Since the SCOTUS ruling, getting an abortion has never been more inaccessible for most Americans. Here are some tips on how to help others seek access to—and to continue the fight for—a safe, legal abortion.
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Roe v. Wade has been overturned, and trigger laws in 13 states have already eradicated the rights of people with uteruses to exercise control over their own bodies. This radical ruling mandates more than “just” pregnant people needing resources to travel to neighboring states where abortion is still legal, as many states banning abortion seek to make getting one outside state lines illegal as well—and technology can track and police our actions in ways inconceivable prior to Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion in 1973). Though many networks and organizations have been planning this horrific moment for decades to support those who need safe haven and travel assistance to have an abortion, many who are pregnant, especially those most disenfranchised, aren’t aware or don’t have access to learn about how to connect with advocates, so some people in need will inevitably fall through the cracks.
Even those who would never personally choose to have an abortion are at risk: Having a miscarriage can be investigated as a crime. Further, many fear mortality rates in childbirth will skyrocket, as laws protecting the life of the mother in delivery are often so “vague and narrow” that medical practitioners may be too frightened to rely on them. In a nation where maternal mortality is already three times higher for Black women than their white counterparts, BIPOC, the poor, and trans and nonbinary pregnant people who have difficulty accessing equal healthcare in states that already failed to protect their rights prior to the fall of Roe will suffer the most. This devastating blow heralds in an age of criminalizing pregnancy in wide-scale, unprecedented ways.
While progressives are most vocal about fear and outrage following the SCOTUS ruling, in reality, nearly 40% of conservative Republican women and 60% of moderate Republican women also favor legalized abortion. Christians, the most stridently visible anti-choice proponents, do not have fewer abortions; rather, 7 out of 10 abortion seekers in a landmark 2015 study identified as Christian. Choice is a matter of human rights, privacy, protection from legal prosecution in the midst of the personal tragedy of miscarriage, racial and class equity, and crosses all religions, with 60% of the nation favoring the upholding of Roe v. Wade.
It comes as no coincidence that this massive disregard of public opinion from SCOTUS comes at a time when many Americans have been weary, fearful, burnt out, and losing faith in activism and social action to yield results since at least 2016.
The struggle to stay connected to the world is real. How can we make decisions about where to spend our energies? How do we keep ourselves connected if our horror has progressed to rage and then to increasingly numb despair? And how do we prevent reinventing the wheel in a moment of zeal, only to splinter activism efforts into the hands of those who may not have the resources, knowledge, or long-term commitment to follow through when the going gets tough?
Sarah Einstein, a longtime reproductive-justice activist based in West Virginia, advises, “Taking concrete action against injustice can be deeply restorative. But I encourage people to get involved with existing efforts to mitigate the harm they find most overwhelming.” Einstein’s words echo the sentiments of many pro-choice organizers who have been in the trenches for decades, and who warn well-intentioned people not to do things like announce themselves as “safe havens” on social media and invite strangers seeking abortions to come to their homes. Why? Because many choice advocates wouldn’t know what to do if law enforcement tracked the pregnant person to them, for example. Also, those seeking abortions might not be able to distinguish genuine offers from scams and may be set up and betrayed. Taking the time to educate yourself about existing organizations is strongly suggested and far more helpful. Here are six tips for taking action:
- Don’t hoard abortion pills like we did bleach wipes during the early days of the quarantine in 2020, with some vague belief that you can personally “help others” with your stash. Rather, connect with a local abortion advocacy group, and see how you can help. Perhaps you can escort women to a place where they can receive reproductive healthcare or train to host out-of-state guests in your home. When seeking ways to help, remember there is no shame in not being an expert; educate yourself without assuming others should do the heavy lifting in your desire to do good. A great place to start researching various abortion funds and activist groups is in this recent issue of The Cut.
- While giving money might feel “transactional and unsatisfying,” in the words of writer Zoe Zolbrod, she says “many kinds of aid and activism require money and small organizations seldom have enough funding. Monthly donations that continue after an outrage-blitz are often most helpful, and even a modest but dependable donation can go a long way.” For those who know money talks but feel frustrated that they don’t have the funds to talk loudly, why not start a fundraiser for the organization of your choice, or even organize a team to do so? Writers Against Racial Injustice did just that, raising $55K for the Equal Justice Initiative—far exceeding what the vast majority could ever conceive of donating solo. One outstanding and well-organized abortion fund that helps women in the deep south, Mississippi, and Alabama is The Yellowhammer Fund. Your money goes toward helping women without travel resources to get to states where they can still have a safe and legal abortion.
- Be mindful of the ways in which many human rights issues are interconnected, and never underestimate the power of local grassroots organizing. While much of what we see in the news focuses on global and local atrocities, there are ways to get involved that make a real difference in people’s lives closer to home. One example: COVID has escalated our unhoused population alarmingly, and many of the displaced are women, who lost 75% of the jobs sacrificed to the pandemic. Call your local shelter or food kitchen and ask if you can volunteer. Remember that not all volunteers necessarily cook and serve meals—some donate food, clothing, school supplies, toiletries, and other necessities. The unhoused also have poor access to medical care, including reproductive healthcare, which is a reminder that all human rights issues, even when they don’t appear directly linked, are related.
- Vote! Canvas. Phone bank. Volunteer at a polling place or for a local campaign. R.O. Kwon wrote an excellent piece on Field Team 6, documenting her journey back to optimism through action. Many organizations, such as Writers for Democratic Action, even offer the opportunity to throw in your lot with others who share your interests above and beyond the cause at hand. Especially consider putting your efforts into Black and brown communities, where most voter suppression takes place, or traveling to a nearby swing state where midterm elections are most precarious.
- Go to a protest—even if you believe protests “don’t work.” You’ll be surprised by how it renews your energy and hope. Sign that petition and call your senators. By all means, yes, retweet the smart tweets, too—but remember not to mistake posting in your own social media bubble for real “activism.”
- Black and brown women are disproportionately impacted by not just the fall of Roe, but all recent political, economic, and health calamities. If you are a white reader and haven’t done any anti-racist work yet, now is the time. Consider reading works like Linda Villarosa’s Under the Skin, about racial disparities and inequities in the US healthcare system. It’s worth mentioning that 94% of Black women—the largest percentage of any demographic—voted against Donald Trump. Pay attention to their writing, organizing, and ideas. Support their work and follow their lead.
We are, unfortunately, not “all” in this together. But poll after poll shows that most Americans support safe and legal abortions, same-sex marriage, and other basic human rights. Remember that the numbers on the ground—if not in SCOTUS—are increasingly on the correct side of history. Our task is to not allow the powerful few to irrevocably derail the lives of the many. Stay strong: We have fought this battle before and won it for nearly half a century. We can—and must—do it again.
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