Donations to abortion groups poured in after Roe v. Wade overturned. Here’s what it means

WASHINGTON – There were whispers in the spring that the future of Roe v. Wade was in jeopardy. Weeks later, a draft of the forthcoming Dobbs decision was leaked.

By June, the Supreme Court had overturned the ruling that had established a constitutional right to abortion since 1973.

Donations began to pour into the coffers of abortion rights organizations. And for some anti-abortion nonprofits too. 

“We were raising more than we had the previous year," said Nikki Madsen, executive director of Abortion Care Network, a national association for abortion clinics based in Washington D.C. “But a significant portion has come in since the leak.”

The Abortion Care Network is just one organization that is part of a larger trend of increasing donations following the Supreme Court’s ruling. While both anti-abortion rights and abortion rights groups saw an uptick in donations, the latter saw the bulk of donations, according to an analysis by Open Secrets and USA TODAY. 

The findings showed that overall contributions to top abortion rights organizations more than tripled. But contributions under $200 increased for both abortion rights and anti-abortion groups.

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In total, the top abortion rights organizations, including Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America, saw an increase in overall contributions jump from $630,000 to roughly $2.3 million in a three-month period ending in June.

For example, some of the groups to benefit from this increase include:

  • NARAL Pro-Choice America contributions went from $11,000 in April to $81,000 in June
  • Planned Parenthood went from $26,000 in April to $43,000 in May
  • Planned Parenthood Votes went from $545,000 in March to $2.3 million in April. But $2 million of that jump was from one big donor. Contributions rose to $2.1 million in June.

Donations certainly show a really strong degree of energy and activism on the part of those donors who are concerned about major changes in American life, said Eleanor Neff Powell, associate professor of political science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“This is a really unusual dynamic where you're having this big set of fired up voters on the left, as evidenced by these contributions,” Powell said. “It suggests that something not normal is happening in the election cycle.”

More:How Roe's fall is making Illinois an abortion haven in the South and Midwest

Increase in donations to Planned Parenthood, abortion groups 

Following the decision, a number of advocacy and political organizations began calling on voters to donate to their respective organizations. Alerts and one-click links to payment portals abounded.

“Abortion bans don't stop people from needing abortions," said Jethro Miller, chief development officer at Planned Parenthood Action Fund. "They know we have to fight back to protect our right to health care.”

Abortion-rights activists protest in front of the White House on July 09, 2022.

Madsen, of the Abortion Care network, said that the uptick in donations signals that Americans want to see access to abortion care and reproductive health continue in the United States. 

For their organization, donations have been a lifeline as they fight to keep abortion clinics open in states that have restrictive abortion laws.

As of July, Madsen said the organization raised $1.7 million – roughly triple the amount for total donations in 2021. 

She added that while some of the abortion clinics in states with restrictive laws may not be offering abortion services, they offer resources to the community such as miscarriage management and post-abortion care visits.

“Donating right now is a sign of the commitment of the United States to ensuring abortion access throughout the United States,” Madsen said. “It is critical. This is an acute moment where resources are really needed.”

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Anti-abortion groups also saw a small bump in donations.

In a combined total, overall contributions increased from around $34,000 in April to around $86,000 in June.

Here are the groups that saw the biggest jump in overall contributions:

  • National Right to Live Victory Fund went from $8,000 in April to $33,000 in June
  • National Pro-Life Alliance contributions rose from $16,000 in April to $32,000 in June
  • Susan B. Anthony List went from $10,000 in April to $21,000 in June
  • Women Speak Out PAC raised $1,000 in April to $31,000 in June

USA TODAY reached out to those top four anti-abortion organizations. 

Of these, Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, which also partners with Women Speak Out PAC, and National Pro-Life Alliance did not respond to USA TODAY's request for comment. National Right to Live declined to offer a comment.

Many of the contributions that both abortion rights and anti-abortion groups were driven by small donations, less than $200.

The groups that saw the biggest jump in small contributions include:

  • NARAL Pro-choice America PAC went from $203,000 in March to $343,000 in June
  • Pennsylvania Pro-life Federation PAC went from $18,000 in March to $43,000 in June
  • Planned Parenthood Action Fund grew from $10,000 in March to $41,000 in June
  • Susan B. Anthony List Inc. Candidate Fund went from $160,000 in March to $209,000 in June
  • National Pro-Life Alliance PAC grew from $24,000 in March to $175,000 in June
  • Planned Parenthood Votes went from $56,000 in March to $73,000 in June
  • National Right to Life Victory Fund went from $292,000 in March to $426,000 in June

Powell, of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said the engagement among small donation contributors shows potential for increased turnout. 

“It's really indicative of the sort of lives when support activism among voters who were really concerned about the Dobbs ruling and that has the potential to translate into sort of votes and unusual things played out in this midterm election cycle,” Powell said.

Abortion-rights protesters fill the Indiana Statehouse corridors outside legislative chambers as lawmakers vote to concur on a near-total abortion ban.

Democrats and Republicans raise big after Roe v. Wade decision

Advocacy organizations weren’t the only ones who tried to capitalize on the Supreme Court’s decision.

Within an hour after the Supreme Court issued its ruling, an email from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi hit the inbox of thousands of voters. 

“I need your immediate attention,” the email began. “Trump’s Supreme Court just ruled to rip reproductive rights away from every single woman in this country.”

The email went on to ask people to donate $15 to help Democrats “win these midterms and finally codify reproductive rights into law.”

More:Women report losing access to crucial arthritis medication, methotrexate, due to state abortion bans

Text messages and emails from Democrats and Republicans flooded the inboxes of Americans following the Supreme Court’s ruling. 

“ALL HANDS ON DECK!” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, sent in a text shortly after the Supreme Court’s ruling. “The Supreme Court Has Overturned Roe & Democrats Are Going Crazy.”

A week after the ruling, Democrats raised more than $80 million through ActBlue, their online fundraising platform. ActBlue took in over $20 million in the first 24 hours after the Supreme Court ruling according to the Associated Press.

WinRed declined to say how much they raised following the ruling. However, there have been concerns of stagnant small donor contributions to Republican fundraising organizations. 

According to the Washington Post, there were 1.26 million online contributions of $200 or less were made on WinRed in January. That number was at 1.21 million in June.

But Powell said another top indicator of how voters feel isn’t just contributions, but how voters are currently reacting to restrictive abortion laws.

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Earlier this month in Kansas, voters rejected a state constitutional amendment that would have declared that there is no right to an abortion in Kansas.

Powell noted that it’s unusual to see that sort of outcome and engagement in a referendum election.

“That's the clearest evidence that there is sort of actual enthusiasm on the ground,” she said. “That's a particularly interesting example because obviously not as if Kansas is a hotbed of liberal activity. In some of these pivotal swing states, we may see some similar dynamics play out.”