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Obtaining Abortion When You Need Funding and a Judicial Bypass

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FaithS asks:

I am 16 years old and already have a 7 month old baby. My son has a lot of health problems, he was born with a lung disease and has holes in his heart. I recently found out I was pregnant again and I'm not for sure how to go about it. I've only told one person and that's my older sister. I know for sure that I do not want to keep the baby but I don't have enough money for abortion and if I tell my dad it could turn out very bad. I live in Kentucky, and I am trying to figure out how to go about a judicial bypass and an abortion but I need help with money.

Heather Corinna replies:

I'm so sorry to hear about your son's health problems, Faith. It's hard enough being a very young parent without the rights of an adult, let alone doing so when your child has serious health problems. It also seems like you might not have a very supportive family, so from the sounds of things, you've had it really rough for a while now. I really want that to change for you. I'm going to offer all I can to help you with what you want help with here.

As it sounds like you already know, in your state you can't obtain an abortion as a minor without the consent of at least one parent or guardian or without a judicial bypass. That's not something impossible, it is often doable, but if you do think you can get a legal guardian or parent's consent safely, then I'd suggest you do try that first. That is certainly the more efficient route, and is often easier in most ways.

I don't know what you mean when you say that if you told your father, things could turn out very badly.

If you mean you already are, would be or might be in danger of abuse, I'd strongly encourage you to contact social services. In KY, the hotline for child abuse or neglect -- the child in this case being you, the child of your parent or parents -- is (877) 597-2331. I suggest that because if you're already living with abuse or under threat of abuse, I want you to at least find out about your other options so you don't have to live that way if you don't have to. I don't want you to have to live in danger, and no matter what happens with this pregnancy, it may be you have other support and living options you don't know about and which might mean a better way for you and your son to live moving forward, maybe even starting right this very second.

Too, if disclosing this pregnancy to your father, or asking him for permission for an abortion is something that would put your safety or life at risk, then by all means, that is NOT something you want to do. Instead, it will be safer for you to contact other helps first and explore your other options, which I'll give in detail for you in my answer.

I understand you don't have the money to pay for an abortion. Normally (I'll explain a bit more of that process below), before you seek out abortion funds, you'll need to start by already having a scheduled appointment for an abortion at a clinic. But, given all of your circumstances, particularly since we may also be talking about needing a judicial bypass, I contacted a friend of mine who works in abortion funding to check in about your specific situation.

She suggested you start by first contacting the Kentucky Health Justice Network: http://www.kentuckyhealthjusticenetwork.org. Their toll-free hotline number is: (855) 576-4576.

They're an independent advocacy group for your state that works to connect people in Kentucky to reproductive health care information and services, including abortion, and abortion funding, transportation and other assistance.

There's an email for them on their page, too, if you prefer emailing to calling. If so, I'd suggest sending them an email telling them about your situation like you did for us here, adding as many details as you can, so they have as full a picture as possible. For instance, what the deal is with your Dad (including if there is any abuse or threat of abuse in your home), if you do or don't have another parent or legal guardian you could get permission from, what your financial situation is, and if the person involved in either the consensual sex or assault where you became pregnant this time still is or isn't in the picture. If it was or was not consensual sex is also very important information to include. A little more information is better than less when it comes to help services of this kind. That way they'll have a good idea of what they can or can't do for you right from the start, as well as the best way to help you any way they can, or who it's best to next direct you to.

It might be that they can be the people to take you through all the rest of these steps, including helping you with a judicial bypass, if needed, any possible additional funding, and transportation to and from the clinic.

In the event that they can't, or you want to know another route you could take with this, the way this most typically works is that first you'd start with an abortion provider.

They not only are the people who actually provide abortion services, they also are usually the first step in seeking out funding options -- to get abortion funds when there are some, you will usually first need to have an appointment for an abortion -- and can fill you in, too, on the process of judicial bypass.

These are the abortion providers in your state:

  • EMW Women's Clinic, Lexington, KY
    phone: (859) 278-0331 or (800) 432-9327 (KY)
  • EMW Women's Surgical Center, Louisville, KY
    phone: (502) 589-2124 or (800) 292-2189 (KY)
    web: http://www.emwwomens.com

They make clear on their website that they give information about judicial bypass to patients if they call in. You can just call whichever of the two is closest to you first if you'd prefer to start all of this with a provider.

