With the announcement of Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement, all of us fighting for abortion access have been activated by the rising threat against our rights and the fear of losing legal challenges taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court. We know this administration—in line with demands from the sharp right faction of the Republican Party, led for decades by fanatical anti-abortion forces—has promised since the 2016 campaign trail to appoint justices who will overturn Roe v. Wade. “I’m pro-life and I don’t apologize for it,” Vice President Mike Pence said during a Michigan town hall campaign stop in July 2016. “We’ll see Roe v. Wade consigned to the ash heap of history where it belongs.”
Conservatives have been pushing for this moment for years. That alarming future will soon be upon us. Abortion access supporters will be outnumbered in the nation’s highest court. But even when we are most outnumbered, we still have people power. At the local level, advocates can continue to build public support for abortion across the United States.
Abortion funds are ready. Abortion funds are grassroots organizations that mobilize against barriers to abortion access in local communities. Where I work, at the National Network of Abortion Funds, we have a network of more than 70 abortion funds that raise money to help pay for abortions, drive people to and from their appointments, arrange child care and lodging, and do so much more to ensure that abortion is not just legal in theory but accessible in reality, no matter how much money people have or where they live. That means abortion funds are uniquely positioned to respond to increased attacks on abortion because they hold history, strategy, and connections unique to their region. They hold the complexity and intersectional experience to know what assistance is most needed in their specific communities. We’ve been facing a post-Roe reality head on since the Hyde Amendment in 1976.
The people who call abortion funds have always lacked access to abortion, and we have worked to make abortion a reality beyond state and federal barriers, beyond financial struggles, by focusing on the specific needs of communities on the ground. The Supreme Court may let us down. Additional clinics may shutter or cut back on services. Restrictions may worsen. But abortion funds will always make abortion more accessible. We will continue to evolve our practices in response to the realities on the ground, as we always have.
It won’t be easy. But this is the moment abortion funds were made for.
Abortion funds are already shuttling people across state lines to receive the abortion care they need. They’re already banding together to gather thousands of dollars to ensure an abortion fund caller doesn’t have to take out a payday loan because insurance won’t cover the procedure. Volunteers are meeting callers at gas stations to fill up their tanks to continue on the hours-long drive to the nearest clinic. They are opening up their homes for callers who were forced to leave their communities for multi-day procedures. Volunteers are translating medical information, babysitting callers’ kids, and holding a patient’s hand during the abortion reminding them that no matter what, we’re here for you. Abortion funds are answering the call.
It is possible that soon Roe v. Wade will be overturned, or dismantled beyond recognition, leaving people in dozens of states without access to abortion. These will be the states that are already struggling most with restrictive abortion laws, but they’re also the states where a war on the voting rights of people of color has, for decades, produced state governments that don’t represent us. They’re states where funding for social service programs has been gutted, leaving families hungry and often without the safe harbor of a secure home. These are states with the lowest incomes in the country and the highest levels of uninsured children. We’ll see abortion overturned in the same states where access to sex education and contraception has long been withheld. In these same states, people are suffering from unclean water, dangerous storms, industrial dumping, and other forms of environmental racism that contribute to the decimation of poor people’s lives and generational land. And in these states, abortion funds have been fighting hard every day because the situation has been bad for a lot of people for a long time.
Many are wondering what they can do, and at abortion funds we think now is the time to double down on your support and get involved. Can you fundraise for your local fund to ensure more people can pay for abortions in spite of economic injustice and systemic racism in the health-care system? Can you give rides to clinics through your local fund? Can you take someone into your home as they journey to their appointment? Can you proudly wear a t-shirt that sparks compassion and busts abortion stigma? Maybe you can educate yourself and your friends about medication abortion and the World Health Organization’s’ protocols for self-use? Or maybe you start having heart-to-heart conversations about the values you hold on abortion access a little louder and more often with your networks?
These are the times when the gap will be severely widened between people who have money and power and those who don’t. If Roe goes, abortion won’t go away. People will always seek abortions, and just like the pre-Roe days, people with money will always have the access and resources needed to get them. But for people who are struggling to make ends meet, each barrier that arises is one more obstacle that keeps them from their abortion. Every additional hurdle comes with a price tag.
Abortion funds are already building and managing systems to help people move through barriers to access, and we’re preparing for the future. No one’s coming to save us, and we need to keep each other safe.
If you’ve been on the sidelines, or if you’ve been worried but haven’t known what to do, now’s the time to jump in with all you’ve got. If you’ve been with us in the fight, now’s the time to recommit and bring your friends. Our experiences in what has long been a simmering crisis enable us to do the work that will be needed in a full-blown emergency. We’re here for you, and we’re in it for the long haul. Join us.