In Abortion Safe Havens, Organizers Prepare to Assist Those Fleeing Restrictions

Last month’s leak of a Supreme Court draft rulingThis has made the long-held fears of abortion rights advocates a veritable certainty. Roe v. WadeThe 1973 landmark decision that established a federal abortion right in the United States is in grave and imminent danger.

While “safe haven” or “sanctuary”Although states and cities continue to offer sanctuary for interstate abortion applicants, access remains a patchwork. This creates logistical and financial hurdles that impact the most vulnerable. Clinics and activist groups that provide abortion services will struggle to keep their gains. Their motivated staffers and organizers will face incredible challenges as they try to adapt to the influx of refugees.

Yet many point to the potential of new alternatives — especially medication abortions, legal and otherwise — that may prove pivotal to sustaining access in a post-Roe world.

Safe Havens — for Some

Abortion restrictions across the South and among Republican-controlled states are set to worsen further after Roe’s expected reversal. Many in the Midwest and SouthReproductive rights that still exist are hanging by the smallest of threads. Absent RoeThe 13 statesThat have been preemptively established “trigger” laws26 states are poised either to pass extreme restrictions or to outlaw abortion altogether.

Only four states have yet to enshrine the Constitution. constitutional protection16 states have abortion rights; Washington, D.C. has additional safeguards. The population dispersal is between friendly and protected states. close to 50/50 — meaning that the end of RoeIt would almost instantly disenfranchise half the country.

The 16 “safe havens” represent some of the few remaining options for the millions who reside in the 26 states under threat. States and cities with protectionsCalifornia, Connecticut, Delaware and Hawaii are all eligible for abortion (pre-fetal viable). New Jersey, Colorado, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, D.C. have all codified the right of abortion throughout the pregnancy. These areas are also home to abortion organisations. the requisite medical infrastructureThis will facilitate the actual procedure.

Bracing for Roe’s reversal, abortion rights supporters and lawmakers in many of these areas have defensively introduced bills, budget provisionsOr other legislative actionsThey have announced or are planning to support abortion rights in their jurisdictions. These measures include reducing waiting periods, disbursing funds to clinics and abortion fund funds, lifting parental notification obligations, and other ways to clear obstacles. Medical providers are also preparing. stressing the needYou will find more resources and better logistical arrangements.

In Connecticut, Oriana Gonzalez reports for Axios, Gov. Ned Lamont “signed into law a bill to protect abortion providers and patients from bans in other states.” Oregon lawmakers, for their part, approved $15 million in state grantsTo nonprofits, to expand abortion access. New York State’s 2019 Reproductive Health ActThe right is well-established in legal codes; New York was more recent. Gov. Kathy Hochul and other lawmakersProviders and activists have been bolstering protectionsAnd preparing for incoming interstate patients. Lawmakers in CaliforniaNumerous bills have been introduced that would fund clinics, create a fund for travel and cost-assistance, and allow some nurse practitioners to perform abortion procedures. Governors and legislators Illinois, Vermont, New JerseyAnd MichiganAmong others, they have also reaffirmed their commitments.

But even in these ostensible blue state “sanctuaries,” access to and affordability of abortion can sometimes be severely curtailed — a difference of degree but not of kind with all the other pronounced failures in the U.S. health care system. Connecticut is an example of this. obstacles to access remain.

Access to certain areas in California, one the most protected states, is still a major problem for many residents. outside urban areas. Research from the Guttmacher Institute indicates that 40 percent of the state’s counties lack a single abortion clinic. There, too, lawmakers, including Gov. Gavin NewsomThey have also made financial commitments to defend reproductive rights. However, these millions only constitute “a start,” writes Maanvi Singh for The Guardian, since “even more may be needed to care for those living within the state.” This is truer in rural regions, but even major cities like Los Angeles can sometimes offer only patchwork access, as Singh notes. With all due respect for the liberal waffling, the political, budgetary and logistical difficultiesThe radical right is present in blue states and is constantly trying to fortify access. Even in these “safe havens,” abortion is often still under significant threat.

