abortion appointment, Christine is trained in how to provide appropriate tools to make the patient feel as safe as possible during the process.
“We tell them what they can anticipate, that they don’t have to make eye contact or acknowledge them and they’re going to be OK,” Christine said.
The Latina philanthropist who has been part of the financial network assisting people who need abortions said there’s also an increase in the number of women offering help in different ways.
It’s even happening in her own family, she said. Her mother and sister have known of her involvement in the network for years. But it wasn’t until the Supreme Court’s recent decision that her sister told her she wanted to get involved and offer her home in New Jersey, where abortion is still legal, to anyone having to travel to obtain an abortion.
‘This can’t keep happening’
For Maria Rosales, 43, the fight for abortion care access is personal, since it could hinder her own chances at having a third child, she said. In her journey to expand her family, the mother of two sons, ages 6 and 2, has already experienced five miscarriages as well as three dilation and curettage procedures, which are often performed following a miscarriage to prevent infections.
As someone who is likely to experience a high-risk pregnancy, Rosales said she wants “to have the ability to terminate my pregnancy for health reasons if it comes down to that.”
“The government is not only controlling women’s bodies, they’re also controlling their ability to plan their families,” Rosales of Chapel Hill, North Carolina told NBC News.
North Carolina has a pre-Roe ban that is not currently in effect, meaning abortion will remain legal in the state as long as local lawmakers do not enforce it.
This prompted her to join Poder NC Action, a progressive nonprofit group that supports abortion rights in their efforts to mobilize Latino voters ahead of the midterm elections. For her, a chance at a bigger family is on the ballot in November.
“It has lit a fire under me,” Rosales said. “This can’t keep happening.”