Originally published in the Summer 2022 edition of The Virginia Defender, issue 69, printed July 27. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Summer 2022 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post. For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.
By Delaney Jooris
Years ago, a small group of volunteers was handed a $20 bill from a passerby. The gentleman was hoping to buy the group some lunch as a thank you for their work escorting patients to their appointments at a facility offering abortion services. What he didn’t know was that this 20 dollars was the first of many donations that would directly fund abortions in Virginia and kickstart the organization of the Richmond Reproductive Freedom Project.
RRFP has been funding abortions in Virginia for almost 20 years. In addition to helping people finance their abortions by paying clinics directly, RRFP provides “practical support,” such as rides to appointments and funds for childcare. The number of people RRFP helps out, and how much they can give each person, depends on the amount of donations they receive. They only stop taking calls once their budget has been depleted.
Since the reversal of Roe v. Wade, donations have increased and RRFP has been able to open its phone lines more often. Before the reversal, they helped around 30 people twice a month. Now they help around 30 people weekly. Despite this, the demand still outweighs the resources, as it always has.
In an interview with the Defender, Ayé Johnson, a project staff member, and Nikita Mayfield, an Advisory Board member, said that the overturn of Roe hasn’t greatly affected the organization’s operations. RRFP is still funding abortions, just as it was before the reversal. They emphasized the expertise and resourcefulness of their team, born within a web of well-established community organizations in the city.
Further, they said they weren’t too concerned about support for the cause thinning out with the next news cycle. “I don’t believe we’re worried about sustainability,” Johnson said. “We’ve been funding abortions for 20 years, no matter what the administration was, how positive or negative the policies were, and we will be funding abortions once this administration leaves.”
“I think Virginia is one of those states that’s … I think we’re kind of purple,” Mayfield said. “The laws have been open for us, but it’s still been some restrictions for people who are most impacted by racist systems at the margins of society.”
Johnson and Mayfield say there are two highly valuable resources for abortion funds at any time, no matter the political climate. The first is time: They ask people considering getting involved to commit for the “long haul.”
The second is money. As Johnson put it, “You cannot be an abortion fund without funds.”
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