As Rafi Schwartz writes in Mic, states like Minnesota, a crucial “oasis” for Midwesterners in surrounding red states, are set to become a major target for the anti-abortion movement. Scott Jensen, the gubernatorial candidate, has mentioned his desire for a complete ban on abortion. He is not out of step with other Republicans in expressing these hopes — many have hinted they seek to revoke any and all caveats, even in cases of rapeIncest, certain parental death, or a combination thereof. Some blue state Republican lawmakers and anti-abortion groups have begun to focus on contraception. Even miscarriages can be considered a serious offense, as was the case in the past. for Brittney PoolawA Native Oklahoma woman, Judith, was sentenced to four-years for first-degree manslaughter after miscarrying.

As the threat from the radicalized, energized right wing mounts, “safe haven” localities, whatever their shortcomings and vulnerabilities, will grow ever more essential. Out-of state abortion seekers often travel long distances and spend $1,000 just to get an abortion. Needless to say, these are insurmountable barriers for many — first and foremost, for workers and the marginalized. Time off work, travel expenses, insurance and bureaucratic hurdles — the option of a medical pilgrimage is often impeded by race and class.

Even with RoeTightening restrictions have resulted in tighter controls. an increase in abortion seekersAlready, the state of blue has begun to overfill its clinics and increase wait times. This could escalate rapidly. As Anne Rumberger writes in Jacobin,If RoeFalls, the proportion of people living over 200 miles from an abortion clinic. increaseFrom 1 to 29%

Those in greatest need do not have to be alone. Activists of all stripes — from advocacy nonprofits and titanic institutions like Planned Parenthood, to small groups of grassroots, volunteer radicals — are exploring all possible means of fortifying abortion rights, both to assist locals in need and to shepherd abortion seekers across state borders as they come in droves to exercise their right to bodily autonomy.

Blue State Abortion Funds

Abortion funds are responsible for connecting local abortion seekers to appointments, safely bringing out-of state sanctuaries into their care, and other forms direct assistance. These funds are a major vector of direct aidThese are just a few examples can be found nationwide.

The Chicago Abortion Fund (CAF)Collaborates with both local and national partner funds and works with 55 clinics in seven different states. Illinois’s sanctuary-state status makes it a major locus of abortions in the Midwest, with Chicago as a focal point.

CAF’s efforts are distributed across multiple channels: direct aid, advocacy, public awareness, and other campaigns, often launched in coalition with other groups, to influence policy at state and national levels. The Fund is also involved with research efforts. CAF and other funds’ direct aid work is chiefly to provide financial, logistical, practical and even emotional support for individuals seeking abortion. CAF doesn’t have any restrictions or eligibility requirements for those they help — all in need are welcomed.

“We like to say we work With our grantees to identify their needs, and then we figure out how to provide resources for those needs,” Megan Jeyifo, executive director of CAF, tells Truthout. These needs may include booking appointments and letting people know about other resources, in addition to CAF. The Fund’s many forms of aid include providing transportation, booking hotels and providing child care through the organization’s partnership with the Chicago Childcare Collective. Jeyifo states that CAF staffers have had abortions and do their best to simplify a complicated process.

“Really, anything someone needs, we’re going to figure out how to do it. We’ve paid for people’s tires to get fixed, or when their cars break down on the way here. We’ve sent food or MaxiPads to their hotel rooms. We’ve purchased clothes for people when they end up being here in Chicago for an extended period of time,” Jeyifo says.

The Fund, she says, hasn’t had to turn anyone away since July 2019 — a remarkable sustained effort, especially considering that the number of out-of-state abortion seekers entering Illinois was rising even before the Supreme Court’s draft opinion leaked. Jeyifo is concerned, however, that the influx of abortion-seekers will undoubtedly accelerate post-liberation.RoeAccess to comprehensive healthcare may not be possible. “To think that we won’t be able to connect 100 percent of our callers to care is really what keeps you up at night,” she says.

Jeyifo also points to efforts at exerting what she calls a “culture shift.” In part, this involves destigmatizing the term “abortion” itself. Many contemporary advocates also see the “pro-choice” framing as preemptively concessionary.

“I think the ‘pro-choice’ language has failed us. I believe that the euphemisms have failed me. We need to say what we want, and what we want is abortion that is free from barriers and is not thought of as something to be ashamed of,” Jeyifo tells Truthout. “We know that oftentimes there’s stigma associated with even asking for help, [especially]Getting help for highly-politized, time-sensitive, and sometimes emotional health care. [We do] anything we can do to break things down and make it easier.”

