In February 2021, I uprooted my husband, three children and two cats from our longtime home to move across the country to a house we had only seen on FaceTime, to a town we had only known from college football. I did this because I believe that everyone who supports abortion rights should do what they can to keep abortion accessible to those who have the fewest resources to obtain one.
For me, that meant moving to Alabama.
It was the next logical step in the trajectory of my life since January 2019, when First I published “Handbook for a Post-Roe America”, a guide on how to get or help someone get an abortion – legally or otherwise. The previous summer, Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Supreme Court’s swing vote, announced his retirement. In the months since the swearing in of Justice Kennedy’s successor, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, conservative lawmakers emboldened by a more conservative court introduced a series of extreme anti-abortion bills.
In 2019, 12 states passed laws banning all, some, or most abortions. This wave of laws included a total ban on abortion in Alabama – from Roe v. Wade, the nation’s most significant anti-abortion law enacted so far. The law, signed by Governor Kay Ivey, a Republican, criminalized abortion providers and allowed women to access abortion for life-saving purposes or in cases of fatal fetal abnormality. Rape and incest were not offered as exceptions. The law was blocked by the courts before it could take effect, but its intent was clear: it was specifically and intentionally drafted to launch a challenge to Roe v. Wade.
Between the Alabama law and the change in the ideological composition of the Supreme Court, I saw the writing on the wall for abortion rights in the United States. So I gave up my career as a freelance journalist, trading it for work at the Yellowhammer Fund – an Alabama group that helps women pay and travel to get abortions. About a year later, the Yellowhammer Fund purchased the West Alabama Women’s Center, the largest abortion clinic in the state, so it would remain open after the original owner retired. I took a job there.
I don’t regret a single moment of my time here in Alabama, and I feel that the work I do makes a critical difference in the lives of patients at my clinic and in our greater community. But now, with Roe upside down, I know I have to adapt what my abortion activism will look like, to match the needs of this new landscape.
Roe’s reversal is the perfect time for every proponent of abortion rights to examine their own commitment to the cause and find out how they too can meet this moment. I recognize that most people won’t be able to travel across the country to help people get abortions – and frankly, neither should they, when there are so many opportunities to help in all the country’s communities.
Since the leak of the draft opinion in Dobbs vs. Jackson Women’s Health in early May, longtime activists have seen an awareness and enthusiasm for the need for abortion rights that has not been as strong as they have been for decades. Emphasis must now be placed on harnessing this energy and sustaining it. Small daily actions may well mitigate the damage that many experts predict for women nationwide, but it will take an army of supporters to do so.
Here are some things an army of people can do:
Spread the word about AidAccess.org, an Austria-based group that can mail out the same abortion-inducing drug that we, until recently, provided at our clinic. The site even offers advance supply of abortion pills for anyone who wants to have the medicine on hand before an unwanted pregnancy occurs – for themselves or someone they know. Just be aware that in a post-Roe world, there could be legal risks for patients who live in states where abortion is banned and who order pills over the Internet.
People can also make sure others know about groups like the Miscarriage and Abortion Helpline, which offers text and phone options to ask questions during and after a miscarriage. or an abortion.
Abortion rights supporters should also protect family, friends and allies from surveillance with the Digital Defense Fund’s online safety tips for phones and computers, especially if you’re doing something that could be seen as pushing the legal boundaries.
A few other websites to keep handy: Reproaction provides a toolkit for organizing a protest by anti-abortion groups to prove that pro-abortion rights supporters are just as vocal as opponents. On INeedAnA.com you can see how far the nearest abortion clinic is and what the waiting periods and other restrictions are in case of an unwanted pregnancy.
With so many systems in place to leverage already, the problem isn’t so much finding a way to help – it’s about maximizing impact. A person calling a local legislator 200 times could be considered harassment. But 200 people calling this legislator once is impossible to ignore. Similarly, a single donation of $100 does immediate good, but a recurring monthly donation of $10 — especially if a friend or 20 joins — can provide ongoing funding an organization can rely on. A nationwide march of a million people grabbed the headlines for a while. But ongoing small actions — sit-ins, vigils, an abortion-rights supporter still stationed outside the state house or courthouse — are tactics that get more powerful the longer they go on.
Thinking local will be essential in a post-Roe environment in which access to abortion is determined by geography more than ever. You can ask your city council to support funding for abortion providers, like Chicago proposed, or demand that your city council pass a resolution ensuring those who seek abortions won’t be criminalized, like the one recently proposed. in Austin, Texas.
I believe that the work I am involved in in Alabama is vitally important. Over the past year, we have seen patients not only from Alabama, but also from Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, as strict new laws and overbooked appointments have taken their toll on clinics across the country. South. Even with this new patient load, we were able to enroll as an Alabama Medicaid provider, allowing us to serve even more low-income patients who need contraception, basic gynecological care, and testing. and treatments for sexually transmitted infections. We have created partnerships, including with the black trans advocacy program, the Knights and Orchids Society, to provide HIV care and have created a sliding scale birth control program. And now that abortion is no longer legal in Alabama, our clinic will remain open to provide aftercare for people who may end up self-managing their abortions.
But I also believe that the vast majority of abortion rights supporters don’t need to do what I did. With nearly half a century of abortion rights dissolving in thin air, it’s understandable to want to make a big gesture in response. But instead, I would recommend taking a breather, assessing your resources, and tapping into the work that is already happening in your community. If we all do the same in our communities across the country, we have a chance of avoiding at least some of the worst outcomes of a post-Roe America. It’s work now. Let’s go.
Robin Marty is the Director of Operations at the West Alabama Women’s Center and the author of “The New Handbook for a Post-Roe America: The Complete Guide to Abortion Legality, Access and Practical Support.”
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