Women’s Health & Education Fund: To ensure all Rhode Islanders have access to safe abortions and contraceptive care despite the cost

Illustration by Olivia Lunger.

The morning of June 24, 2022, I was flossing my teeth at a La Quinta outside DC. I had traveled to Philly to take part in an art show and wanted to get the most out of the trek, so I spent a few days enjoying the Laurie Anderson exhibit at the Hirshhorn. That morning, I had the TV on. From the speakers came the news: In Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the US Supreme Court has overturned Roe v Wade. Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of SBA Pro-Life America, was being interviewed. “This is just the beginning,” she said. “We’ve been waiting to open the door for 50 years. Now that the door is open, we go to every state and the Congress and the territories and make sure that we’re doing all we can —” I shut off the TV and drove to the city.

Crowds gathered outside the Supreme Court. It was hot, hazy, summer, sweaty upper lips, lots of pit stains, and emptied water bottles. People screamed through megaphones, there were protest signs and protest banners. Anti-choice supporters kept to the south side, pro-choice kept to the north. I entered on the south side just as AOC walked by with security. People gathered around her. Someone shouted, “Murderer!” Another asked her, “Will you marry me?” She kept on walking. Head up, chin up, placid smile across her face.

I walked through the anti-choice crowd. They sang, they smiled, they jumped up and down screaming about their victory. An overheard conversation: “Why didn’t they do this before?” “They tried to back in the ’70s. But now they’ve done it. Now we’re safe.” A sign: Safe abortion is a lie!

On the pro-choice side there was more screaming, screams of injustice, screams of anger, defiance, rallying calls. A woman handed me a green bandana. More signs: NO FORCED PREGNANCIES. WOMEN ARE NOT INCUBATORS. T-shirt slogans: “Men for abortion rights” and “Catholics for abortion.” The courthouse was barricaded, sealed off by two levels of fences — one hip-high, the other towered over us. A voice from a megaphone: We have power! We have power, too! People asked, “What can we do?”

“People really want to help patients directly and the best way to help patients directly is to provide funding,” says Danna Freedman-Shara, board member of the Women’s Health & Education Fund (WHEF). We meet over Zoom; she and fellow board member Jamie McIntyre tell me about WHEF, an all-volunteer organization that secures funding to subsidize the cost of abortion and contraceptive care for any Rhode Islander in need. “I encourage people to put themselves in the shoes of the patient… when I think about what I would want if I was pregnant, not feeling well, bleeding, scared, it’s not to go stay in some stranger’s home, no matter how nice or well-intentioned they are, what I would want is a hotel that feels safe and secure, a secure ride, and ways to pay for my care.”

Following the May 2022 leak of the majority opinion overturning Roe, WHEF saw a spike in funding and donations. The pro-choice base was energized and viral social media moments introduced many folks to the existence of abortion funds.

“There was a lot of energy about how people could help and it took them a bit to recognize that abortion funds are already situated and doing this work,” says Freedman-Shara.

Although WHEF receives funding through grant opportunities organized by the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF), as well as a foundation grant, the majority of their funding comes from individual contributions — small gifts averaging around $100. Depending on the type of health care a patient needs, a safe abortion can range from hundreds of dollars to tens of thousands of dollars. A significant driver of cost is when a patient has to travel out-of-state for care, which has as much to do with gestational limits as it does with accessibility.

“Rhode Islanders may go to a Planned Parenthood of lower Massachusetts because they can’t get an appointment soon enough here, and if they wait [too] long they’ll be pushed to a later gestational age and their procedure will cost more money,” says McIntyre. “It’s not just being later in their term, it’s about we [RI] have one or two in-person clinics, so it’s either telemedicine, which we would do a pledge for, or it’s going to MA or CT where they can get an appointment sooner at a lower gestational age so they’re not forced to have a different procedure.”

One way to support WHEF’s work is to host a house party to raise awareness of reproductive health care issues in RI. House parties create space for conversation, to ask questions, and express curiosity. They’re also opportunities to fundraise and address logical fallacies such as conflating adoption as an alternative to pregnancy rather than what it is – an alternative to parenting; and equating legality with access to health care. For example, in May 2023, Gov. McKee signed the Equality in Abortion Coverage Act (EACA) into law, which expanded abortion coverage to Medicaid and state health insurance plans — an obvious victory for health care. However, it didn’t mandate the construction of new clinics to meet the demand of its citizens.

“[People] conflate legality with accessibility, [and those are] very different things… It’s wonderful that the EACA passed — we are so grateful! — but patients still need access to providers and we still have such a small number of abortion providers in the state.”

WHEF works in the community to educate folks about access to reproductive health care. In April they’ll host their largest fundraising event, which includes a 1:1 match by the NNAF, and later on, they’ll host a community workshop discussing abortion stigma. They are also in the process of rebranding and renaming.

“Nobody is afraid to say pap smear, that is the language where abortion should be,” says McIntyre. “That is a priority for us as well as recognizing the word ‘women.’ That’s another stigma, that only women have abortions and that’s not the case. We want to make sure we’re not contributing to abortion stigma by being hush-hush with our name, as well as saying: We are here to support all people who can get pregnant and choose not to be.”

WHEF’s Annual Fund-A-Thon takes place on April 28 from 3 – 6pm at Meadowbrook Lanes in Warwick. To learn more, visit

If you want or need an abortion or contraceptive care and are unable to afford the cost, review the three steps at

Visit to volunteer, donate, or learn more about WHEF.