The Fund has been able to assist local and out-of state abortion seekers through these problems, but Jeyifo emphasizes that only systemic changes will address wider adverse conditions.

“I always point to House Bill 40 passing here in Illinois, and the transformation that that created for the people,” she says. “[HB 40]This is what made Medicare mandatory to cover abortion care. It has changed everything. [A]No matter how well-resourced we may be, small abortion funds can’t create such a profound change. But the states around us are so far from that.”

As a National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy report released in January 2021 indicated, abortion funds like CAF only receive 3 percent “of the over­all phil­an­thropic commit­ment to reproductive rights initi­at­ives nation­wide,” notes the Brennan Center.

Meanwhile, supportfor abortion funds, while spiking following the Texas Heartbeat Bill fluctuated. Jeyifo stressed that, after RoeThe allocation of financial support for abortion funds could have significant ramifications for many more lives. “Funders need to understand Illinois’s responsibility to people in this moment. And people who live in Illinois need to understand Illinois’s responsibility to people in this moment,” she says.

Disproportionate Finances

The religious institutions provide a large amount of funding to the anti-abortion movement. wealthy right-wing oligarchs. The largest abortion rights and services non-profits receive their primary funding from philanthropic sources. Many of these donors are women who have donated to the cause. Some, particularly top nonprofits like Planned Parenthood or NARAL, can count billionaires as their supporters. (Among them: the Susan Thompson Buffett foundation and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos’s ex-wife MacKenzie Scott.)

Insufficient government funding has led to this dependence on ultra-wealthy people. Unfortunately, Amy Littlefield has pointed out. writes in The Nation, this arrangement can have lopsided outcomes: “State-based organizers face an impending crisis that has come about not only as a result of the Supreme Court’s pending ruling but because the abortion rights movement has underinvested in critical state battles and relied on the inconsistent generosity of a handful of billionaire-backed foundations.”

The truly enormous multimillion-dollar organizations like Planned Parenthood and NARAL exhibit different emphases and tactics — focusing on lobbying and legal strategies, for instance, in lieu of devoting more resources to direct aid for abortion seekers. This is not to paint with too broad a brush; the “nonprofit-industrial complex” is far from a monolith. The anti-capitalist left is critical of the focus of some of the largest institutions.

As a member of 2019, you can write in 2019. New York City for Abortion Rights (NYC4AR)Lillian Cicerchia offered the following critique in Dissent:

For decades, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Planned Parenthood (NOW), NARAL and the National Organization of Womens (NOW) have fought a seemingly endless legal struggle. The leaders of these mainstream groups claimed their gradualist strategy would ultimately triumph without prompting anti-abortion backlash…. [T]His argument is no longer convincing.

Critics charge that the Democratic Party as well as the nonprofit-industrial system have failed to act as breakwaters against a rising reactionary tide.

From the Grassroots to the Top

The work of ensuring that blue state “safe havens” live up to their moniker has also been taken up by myriad small networksMany of them have a more radical bent.

Amy Wilson is an organisator with NYC4ARa feminist activist collective that is explicitly socialist. Despite New York City’s legal protections and liberal bona fides, vulnerable abortion seekers often find themselves confronted by anti-abortion harassers, on top of the logistical and financial challenges that still exist in liberal metropolitan centers.

In response, NYC4AR launches clinic defenses in which the organization’s members counterprotest crowds of right-wingers who jeer at vulnerable people outside facilities, while also shielding and escorting abortion seekers from such protests as they enter clinics.

“We’re trying to call attention to the fact that these people are still conducting clinic harassment, even in a deep-blue city like New York,” Wilson tells Truthout. “If you’re trying to get an abortion in New York, you’re just as likely to be confronted. [We don’t] buy into this narrative of ‘New York City exceptionalism’ — that we’re somehow outside of this struggle, that we’ve already won it.”

While Wilson noted that some feel clinic defense is a problematic tactic because it “adds to the furor around abortion clinics,” she feels it’s ultimately a necessary strategy. “We don’t want to be there,” she says. But “letting things go on as the status quo isn’t going to be an appropriate way of dealing with it.”

