Who Says Atheists Don’t Start Charities?

Women’s Medical Fund Celebrates 30th Anniversary, Has Helped 12,000 Women

This summer marks the 30th year of volunteerism for Freedom From Religion Foundation president Anne Nicol Gaylor, as director of an abortion rights charity.

The Madison. Wis.-based Women’s Medical Fund, celebrating its 30th anniversary, is believed to be the oldest continuously-operating fund of its kind in the country. More than 12,000 Wisconsin women, ranging in age from 10 to 51, have received financial assistance from the volunteer charity, enabling them to obtain a safe and legal abortion.

In the late spring of 1972, UW Chemistry Prof. Robert West, social worker Peg West (now deceased), and feminist activist Anne Nicol Gaylor, decided to do something about the unmet need of assisting women to pay for abortions.

The Women’s Medical Fund grew out of the Zero Population Growth Referral Service which Gaylor had started in Wisconsin, to refer women to physicians who would provide abortion, birth control and sterilization services.

Our charity helps the poorest of the poor, women who already have children by their late teens or early twenties, the majority single mothers, nearly half of whom are high school drop-outs (because of pregnancies),” reports Gaylor, who has been the volunteer, hands-on administrator since the Fund began.

Last year the Fund helped 778 women obtain abortion services, totaling $174,000 in aid. The Fund rarely pays for the entire procedure but asks recipients to come up with some of the money.

While most of the women helped last year came from Wisconsin’s two largest cities, Madison and Milwaukee, they represented 143 Wisconsin towns and cities.

“Like Ivory soap, the fund is pure,” Gaylor says.

Of donations in 2001, 99.4% was paid to assist impoverished pregnant women to exercise their constitutional right to have abortions. The only outside expenses are the annual audit by the CPA, required in Wisconsin, bank charges and fees to state agencies.

“We wish to thank our list of donors who have been the mainstay of the Fund, as well as the Evjue Foundation for its compassionate assistance,” Gaylor said.

In addition, volunteer Nora Cusack, the Fund treasurer, has in recent years successfully applied for grants from other sources. The NOW Pledge-a-Picket program, in which donors pledge money for every antiabortion picket who shows up at Wisconsin’s abortion clinics, is another regular source of contributions. Fund Board member Kay Elwers, who stalwartly holds a pro-choice sign four days a week in front of the Madison clinic, keeps a tally on Madison pickets. Other (freethinking) volunteers assist in office work.

“To give you an example of need, this summer we have helped an 18-year-old who has given birth to four children, as well as a 26-year-old woman with seven children. A teenager called us for assistance, reporting that when she told the man who impregnated her, he yelled, ‘How did that happen?’ and kicked her in the abdomen, hitting her repeatedly. Many of the women we help are not only abandoned by their impregnators, but have good reason to be afraid of them.”

“Unwanted pregnancies by women without means is truly a public problem. Our charity necessarily must limit the amount of help to any one person, since we help women from all over the state,” notes Gaylor.

“It is time for the state of Wisconsin to join the ranks of enlightened and caring states that cover funding of abortions for women on public assistance.

“It makes no fiscal sense to force unwilling women to give birth to unwanted children they cannot support. Although the state of Wisconsin is supposed to cover funding of abortions for ill women and victims of rape and incest, in actuality only a handful of cases a year are approved.

“We have even seen the state of Wisconsin deny abortion coverage for women with AIDS, TB, and severe physical handicaps where pregnancy is not medically advised.

“In 30 years, attitudes toward the rights of poor women in this state have changedÑfor the worse,” Gaylor said

Tax-exempt, charitable contributions may be sent to:

Women’s Medical Fund
PO Box 248
Madison WI 53701

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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