A Pro-Choice Heroine August 24, 2010

A Pro-Choice Heroine


That’s how many abortions Anne Nicol Gaylor has funded via her Women’s Medical Fund non-profit group.

(Gaylor may be better known for co-founding the Freedom From Religion Foundation in 1976 — her daughter is now one of its co-presidents.)

An article in the Wisconsin State Journal profiles her work and her legacy:

The fund’s sole purpose is to pay for abortions. Last year, it paid out $162,202, about 75 percent of which came from individual donors, the rest from foundations.

There is no office and no paid staff. Gaylor, whose title is administrator, takes all of the calls — some 800 a year — at her dining room table on her home phone, the same one her four children and two granddaughters reach her on. There is no answering machine.

“It would burden anyone else to deal with all those calls,” said her husband, Paul Gaylor, 84, a former vice president for a building maintenance company. “But she listens to every woman and cares for every single one of them.”

Gaylor said her motivation came from a doctor who told her about a girl who was raped by her father and had to drop out of high school to raise the child. “Those kind of stories are so numerous and so tragic,” Gaylor said.

On the phone with strangers, Gaylor is gentle but pointed in her questioning.

“The guy who got you pregnant, is he helping you pay?” she asked a 19-year-old woman from Sheboygan with two children and a third on the way.

“What will you do next time so this doesn’t happen again?” she asked a 25-year-old woman from Madison.

I’ve read a lot of stories about people who have fought their whole lives so that women could have the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion… but I can’t believe this story eluded me for so long. Gaylor is someone who refuses to only talk about the issues. She’s taking action and putting herself at risk in the process. That’s awe-inspiring to me.

I’ve never been in a situation myself where abortion has ever had to be considered… but I know people who have. The decision is hard no matter which way you go. And not all atheists are pro-choice, but I would hope all of us would agree that money shouldn’t be the deciding factor in a woman’s decision.

It looks like the group doesn’t take online donations, but you can still give to them via check.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Aegis

    It’s compelling to see a woman showing just how reasonable the rest of the world should be. I love stories like this.

    You might say I’m a heroine addict.

    Now I’d like to apologise for that…

  • Sarah TX

    Federally-funded insurance programs are generally prohibited from covering abortions (which are the most common medical procedure in the US!) That means that the women who most need assistance can’t get any. Every week that a woman has to wait while raising money for her abortion increases the cost and the risk factor.

    There is probably an Abortion Fund for your state, or y’all can donate straight to your local Planned Parenthood.

  • Alt+3

    Wow! This lady has got quite a bit of courage. I don’t know if I’d have the testicular fortitude to run a funding program for womens rights out of my house. However, if we always bow down to the fear of reactionary loons then we’ll never get anywhere.

    I applaud this woman for the courage to support womens rights and the hard work she obviously puts into it.

  • blueridgelady

    Bravo, Ms. Gaylor!

    Thank you for fighting on the side of reproductive justice, women, and children everywhere.

  • Sue

    It’s never occurred to me before that money might be a major factor in whether or not someone has an abortion. (In the western world, anyway.) The majority of abortions in Britain are done by the NHS. The only medical procedure I’ve ever had to contemplate paying for is sterilisation.

    What a fantastic lady. I only wish what she’s doing wasn’t needed.

  • blueridgelady


    Yeah, unfortunately it’s one of the major factors. For poor women, the travel (if they have a car) and taking off of work are not realistic if they wish to also stay pay rent. That is in ADDITION to if they already have children who need to eat, and someone to care for that child while they go to the clinic and have some sort of after-care.
    That is on top of anti-choice efforts to make it as hellish as possible (screaming at and becoming physically threatening to women at the clinics), and fewer and fewer facilities providing abortions.

    It may be legal, but without access, that fact is almost secondary. If you are poor and have to drive to one of two facilities in your entire state, one can see how problematic it can be.

  • ButchKitties

    For poor women, the travel (if they have a car) and taking off of work are not realistic if they wish to also stay pay rent. That is in ADDITION to if they already have children who need to eat, and someone to care for that child while they go to the clinic and have some sort of after-care.

    QFT. To make matters worse, many states have a mandatory script w/ waiting period. In my home state, anyone wanting an abortion has to have a state-mandated script read to them by a doctor or nurse practitioner at least 18 hours before the procedure. This adds an additional burden of needing to arrange for travel/child care/etc not once, but twice. This burden can be huge given the dearth of clinics.

    The script is to the general effect that the a pregnant woman’s options are abortion, adoption, and becoming a parent. It also warns that abortion can result in death, but fails to mention that pregnancy and child birth can also cause death. It’s pretty obvious that the script is intended to scare women out of abortion. If they were really worried about making sure the woman is informed, they’d tell her the complete truth… that pregnancy and child birth are statistically more likely to kill her than an abortion.

  • muggle

    Anne has long been a heroine of mine. I admired her founding (along with her daughter) FFRF. I didn’t find out she also did this until I’d been a member for years. We need more like her in this world.

  • Abortion may be (barely) legal in the U.S., but without access, legality is irrelevant. Middle and upper class women in the U.S. will always be able to get abortions, even if it becomes illegal. They have the capacity to leave the country. It is ALWAYS poor women that suffer because of restrictions, and funding is a huge barrier. If a woman can’t afford the cost of an abortion, what makes anybody think they can afford a child?

    I really have no words to describe how awesome she is. She gives hope to women. Thanks for profiling her.

  • What a wonderful thing. Thanks to busybody anti-choicers, there are so many roadblocks keeping abortion out of the hands of women who have limited financial means. When I get some spare money I’m definitely making a donation!

  • What does abortion have to do with atheism?

  • Ultimate Delivery

    Yeah seriously, that reminds me what does acceptance of evolution have to do with atheism either?!

  • chris

    I think it’s more likely to find an atheist who believes that people should pay for their abortions than a pro life atheist…

  • grant

    First off any one who supports abortion should first see what actually happens i have always been pro-life and still am but its wasnt until watched one really decicded i was in the right place abortion is almost torturous. I have never seen a horro movie quite like that video over abortion anyone who says they can justify it should see a real one first and then tell whether thats a baby or not cause it is life and you cant be sure until you see it destroyed because its horrible just saying…

  • Sarah

    I’ve had an abortion and I’ve seen the procedure done.
    It’s really not even approaching a “horror movie”. What you may have seen was an Intact dilation and extraction. These generally only occur in cases when the woman and the baby are both in danger of losing their life, but they’re often used by “prolife” activists to describe ALL abortions. They actually account for less than .2% of all abortions. Most women abort in the first trimester, commonly around 7 weeks, at which point it is no more than a clump of cells incapable of thinking or feeling anything.

    I am prochoice, which means that I am prolife- the lives of thinking, feeling woman. (You know, that other half of the population.)

  • Nik


    I have had an abortion, and I have worked in an abortion clinic (two clinics, in fact, in two different states), and I have held the hands of many women while they were having abortions. The procedure is in no way even close to resembling a horror movie. I’ve seen other surgeries (and had other surgeries) that were a LOT more bloody and painful.

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