NYC4AR also participates in other forms of aid and direct action. Activists share information about abortion and distribute kits with contraception and pregnancy tests. They also help women obtain abortion pills. Wilson states that the group regularly distributes leaflets, tables and hosts panel discussions. Wilson also partners with a Washington Square Park mutual assistance group on Friday nights. She also cites NYC4AR’s efforts in legislative advocacy, including supporting bills that would prevent the criminalization of abortion providers.

There are many progressives and liberals. socialist feminists,Other radicals are also involved in similar efforts to NYC4AR. Wilson points out that the movement is not only struggling to raise funds, but also because of its strategic isolation. “There are a lot of strong local groups but not a lot of national coordination…. We’re not formally connected with [similar groups in other cities.] Certainly, no shared funding or coordination or staff — because we don’t HaveFunding, coordination, or staff. We’re all-volunteer, grassroots [organizations].”

The End of the Coat Hanger

NYC4AR’s Wilson and many other advocates are hopeful that access to pills that induce abortion — namely, mifepristone and misoprostol — in both blue and red states can help mitigate the strain on “safe haven” states as they attempt to accommodate the growing influx of abortion seekers. “With these [state] bans coming down and the shift in the national landscape,” Wilson says, “accessing abortion pills by mail is going to become a lot more important.”

Half of all U.S. abortions are performed by medication today. passing that benchmark2020 for the first time. (It is important to stress that medication abortion is legal, contrary to fearmongering. extremely safe and effective option — safer than acetaminophenIt is, in fact.

Abortion pills are not a panacea. For one, they’re most effective in early pregnancy, and it’s true that complications, while “extremely rare,” are “not impossible,” says Hayley McMahon, a Ph.D. student at the Emory Rollins School of Public Health who researches the social and structural determinants of abortion access.

The primary problem with abortion pills is their inaccessibility to too many people (nearly 80 percent of U.S. adultsthey have never heard of them), but cannot access them. Other factors include a lack or access to internet service, and possible risks from family members who are opposed. Becca Andrews details for Mother Jones,Safe acquisition and safe use can be hampered by these obstacles

McMahon believes that self-managed abortion should be made illegal at the federal level. Although self-managed pregnancy is prohibited in three states, there are 20 states that have laws that can be used by prosecutors for arresting pregnant women. At least 22 peopleMany have been arrested and have served their time in prison.

Access to the pills is not secure from right-wing threats: There are several states have already begunto ban mail-order drug orders. Availability, NYC4AR’s Wilson notes, also relies on the U.S. Postal Service, which is now under Postmaster General Louis DeJoy’s control, was once a reliable courier.

Wilson and other activists point out other areas where abortion access can be improved in blue states. She also highlighted the importance of protecting campus clinics. telemedicine — virtual consultations in tandem with prescribed medication. As The New York Times reports,Residents in states with post-Roe bans, “would be legally prohibited from having telemedicine abortion consultations from any location in their state, even if the doctor were located in a state with legal abortion.” They might also be subject to digital surveillance.

Redefining Inalienable Rights

Abortion is health care — safe, routine and normal health care, at that. Two-thirds U.S. citizens are aware of abortion. wants to uphold Roe. The threat is too serious to be ignored by the Democratic Party’s haphazard resistance over the years. Some on the left call for abortion defense a labor-based mass movement. (An article by C.M. Lewis in In These TimesThis article gives a glimpse into this possibility and reports on how unions are helping to protect their members.

Only structural change can stop the loss of reproductive rights. As Lillian Cicerchia reiterates in Jacobin, “the Left should emphasize … the need to create ties between feminists, the labor movement, and health care campaigning.”

If — or, more likely, when — the Supreme Court fulfills one of the radical right’s most enduring fantasies and does away with RoeIt is difficult to comprehend the extent of suffering that has been caused by innumerable forced babies, which put intolerable strains on those already stretched. But, the end of RoeMillions would be affected, and the empowerment of fascist fringe would ramify even further.

As NYC4AR’s Wilson tells Truthout, “These issues are really interconnected. Abortion isn’t an issue that stands alone, as much as the culture wars try to make it seem that way.” She continues: “These are all political choices that we’ve made — restrictions that disproportionately affect low-income and Black and Brown people. That’s the way our country is set up. Abortion bans codify that violence, that restriction, that control that’s already there.”