I lived and worked for 39 years in The Netherlands, until I retired. During those years I obtained a Dutch law degree from Leiden University and worked in the field of international arbitration in the Peace Palace. Miami attracted me because of the wonderful weather, but also because it was an international environment, with a mix of cultures that would be a new version of the stimulating life style I had enjoyed in The Hague. I quickly learned Miami did not provide the support, guarantees and finely-woven social safety net of The Netherlands and that much depended on the contributions of individuals working through non-profits. I currently serve on the boards of several cultural and professional organizations, but my main focus is working to provide equal access to abortion to all women and girls regardless of their financial circumstances.
The Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade assured women that they have the legal right to access reproductive health care including abortion. But the ability to exercise that right depends on the ability to pay. Unlike almost every other medical procedure, both federal and state law prohibit the use of federal or state funds to assist in paying for an abortion. While there are some very narrow exceptions, they can rarely be effectuated. In the State of Florida, clinics performing abortions are the most highly regulated of any type of medical facility in the State. Each year, legislative regulations know as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP) laws are introduced and sometimes passed, making the regulations even more stringent. Furthermore, access through insurance to reliable and affordable birth control is not universally provided. A direct negative result of these policies is that many women and girls have limited access to effective contraception and are denied access to choice because of their inability to pay for the procedure. Women seeking an abortion may be homeless, unemployed, victims of domestic violence, rape or incest with no one to turn to for assistance. Or they may realize that for a great variety of reasons they are not in a position to raise a child, or another child, at this time. Some delay visiting a clinic until they have been able to scrape funds together, while in the meantime, the procedure may have become more expensive and time consuming as the pregnancy advances. Recent statistics confirm that one out of every three women in the United States will have an abortion during her child-bearing years. There should not be a line drawn between those who can afford this procedure and those who cannot.
The solution I have embraced is realized through the Women’s Emergency Network. WEN operates on the principal that every woman, regardless of means, should have the right and ability to choose when and if she becomes a mother. WEN underwrites the cost of medical or surgical abortion together with lab work, anesthesia and medications, birth control and safe sex counseling and follow-up care at a number of clinics in South Florida. Information about these clinics is posted on WEN’s website and on its telephone hotline. Women who request financial assistance to terminate a pregnancy are assessed at a WEN-approved clinic based on financial need to determine their eligibility for WEN funding as well as for other funding sources. Funding is allotted to each client based on her personal circumstance and the cost of her care. In almost all cases, clients are expected to partially cover the expense of their abortion.
WEN also funds the provision of long-acting reversible contraception (LARCs), the most cost-effective and reliable form of birth control. The most common form provided is an intrauterine device (IUD) which can be inserted immediately or shortly after a termination, eliminating any gap in protection.
WEN also advocates for women’s reproductive rights through its website, social media, events and outreach in the community.
WEN relies on individual donors and foundation grants to fulfill its mission. In addition, WEN’s Emergency Angels are donors who pledge to fund the especially compelling and complicated cases that come to us from time to time. We call on our Angels to help clients in crisis, women and girls who need more funding than WEN is typically able to provide. WEN is very appreciative of the support given to it by the Miami donor community and grateful for this opportunity to inform Miami of its mission.