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Devastated, but still taking calls, a PNW abortion access fund sticks to its mission

Twenty-six states, including nearby Idaho, will likely outlaw most abortions after today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturned Roe v. Wade. Washington-based organizations that help people access abortions expect an influx of people from other states needing care.

Riley Keene volunteers for the Northwest Abortion Access Fund (NWAAF), which helps people seeking abortions with funding and travel assistance. She talked to KUOW’s Paige Browning about her organization’s work and the ruling.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

Paige Browning: The writing has been on the wall about this ruling since a draft was leaked back in May, but now it's official. How are you processing the news today?

Riley Keane: I think like a lot of people we are devastated. We have been preparing for this as much as we could for as long as we can. One of the things that we always say is, Roe was the floor. Access has been hanging by a thread for millions of people for decades.

Can you tell us about your role in helping people access abortions in the Northwest?

Our service region is Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska. Oregon and Washington are Safe Harbor states for abortion. Abortion is protected under state law here. So, regardless of federal protection, we still have access. We are contacted by people who are traveling from around the country, who need to come into our service region. We also help folks who already live in our service region.

How many people has the fund been helping each year up until now?

In 2021, we made just over 1,000 grants to callers. We gave out just about $1 million in total funds. Year to date in 2022, we have given out over $700,000.

Do you have an idea of how much the number could change or increase now?

We have some trailing indicators. Since the Texas ban went into effect, our calls from Texas have quadrupled. We can look at that and say, What if the volume of callers were to quadruple for every state? But it's obviously speculative at this point.

How is NWAAF funded?

We're funded entirely by donations. We are run entirely by volunteers. Our ability to help people comes directly from donations that we receive.

What will change now for how NWAAF operates?

In terms of how we operate, we are not anticipating any changes. We have been staffing up as much as we can and have been trying to adjust our budgets and our expected spending in anticipation of this decision. But in terms of logistics, we are not planning any changes right now.

Why do you do this work? What motivates you?

I am motivated by the fact that everyone deserves equal access to health care. I believe in reproductive justice. I believe that there have been decades of attempts to infringe on people's rights to their body and to make health-care decisions for themselves that should be private to themselves. It inspires me every day that I'm doing this work to be able to assist in some way with people reclaiming that right.

Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above.