As the legal right to abortion and gender-affirming care is challenged across the United States, a nonprofit has been stepping up to help those who must travel to receive vital healthcare.
Elevated Access provides a network of private planes and volunteer pilots who transport women at no cost from states where abortion access is limited to places where the procedure is legal. They also provide services to those seeking gender-affirming care, which has been challenged in dozens of states in 2023 alone.
While “angel flights” for cancer patients, victims of natural disasters, and domestic violence have existed for decades, Elevated Access' website notes that "unfortunately, today there is a growing need for folks to access additional types of assistance."
"For those seeking health services, it can mean days of travel, time and wages lost from work, time away from families where they are the primary caregiver, and other significant financial investments," their mission statement reads. "We don’t like that we need to exist, but we know that we can help."
While legal challenges prevent many from receiving essential healthcare, many also face financial or scheduling barriers. Many low-income workers cannot afford to take time off of work to travel, and cannot afford the expenses that come with it. Many also lack proper identification, making it impossible to pass through large airports.
Elevated Access' network is made up of 350 volunteers, from pilots to ground staff, which "enable individuals to access essential healthcare through private and commercial aviation." In private aviation, ID verification is not necessary, meaning there is no ticketing, no TSA, and even the option to use a pseudonym. The company also prioritizes local airfields as opposed to large, international airports.
"Our network of volunteer pilots are matched with and provide transportation for passengers and resources to aid people in need of reproductive or gender-affirming care," the company explains. "We do this through careful coordination with organizational partners and logistical coordinators."
They add: "Whether it’s abortion or gender-affirming care, Elevated Access is here to ease the burden and provide transportation for folks to receive life-saving healthcare."