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Gen Z activist mocked by Gaetz raises $1M for abortion access in 72 hours

“When I originally put out this fundraiser, I was hoping we would raise a few thousand dollars,” Olivia Julianna, shown here in late June, said in a statement. “This movement … has truly left me in awe.” (Callaghan O’Hare for The Washington Post)
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Olivia Julianna, the 19-year-old reproductive rights activist who this week turned an insult from Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) into a fundraiser, has raised more than $1.3 million for women seeking abortions — after taking just 72 hours to hit the $1 million mark.

The donations inspired by Olivia Julianna, a political strategist for the nonprofit Gen Z for Change, happily surprised abortion rights advocates. The $1.3 million raised by the group by early Friday is more than 10 percent of what the National Network of Abortion Funds — which includes about 90 abortion funds in the United States and Mexico — distributed in an entire year. It is also enough to fund thousands of abortions, which cost on average $550 per service.

This means “that a bunch of people who would simply have not gotten their abortions now will,” said Liza Fuentes, a senior research scientist at the Guttmacher Institute in New York who has studied reproductive health care for 16 years.

Olivia Julianna, who uses only her first and middle names due to privacy concerns, launched the fundraiser after an online exchange with Gaetz. When she criticized Gaetz for calling abortion rights activists “disgusting” and overweight at a political rally last week, the congressman shot back, posting her photo on Twitter next to a link to a news story that mentioned his insults.

Gaetz’s tweet has been shared hundreds of times and has triggered online attacks against Olivia Julianna. When reached for comment about his tweet and the ensuing fundraiser, a spokesman for Gaetz said only that no amount of solicitation would change the United States’ new status as a “pro-life nation” after Roe v. Wade was overturned last month.

Meanwhile, the donations are continuing to roll in, and the hashtag “#ThanksMattGaetz” was trending on Twitter.

“When I originally put out this fundraiser, I was hoping we would raise a few thousand dollars,” Olivia Julianna said in a statement. “This movement … has truly left me in awe.”

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Between July 2019 and June 2020, the National Network of Abortion Funds disbursed $9.4 million to women in need of financial aid for the procedure. The group also helped more than 80,000 people get otherwise financially burdensome procedures, it said. But “that’s only 35% of the 229,510 calls our network received that year,” the group said on its website.

“There is a huge unmet need,” said Fuentes, the reproductive health-care expert. The average $550 abortion fee does not include the costs of travel, child care nor a potential overnight stay at a hotel, she said.

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