Within the three months for the reason that Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, 14 states have banned nearly all abortions, causing tens of millions of individuals to lose access. In consequence, patients—including pregnant individuals with cancer and underage rape victims—have been denied medical services. Many are forced to travel across the country, navigate a patchwork of confusing state-level policy, and spend 1000’s of dollars simply to receive care.
Often behind these stories is the essential work of abortion funds, which assist individuals who can’t access abortion by providing funds for the procedure in addition to the logistical support obligatory to acquire an abortion, including lodging, travel, and child care. For the leaders who oversee and work with these funds, this past summer was grueling and mercurial, yet in some ways still hopeful. Earlier this month, ELLE.com gathered five of those leaders on Zoom for a roundtable discussion about how their work has been affected, what they’re hearing from patients on the bottom, and why, as one leader says, eliminating Roe signifies that it’s time to achieve for a much bigger goal: free and accessible abortion look after all.
Oriaku Njoku, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds
NNAF is a member organization with a network of nearly 100 abortion funds.
Amanda Beatriz Williams, executive director of the Lilith Fund
The Lilith Fund relies in Texas, where those that “aid or abet” abortions are subject to penalties. In consequence, Lilith has discontinued funding abortions and has shifted to offering financial assistance for ultrasounds, contraception, and other reproductive health care services.
Jalessah Jackson, interim executive director of Access Reproductive Care-Southeast
ARC-Southeast supports patients in Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee, where most or all abortions are banned; Georgia, where abortion is banned after six weeks of pregnancy; South Carolina, where a six-week ban has been temporarily blocked; and Florida, where abortion is banned after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Tylar Frame Photography
Destini Spaeth, president of the North Dakota Women in Need Abortion Access Fund
The ND WIN Fund supports those in North Dakota, where a judge temporarily blocked a ban on nearly all abortions. In preparation for Roe’s reversal, the state’s sole abortion clinic moved a five-minute drive away to Minnesota.
Javay Frye-Nekrasova, board member of the Northwest Abortion Access Fund
The NAAF Fund serves those in Washington, Oregon, and Alaska, where abortion is legal, and Idaho, where nearly all abortions are banned.
Where were you while you got the news about Roe being overturned, and what immediate actions did you are taking?
Amanda Beatriz Williams, Lilith Fund: My friend is an abortion provider who lives in Houston, and we were together, because we were going to the Houston Pride events. We’re a bunch of queer people of color, and we were going to have an amazing night. We were going to go dancing. But as an alternative, we got this news. After all, I needed to do press events and shift into work mode. But at the tip of it, we were still with our community. We were like, “We’re not going to allow them to steal our joy. It’s Pride. We cannot allow them to take that from us.” It was absolutely devastating. We cried. But we needed to jump back on our feet, have fun what it’s that makes us human, and be in community one of the best we knew how.
Javay Frye-Nekrasova, Northwest Abortion Access Fund: I used to be at home once I saw it. Initially, I desired to shut down. But then I remembered, that’s what they need. And that’s not going to work. So I checked in with people. The defeat you are feeling might be so paralyzing that I desired to be certain that everybody knew: “Hey, it might be shitty, but we don’t just roll over and take it. We’re not pillow princesses in the case of our government. We’re going to fight back.” On the [fund] side, it was like, we’ve got to place the messaging out. We’ve got to remain on top of it. There are more people turning to us now. There’s a task to play, and now we have to proceed to play it.
We needed to jump back on our feet, have fun what it’s that makes us human, and be in community one of the best we knew how.”
Tylar Frame Photography
Destini Spaeth, ND WIN Fund: I used to be also alone once I discovered. I’m pretty sure Twitter told me. I sat with that for about 30 seconds after which went into mobilization mode. We had one abortion clinic here in North Dakota. They’ve since moved, but I went there to be with my people and begin gathering supplies. We had a rally on the courthouse. I used to be within the mode of: that is once we educate. That is once we give people the tools which can be obligatory to support this work and support people searching for abortions.
Jalessah Jackson, ARC-Southeast: About per week before Roe got here down, I began on this position at ARC. It was a convergence at this very particular time, which felt each overwhelming and divine; it felt like reassurance from my ancestors that now’s the time besides up and really lean in. As a hearth sign, the primary emotion I felt was anger. I prefer to return to movement leaders, revolutionaries, and folks who’ve done a lot in alignment with the Black radical tradition and have written about their experiences. Going back to those writings, poems, videos is something that grounds me. So after the cussing fit I had, I read Audre Lorde’s “The Uses of Anger.” In our society, anger is something that’s frowned upon. People oftentimes associate anger as being the antithesis of logic. I don’t consider in that dichotomous way of pondering. So, really fascinated about how we are able to use our anger on this moment toward our objectives.
