With the right to abortion no longer nationally protected in the United States, roughly half of US states are likely to ban the procedure outright. Below, six leaders from the reproductive rights movement share ways to support continued abortion access throughout the country.
The supreme court has issued a shattering blow to abortion rights that will have rippling effects felt in every corner of the United States. But help is available from a powerful network of more than 90 abortion funds who are ready to support abortion seekers.
For decades, local abortion funds have shown up to help relieve the economic burden for people seeking abortions. Funds assist their communities with navigating injustices like insurance bans on abortion care, low wages, a lack of paid time off and unaffordable childcare. As more people are forced to travel for their abortions, funds are coordinating travel, food, lodging and more. From July 2019 to June 2020, abortion funds were able to assist more than 80,000 people with over $11m in funding. That’s only a fraction of the requests received that year. More state abortion bans will worsen an already dire abortion funding crisis.
Donating to your local abortion fund ensures that a person seeking abortion in a state where it’s illegal can call someone who can help them plan and fund their trip. You’re making sure someone receives them at their destination, with compassion and open arms, with information and support, and gets them back home safe. Whether you’re in a restrictive state or state with fewer restrictions, you’re ensuring a person traveling has anchors of support for them throughout their expensive, exhausting trip. Everyone deserves to feel supported and safe during their abortion experience.
So it’s time for a deep investment in abortion funds, wherever you live. Funds need more support if they are to strengthen and sustain their power as this crisis escalates. A recurring donation to your local abortion fund is the best way to show you’re invested in abortion access for all.
We have always had to plan for our lives and futures. Any plan takes into account risks, possibilities and obstacles. When these change, our plans have to change.
Now it is time to change plans again. Instead of relying on easy access to abortion when we need one, we now have to take preventive measures. This means making sure we have abortion pills at home in the event of an unwanted pregnancy in the future.
Preventive medicine is common and acceptable in many circumstances – like when we travel and bring a supply of oral rehydration salts, antibiotics and anti-malaria tablets in case of sickness. Now, we must get abortion pills for future use, for ourselves or a friend who might need them. Abortion pills have a long shelf live and are safe and effective for years past their original expiration date when stored in a dry, cool space, away from light.
Many women know they might be pregnant already on the day they miss their period – and even if they are a few weeks late, they can safely use the abortion pills. The World Health Organization supports home use of the abortion pills up to 12 weeks of pregnancy. You can get abortion pills for future use from Women on Web and Aid Access.
The best response to a backlash against our rights is to retake control. We can do this through proper planning and by obtaining abortion pills for future use.
As clinic-based care becomes increasingly unavailable, more people will turn to self-managed abortion as a medically safe alternative that affords them dignity and agency over their lives. But self-managed abortion does not come without legal risk. Real and equitable abortion access in this country will never be possible until we end the criminalization of abortion and other pregnancy outcomes.
Over the past few decades, the protections of Roe v Wade have not stopped people from being criminalized for their pregnancy outcomes, from self-managed abortion – which is not a crime in 47 states – to pregnancy loss. Without Roe, abortion bans, restrictions and surveillance of our reproductive decisions are certain to increase and so will the risk of criminalization. This is especially true for communities who already experience the greatest risk of state violence and over-policing – Black and Indigenous people, other people of color, young people, immigrants, queer and trans people, disabled people and people living in poverty.
To combat criminalization, share accurate information and resources that help people to make the best decisions for themselves. Spread the word about the Repro Legal Helpline, a free, secure and confidential resource for anyone who needs legal information about self-managed abortion or youth access to clinical abortion. (People experiencing a miscarriage or abortion at home can also get free advice from the M+A hotline.) Make sure your loved ones know that there is no law that requires people to say that they took abortion pills in order to receive medical care.
We encourage anyone who believes they will be investigated for ending a pregnancy not to speak to police without a lawyer and to contact the helpline at 844-868-2812.
