Who's Making Grants to Train the Next Generation of Abortion Doctors?

Becoming a doctor that provides abortions doesn't sound so appealing these days, given that clinics are sometimes targeted by violence and that a web of laws have been passed in many states to constrict or complicate the right to an abortion. 

But if young doctors are diverted away from this path, a shortage of trained providers will itself become an obstacle to safe and accessible abortions. And, in fact, the number of such providers has been steadily declining in recent years. A lack of training opportunities, along with stigma, are key reasons for this decline. 

That's where Medical Students for Choice comes in. Headquartered in Philadelphia, the nonprofit trains students in medical school to practice reproductive healthcare and perform abortions. The MSFC has over 200 chapters on campuses and at residency programs in 15 countries, the bulk of which are in the United States. To date, the MSFC has educated more than 10,000 people on performing abortions, and advocates for the inclusion of reproductive health care as a standard part of medical education and residency training. 

The organization runs on a small budget, spending just over $1 million in 2013. Most of that money$864,500—came from the foundations, and much of the rest from individual donors. 

It goes without saying that this is one of the edgier issues a funder could engage. So who exactly is supporting Medical Students for Choice? 

Well, as you might imagine, the Hewlett Foundation is a key backer, providing nearly a quarter of the group's operating budget in recent years. Hewlett consistently puts its money on the frontlines of the abortion fight, so it's not surprising that it would understand the importance of replenishing the ranks of abortion providers. 

The Susan Thompson Buffett Foundation has also been a major funder—again, just as you'd expect, given that foundation's central role in defending reproductive rights. 

Other funders, at much lower levels, have included the Libra Foundation, the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, CREDO, the Ettinger Foundation, and the Scherman Foundation. Another notable funder is the Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund, which has upped its annual giving to Medical Students for Choice in recent years. 

The Goldman Fund is a good foundation to watch closely right now. The fund has greatly expanded since the 2010 death of Douglas' father, Richard Goldman, heir to the Levi Strauss fortune, and a famed philanthropist in his own right. After Richard's passing, the foundation he helmed was dissolved and its assets divided among the foundations owned by his three children. At over $239.7 million, the Goldman Fund's assets are more than six times greater than they were in 2010. And with $12 million in grants awarded last year alone, the Lisa and Douglas Goldman Fund is proving itself a growing force in American philanthropy.

The Goldman Fund has a few key priority areas, including the general well-being of its native San Francisco, education, Jewish culture, the environment, and reproductive rights. In Northern California and at the national level, Goldman makes grants to organizations expanding abortion access and protecting clinic staff and patients from harassment and physical violence perpetuated by anti-abortion extremists.

We recently wrote about Goldman's grants to reduce violence against abortion providers, clinic staff, and clinic patients. Goldman's also given money to Planned Parenthood, Choice USA, and the National Network of Abortion Funds. 

Clearly, this is another funder that isn't afraid of a fight, and among the kind of friends that Medical Students for Choice are looking for.