There are also two Planned Parenthood branches in Kentucky. They do not provide abortions, but they do provide abortion referrals and options services, so they're another resource to start with if you liked. Those branches are:

  • Bluegrass Health Center, 508 W 2nd Street, Lexington, KY 40508
    phone: (859) 252-8494
  • Louisville Health Center, 1025 S 2nd Street, Louisville, KY 40203
    phone: (502) 584-2473

I know that on top of all the other challenges you're facing, if all of these places are far from where you live, that may look like another huge hurdle. It might well pose extra challenges, but I'd not let that dissuade you from making these initial calls or emails to look into the termination you want. Travel -- just like judicial bypass and funding -- can be made doable, even if you yourself don't have a car or anyone in your life to drive you right now.

So, I'd just start by contacting EITHER the Kentucky Health Justice Network OR one of those abortion providers OR one of those Planned Parenthood branches: whichever you like. I know it might seem like contacting all of them is a best way to tackle this, but it'd be most sound to just start with one and follow their lead from there.

All of them, I assure you, want to do what they can to help you make the choice you want to here, so any of them are going to be on your side and be a potentially great advocate and helper for you.

Per the judicial bypass specifically, any of those resources might refer you to the ACLU in Kentucky. If so, know they're good people too, people who are very invested in your rights to all reproductive choices (even though your state isn't). They'll do all they can to legally help you out. Here's a page from the ACLU of Kentucky on your rights with judicial bypass, if you'd like to take a look: http://aclu-ky.org/content/view/195/74/

Just so you're prepared, with the process of seeking out abortion funds specifically, you might wind up getting a lot of busy signals, or having to wait a day or two to hear back from people: that's normal, and doesn't mean anyone is ignoring you or that this can't all be made to work out for you. it just means that all of these services tend to be very underfunded and understaffed, and have a lot of people calling in for help, that's all.

If you want to start with an abortion provider directly, and can get to them in person, they can see you to do a pregnancy test and ultrasound to see how far along you are (which can tell you what you'd need per abortion care and cost ahead of time), and if they provide options counseling and other practical help, like advice about the bypass process, they can provide you with those things in person, too. The law only limits them from providing you an abortion itself without parental consent, not from providing you these other services.

If they're within reach of you, even just being able to even talk to someone else in person right now who understands, who supports you, and who's knowledgeable about all you need to know could give you a great deal of comfort at a time when it sounds like you sure could use it. If that sounds good to you, I'd make an appointment to go in and see them face-to-face.

You will want to get a move on with taking steps to look into all of this. I know that with all you're dealing with already, another pregnancy probably must feel tremendously overwhelming all by itself. Hearing that you need to hurry things up is probably the last thing you want to hear. However, the process of judicial bypass, if that's what you'll need to do, can take a while, which means you can get later into a pregnancy, making a termination more and more costly, and sometimes tougher to obtain.

I don't say any of that to make you panic: the last thing I want is for you to have any more stress or strain. I only say it because if a termination is something you want and need, to make it happen, you're going to have to move on these steps quickly. I'd hate you to take time you thought you had only to later discover you didn't move fast enough.

Let me also give you the brief skinny on abortion funding, so if some parts of this are things you can get started with sooner rather than later, you can get going with that, too.

In the United States, there is a ban (the Hyde Amendment, if you're curious) on federal funding for abortion. In some states, there are ways through the state, public health, or some private insurance to get abortion paid for, partially or completely. In Kentucky, funding for abortion -- often even with private insurance -- is only available in cases where the pregnancy has occurred because of sexual abuse or assault, or when the mother's life is in danger because of a pregnancy. However, there are independent national or state funds available to help you pay for an abortion.

Generally, the people who manage those independent funds will first ask about what money of your own you have to put towards a termination, especially since no fund or combination of funds is at all likely to be able to cover the whole cost of a procedure.

It sounds like, right now, particularly given the situation you're in as a teen mother with an infant with severe health problems, that answer to the question of what money you have yourself may be that you've got little or none. It wouldn't be surprising if it was. Given you're a minor, you probably don't have any of your own money from work, and even if you do have a source of income, it may already all be allocated to the care of your son.

If that's the case, you're going to need to see what you can do to raise some money so you at least have something to throw into the pot.

