Bowling for Abortions

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A Rhode Island fund-raiser for abortion rights goes further than most other advocacy groups in expressing its support for the procedure, even asking participants to effectively sponsor individual abortions.

“Truthfully, I am not quite sure how to react to this as it is just so difficult for me to imagine somebody actually wanting to sponsor an abortion,” Barth Bracy, executive director of Rhode Island Right to Life, said in an email.

The fund-raiser, for the Women’s Health and Education Fund of Rhode Island, is a bowling event. The online flyer asks for specific contributions. The minimum — $50 — pays for two packs of contraceptive pills. Five times that amount buys ‘emergency’ contraceptives — also known as the morning-after pill.


This image is a screenshot of the web site for an abortion fund-raiser, hosted by the Women’s Health and Education Fund of Rhode Island.



But the fund-raiser also solicits money for abortions:  $600 for an abortion-inducing pill and $850 for a second-trimester abortion.

“If you truly understood that abortion kills an innocent human being, you could never name one of your fund-raiser’s ‘giving levels’ as ‘Second Trimester Abortion’,” said Tyler Rowley, president of Servants of Christ for Life.

As of mid-week, the fund-raiser scheduled for Sunday, April 30 has netted $5,242. The event, which is being held at Town Hall Lanes in Johnston, Rhode Island, has a goal of $25,000.

The Rhode Island organization hosting the fund-raiser is part of the National Network of Abortion Funds. The organization is leading bowl-a-thons for abortion in every state in what appears to be an annual event. So far, it’s about halfway towards its $1 million fund-raising goal.

The group has a mailing address in Boston. New Boston Post attempted to contact the national organization and its Rhode Island chapter seeking comment. Neither responded.

According to its mission statement, the National Network of Abortion Funds seeks to “build power” with the goal of eliminating “financial and logistical barriers to abortion access by centering people who have abortions and organizing at the intersections of racial, economic, and reproductive justice.”

The network has several other programs, according to its Web site and GuideStar profile.

One program, named We Testify, “seeks to build the power and leadership of abortion storytellers, particularly those of color, those from rural and conservative communities, those who are queer identified, those with varying abilities and citizenship statuses, and those who needed support when navigating barriers while accessing abortion care.”

The network also maintains a fund for abortions which is named after George Tiller, an abortion doctor who was killed by an anti-abortion man with a history of mental illness in 2009. From 2010 to 2015, the fund helped cover the cost of nearly 4,000 abortions, according to an internal report. Of those aided by the fund, 22 percent were 11 to 19 years old, above the national average for abortions in that age group. Half of those who received funds were African-American.

More than two-thirds of the abortions that were funded were in the second trimester — which is eight times the national norm, according to the report. The report quoted an outside study which notes that the network “prioritizes funding pledges for patients who are requesting funds for second trimester procedures.”

The Rhode Island fund-raiser is tied to several high-profile local politicians. The bowling alley’s longtime owner was former Democratic state representative Frank Ferri of Warwick, who was a leader in the battle for same-sex marriage legislation in the state. (He sold it in early 2015 to the alley’s then-general manager, Rich Fraielli.)

Although the abortion fund-raiser received some threats last year, bowling alley operators are not worried about alienating the business’s customer base, according to a manager, Paul Norato, who noted it has been an annual event that dates back to Ferri’s tenure as owner.

He said the group usually uses all 32 lanes for its event and that the business can’t afford to turn them away despite any personal feelings employees might have against abortions. “We’ve got a full house. We’re not going to refuse the business,” Norato said.

The fund-raiser also lists as sponsors Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza and U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, both Democrats.

Two organizations are sponsors of the Rhode Island bowling fund-raiser:  Planned Parenthood of Southern New England and The Midwives at LPG OB-GYN Associates. Both have offices in Providence.

As part of the national bowling fund-raising drive there is at least one local event in Massachusetts, sponsored by the Eastern Massachusetts Abortion Fund, which has a mailing address in Cambridge. The event is scheduled for Thursday, April 27. Unlike its Rhode Island counterpart it does not have a funding request for a second-trimester abortion — just a first trimester procedure. Also, instead of bowling, the group is holding what it says is its own version of a triathlon — pizza, fund-raising, and karaoke.

The event is called “Why We Tri.”


Stephen Beale can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @bealenews.