An abortion trade group on Thursday announced the launch of a prepaid gas card pilot program for women who need to travel greater distances to get the procedure as more states continue to impose highly restrictive laws.
The Very Rev. Katherine Ragsdale, an Episcopal priest who serves as the interim president and CEO of the National Abortion Federation (NAF), touted the program. “In addition to helping patients cover the cost of their procedure, we also provide case management support and help covering travel-related expenses,” she said in a news release. “We have already seen an increase in distances patients have had to travel to obtain the abortion care they need and expect this trend only to get worse.”
The cards are to be distributed through the NAF's hotline for the Dr. Tiller Patient Assistance Fund.
The three-month program is expected to start with a small number of NAF-member abortion providers in states where the majority of patients have to drive to a clinic. Other factors being considered include states imposing mandated waiting periods, and laws requiring women to make multiple visits to clinics before having abortions.
In a statement to Fox News, Ragsdale said the response to the program has been "overwhelmingly positive."
"People believe that everyone should have the freedom to make decisions about their families and their reproductive health without government-mandated, medically unnecessary barriers," she said.
The organization aims to expand the program nationwide.
"Travel-related assistance is a service that shouldn’t have to be provided," Ragsdale said. "Unfortunately, due to the anti-abortion bans and medically-unnecessary anti-abortion restrictions, politicians have made it impossible for many to obtain the care they need. We’re here to do something about it.”
Several states -- among them Arkansas, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi and Ohio -- have passed bills this year banning abortions around six weeks into pregnancy.
Most have faced legal challenges. On Monday, lawmakers in Tennessee said they are considering a proposal to restrict abortions once pregnancy is detected.