Most often, when we're trying to raise money for an abortion, we'll look to the following possible sources:
• any money you yourself already have
• picking up extra hours or shifts, if you can, at a job to make some extra cash
• anything you can sell if you've anything of value you can hock and live without (even CDs, books or clothing that seem worthless to you can be things we can at least get a little something for at secondhand or consignment shops)
• whoever you had sex with (if this was consensual sex) which resulted in the pregnancy
• friends, or even friends of friends
• family members, be they close or extended family, or the friends of family members (like, perhaps, maybe some of your sister's friends)

Even if you can find just ten people who can give you ten or twenty bucks each, then find a way to come up with $50 or so on your own, you can already have a very good start to either to get the ball rolling with additional money from abortion funds, or, in the case you can't access that funding, or don't wind up needing to, to pay for an abortion yourself. I know it can feel scary to ask for help with this, but if this is something you want and need, you'll probably need to: I think it's safe to say most of us who have needed an abortion have had to ask for outside help with money for one. Just stick to people you know are safe for you to ask, even if they might not have anything to give.

I also want to make sure you know -- especially if, even though it sounds like an abortion is what you want most, abortion turns out to be outside your reach -- that you have another option besides parenting another child when that's not what you want or can handle.

You also have the option of arranging an adoption. Obviously, that means you would have to remain pregnant, which might not be what you want. I also don't know how you feel about adoption in general, or as a particular choice for you right now.

But I do know that just like abortion or parenting are valid choices, so is adoption. And an arranged adoption usually means all of the expenses of a pregnancy and delivery are covered, so that's not something you'd have to worry about, and adoption doesn't involve you needing to come up with any money at all in order to avoid parenting another child. On top of that, it can potentially mean you get some extra help and support during your pregnancy that might help you with some of the other challenging parts of your life right now.

I don't say that to sway you from the decision to terminate if that's what you want and an abortion is something you can access. I respect and support whatever choice with this pregnancy you feel is the best one for you, is what you want, and is doable for you, and that certainly includes abortion. Instead, I'm putting adoption out there as a second possible choice for you with this pregnancy where you would not have to parent another child, and which would probably be within reach for you if it turns out an abortion is not.

Adoption is something you could talk to any of the resources I listed for you to contact above, at any time if you wanted or needed to consider it. Any of those places could connect you to the right people to look into or pursue that choice.

Hopefully, I don't need to say this, but I'm going to, just in case: I know in situations like this a person can feel incredibly desperate and scared. So much so that sometimes people will try and do things to themselves, or through sketchy avenues, to terminate a pregnancy outside safe, legal and medical abortion providers and services. In the event you're thinking about that or at any time find yourself thinking about that, please rule those ideas out, even if the alternatives seem more scary. Doing yourself real potential harm just isn't a good answer, and not just because the son you have needs you, but because your life and health matters: you're important. If nothing else, hurting yourself -- and DIY abortion attempts can really do big harm, as well as typically not even terminating pregnancies in the first place -- can only add more challenges for you in your already challenging life. They can even end your life before you get to a time when things are way less rough and hard than they are now, which I'd like to see you get to, and I'm sure you'd like to get to yourself most of all.

Lastly, know that either with or after an abortion, you can obtain a highly effective method of contraception, potentially one even paid for through public health services if you do not have private insurance that covers birth control. You can get an IUD inserted after an abortion, for example, or can obtain methods at an abortion clinic like the birth control pill, ring or implant. You likely can also ask for, and get, a packet or two of emergency contraception to keep on hand should any other method you use ever fail or seem like it may have failed. And you can access contraception without parental permission or notification.

That way, when you leave the procedure, you also get to leave knowing that you have a lot of power to prevent struggling through this kind of situation ever again, and a lot more power to only become pregnant again if and when that's something you want. I think having that ability would obviously be a great thing for you on the whole since another pregnancy clearly isn't something you want anytime soon, if at all; I also think it'd give you a feeling of security, and some extra relief from worry, I know you'd benefit from with everything you already have on your plate.

With any of this, I'd be more than happy to talk with you more if you wanted at any time via our message boards or our live chat service. You can even email me to schedule a time to do that if you'd like. If you want to get more information from me now before you even make calls, we can do that, or we can be an extra resource for you throughout any of this process -- whatever winds up going on, and whatever you choose -- as you like, be it this week or months from now.

I'm going to leave you with a few more links, on our site and elsewhere, I think might be helpful for you. Again, please don't hesitate to ask for more help or to talk if you need it, and I can't say strongly enough how very much I am wishing for the very, very best for you and your son.

written 01 Apr 2013 . updated 13 Jan 2014

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