Some couples use marriage registries to raise money for abortion rights

When Jen McCartney and Jay Balanga completed a registry for their wedding on Oct. 29, the typical items — plates, towels, tablecloths — included a less traditional request: donations to the National Network of Abortion Funds.

McCartney, 32, a comedy writer, and Balanga, 33, a graduate student at Pardee RAND Graduate School, said they were raising money for abortion access as part of their wedding was a way to honor their mother, Karen Blumenthal, a journalist and author of Jane Against the World: Roe v. Wade and the Fight for Reproductive Rights,” who died in 2020.

But the Los Angeles-based couple was also motivated to solicit the donations, which they felt was a more pressing concern than furnishing their home as newlyweds: protecting access to cancellation, a constitutional right that was abolished by the Supreme Court’s June decision in Dobbs v. Jackson, which overruled Roe v. Wade. Her register, created using wedding planning website Zola, has already raised more than $750 for the National Network of Abortion Funds from nine people.

“It’s nice of us to say that getting a nice bowl is very important,” McCartney said, “and it’s just as important for us to be able to take that money and use it to help people get access to it.” reproductive health care.”

Charity registers have become a popular way for married couples to highlight their shared values, said Amy Shack Egan, founder and CEO of Modern Rebel, a Brooklyn-based wedding planning company. And as the abortion debate has moved to the forefront of politics, requests for donations to organizations supporting access to reproductive rights have risen.

Emily Forrest, Zola’s communications director, said there had been 858 registries asking for donations to help abortion rights created on the site in 2022, compared to 201 in 2021. This year, such registers have raised more than $100,000 in donations — $70,000 of which has been raised since early May, when Politico the leaked draft of the Dobbs Decision published – added Forrest. who found that registrations on Zola raised approximately $24,000 for abortion advocacy groups in 2021.

Wedding planning website The Knot had 137 registers requesting donations in support of reproductive rights created for weddings between May 2022 and May 2023, compared to 61 created for weddings between May 2021 and May 2021 May 2022, said Melissa Bach, the senior communications director for Knot Worldwide. Registrations for marriages occurring between May 2022 and May 2023 raised $44,000 for abortion rights organizations, compared to $18,000 raised from registrations for marriages occurring between May 2021 and May 2022, she added.

Both websites had fewer registers requesting funds for anti-abortion organizations. Three such registers have been created on Zola since January 2021, Forrest said, noting they have raised $50 in total. And on the knot, Bach said four such registers were created for weddings taking place between May 2021 and May 2023. Those registries have raised $70 for anti-abortion groups, she added.

Neither Zola nor The Knot donate funds raised by registrars directly to organizations; The money is deposited into a bank account provided by a couple who have to donate it themselves.

Mary Ziegler, a law professor and historian at the University of California, Davis, who has written five books on abortion in the United States, said reproductive rights groups have long held a fundraising advantage over anti-abortion organizations, in part because the former do so tend to be more recognizable. “There hasn’t really been the equivalent of a Planned Parenthood on the pro-life side,” Ziegler said, adding that most Americans support legalizing abortion.

In her opinion, Wedding Registry’s raising money for abortion rights groups is “the kind of entity that would favor the pro-choice movement” because it’s “historically had a larger support base of people who haven’t been as intense.” opponents of abortion. Donating through a registry is “not the kind of thing where you have to spend all day outside of a clinic helping people enter or stopping them from entering — it’s something that’s a pretty light workload,” he said Ziegler, “And that’s where the fact that you have these majorities helps you.”

Forrest, the Zola spokesman, said the National Network of Abortion Funds was the second most popular reproductive rights organization to be featured in the website’s registries this year, after Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood was also the most popular cancellation Advocacy group listed on the node’s registers, according to Bach, their spokesman.

Adaline Lining and Michael Schlegelmilch, who were civil partners in July 2020, named the National Network of Abortion Funds as one of several organizations that guests at a July wedding reception could donate to instead of giving them a gift.

The couple, who live in Somerville, Massachusetts, originally planned to solicit donations for Labor Notes, a union-supporting group, and the Massachusetts Bail Fund. But Schlegelmilch, 35, a high school English teacher, and Lining, 31, a sixth-grade social studies teacher, opted to add abortion advocacy to their Zola registry as well after the Supreme Court issued its Dobbs decision.

“Growing up, abortion was openly discussed in my family as a choice and a cause to support and do,” Lining said.

Two of their guests collectively donated $125 to the National Network of Abortion Funds, while Labor Notes received $125 from four guests, and the Massachusetts Bail Fund received $475 from four guests.

The National Network of Abortion Funds distributes grants to more than 90 local organizations across the country that support a range of needs abortion accessincluding payment for the procedure, transport or accommodation.

The executive director, Debasri Ghosh, said she was not aware of couples asking in their wedding registers for donations to reproductive rights groups. But these requests did not surprise her.

“We see funding for abortion as an act of love, an act of compassion, an act of community caring,” Ghosh said, “so it doesn’t surprise me that people are choosing to honor their marriages by providing access to… support abortions.”

Some couples who have asked for donations on their registers say getting their guests to talk about access to abortion is as big — or even more important — as raising money.

Rather than fundraising for the National Network of Abortion Funds through her Zola registry, Rachel Altmaier and Angelo Lecce, who married Oct. 1, included a link to the organization’s website.

By sending their guests directly to the group, Altmaier, 32, an engineer, and Lecce, 30, a business systems analyst, were unable to track whether or how much people had donated. But for the couple, who live in Silver Spring, Maryland, raising awareness for the cause through their wedding was just as important.

“We don’t need to know if they donated or not,” Lecce said. “If that allows you to reflect without judgement, I think that’s good.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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