Donate to the Repro Legal Defense Fund, which provides bail support and legal fees for anyone arrested for self-managing their abortion. Now, more than ever, we must all fight against state oppression to ensure that everyone has the right and the resources they need to decide if, when, and how to have a family.
Elizabeth Ling is the senior helpline counsel at If/When/How, where she manages the Repro Legal Helpline, assisting people in understanding the laws around a variety of reproductive experiences
As a member of a growing cadre of trained abortion doulas, I realize that our services are about to be more essential than ever. Despite the supreme court ruling, I and other doulas around the world will continue to help folks access the healthcare they deserve.
An abortion doula is a support person who assists folks during their abortion procedures. We provide information on what the patient or client can expect before, during, and after their procedure. We help navigate the abortion process in a culturally comprehensive, gender-affirming way, whether they are receiving medication or surgical abortion procedures. We can be present in-person or virtually. We can provide emotional support and lodging, and can sometimes assist with funding.
We are readier than ever to support people seeking abortion care in a country that does not honor bodily autonomy and reproductive rights. When needed, we will use Facetime, Zoom and other virtual platforms to communicate with folks undergoing the abortion process.
If you are interested in becoming an abortion doula, you can attend a training through an organization like Birthing Advocacy Doula Trainings, Dopo, Chicago Women’s Health Center and the Mountain Area Abortion Collective. If you or someone you know would like to access the support of an abortion doula, check out Spiral Collective in Minnesota and SisterSong, a national reproductive justice collective, for a list of doulas to fit your needs. Contact your local abortion fund to access information on finding an abortion doula that provides services in your area. Support these organizations to ensure abortion doulas can reach the people who need them.
Abortion seekers in the south-east third of the United States are about to face a stark choice. Some will navigate a complex and expensive path to a legal clinic in North Carolina or southern Illinois. Others will use herbs or medicines to bring about a miscarriage – facing legal risk if their actions are discovered.
The deep south already has a healthcare crisis. Approximately half the pregnancies in Alabama and Mississippi are unplanned, and the two states have some of the worst maternal mortality and child mortality rates in the nation. Unfortunately, ending abortion in the Gulf states won’t just close the only places where someone can safely terminate a pregnancy. It will also close many of the only clinics outside country health departments that provide birth control and sexual healthcare for low-income and uninsured people.
There are seven abortion clinics total in the three states that make up the Gulf coast region (Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama), each one of them an independent provider with no other financial support network to subsidize them once abortion is gone. Protecting red state clinics – even if they no longer are able to offer elective abortions themselves – is imperative in order to provide the services needed to reduce unwanted pregnancies. We will be the only entities that can provide aftercare and follow-ups for those who can’t go to hospitals or doctors without fear of arrest.
We already see abortion patients turned away from ERs – told to go back to their clinics for follow-up while they’re bleeding on the floor. What will happen when “their clinic” is 600 miles away?
If we truly believe healthcare is a right then we must invest in keeping clinics open, even in the most extreme of anti-abortion states. Too many people have literally no place else to turn.
For those of us who have had abortions, the moment we feared and knew would come is actually here, and it is crushing. We know what access to our abortions meant to our lives and our ability to decide if, when, and how to grow our families.
My abortion at age 19 meant that I could live my life on my own terms. My mother’s abortion meant the same for her and made my own life possible.
You can also help eradicate abortion stigma by sharing your abortion story. No matter what, they cannot take our voices from us, and our stories deserve to be heard. When we share our stories, we challenge the misinformation, stigma and lies being written into law and spread throughout our communities. Our stories let the other one in four people who’ve had abortions know they are not alone, and that terminating a pregnancy is very common.
So share #OurAbortionStories on social media, at rallies, and at your dinner tables. Share as much or as little as you feel comfortable putting out into the world. And be ready to listen when someone is ready to share their stories with you.
Share your story with us at IHadAnAbortion.org. We’re building a space for people who are having abortions to know what they can expect, and for all of us to hear each other’s stories. We’re ready to listen.