Oriaku Njoku, National Network of Abortion Funds: I used to be here in my apartment by myself, and I meditated. I used to be like, this is definitely the moment where we have to be grounded. It appears like it’s the default to have this sense of urgency, respond, respond, respond. It’s easy to catastrophize this example we’re in. The thing that’s harder—nevertheless it’s the thing that guides me—is [asking], what’s the longer term we’re actually fighting for? What steps do we want to take for our collective liberation? Really understanding and believing that collective liberation is a manifestation of our love. So what does that mean now for the way we show up in another way in movement, how we strategize, and the rigor required to work together? It’s the start of something latest. It’s a chance to maneuver forward and never need to be on the defense on a regular basis. And at the identical time, it’s a shitty-ass situation.
The state-level response has been swift and brutal. It’s changing day-to-day, and it’s difficult to maintain up with. What has it been prefer to navigate the changing legal landscapes in your states?
Javay Frye-Nekrasova, Northwest Abortion Access Fund: We have now to maintain an awareness of what’s happening in all of the states, especially the states that we serve. The education piece on our part increases. Unless you might be a lawyer, unless you will have that background of policy, half the stuff doesn’t make sense. You may read all of the bills, and also you’re still like, “So what can I do?” We have now to grasp it for ourselves, but then find a way to relay that information so the callers and folks reaching out to us for resources understand, too.
Amanda Beatriz Williams, Lilith Fund: In Texas, before Roe was overturned, we were already living in a state with the harshest abortion ban within the country. SB 8 was enacted in September of last yr, which banned abortion at six weeks and likewise had a reason for motion provision, which meant we were under threat of civil liability consistently. People were confused. It’s so difficult, for even essentially the most expert advocates, to maintain up with the extent of restrictions in our state. It’s not even that attorneys don’t at all times understand, it’s that they don’t at all times agree on the interpretation of the law. ’Cause guess what? These decisions, the statutes, they’re not meant to be easily understood. It’s as much as interpretation, which is a large problem once we’re talking about criminal and civil risk—whether or not we are able to interpret the law could mean going to prison or not. That’s literally what’s at stake now.
Whether or not we are able to interpret the law could mean going to prison or not. That’s literally what’s at stake now.”
Our fund is a majority women of color organization, and now we have to consider carefully about risk. What we’re hearing from patients is just this confusion, this isolation. We have now to be clear as best we are able to and offer First Amendment-protected information, since the state has long since abandoned them. It’s been a nightmare. We’re plaintiffs in, like, a dozen lawsuits. But at the tip of the day, we’re doing each thing we possibly can. We’re fighting for a fighting likelihood. And it’s all we got.
Oriaku Njoku, National Network of Abortion Funds: When the six-week ban went into effect here in Georgia, my sister was working in clinic, and he or she called me like, “Is that this real?” I’m looking, reading, and I’m like, “Oh my God. They really went through with this.” It was really emotional, because they were in clinic because it happened, and it was imagined to go into effect immediately. There may be such an enormous disruption in service provision when things just pop up every time they need. We all know we are able to’t ever depend on the state or the courts to support us in our livelihood, since the laws and systems created were never intended for us. So [I’m] not surprised that it happened, nevertheless it was wild.
Jalessah Jackson, ARC-Southeast: What was really shocking [about Georgia] was that the judges decided to make it effective immediately, and that was an autonomous decision they made without being prompted by the state. That just communicates the commitment to state repression at multiple levels of our governments, not only in Georgia. It was a reminder that we are able to’t anticipate things to operate procedurally how we expect them to, or how they’ve before when our opposition is ensuring they’ve their representatives on the bench at multiple levels of state government. In Georgia, it looked like immediately calling individuals who had appointments for the very next day and having to listen to those people’s concerns in real time, lots of whom were already coming to Georgia from other states. So, needing to be rerouted again, which places an undue burden on so lots of our callers, the vast majority of whom are Black and already parents. It was really hard for our team to make those calls.
Is there anything you are feeling hasn’t been talked about enough with reference to what patients have been facing since June?
Amanda Beatriz Williams, Lilith Fund: Hearing everyone talk concerning the states they’re serving, it struck me how critical it’s that we listen in other states. Every time one other state falls, it makes it a lot worse for Texans. Straight away, the one state that borders Texas where people can go is Recent Mexico, and from my service area, that’s not less than a 10-hour drive. At this cut-off date, now we have got to acknowledge how interconnected this fight truly is. That is now all of us or none of us. Our rights rely upon one another.
We have now got to acknowledge how interconnected this fight truly is. That is now all of us or none of us. Our rights rely upon one another.”
Tylar Frame Photography
Destini Spaeth, ND WIN Fund: WIN Fund does practical support, logistical support, whatever callers need leading as much as and on the day of their appointment. On the day of their appointment, they’re seeing a medical skilled, and in the event that they want to depart with a contraception option, but money is a barrier, the WIN Fund will cover those costs. We’ve seen a four-time increase in requests for contraception coverage from January to June. I’m so pleased that the WIN Fund is there to be that bridge, but at the identical time, this decision to seek out a LARC [long-acting reversible contraception] or a contraception option feels almost coercive in nature. It’s not like contraception is being pushed 4 times harder, nevertheless it’s due to restrictions for care and the uncertainty behind it. So it’s a bit grim to me that folks are going that direction if it’s not something they’re going into with their whole heart.
Jalessah Jackson, ARC-Southeast: That is all also happening before the backdrop of abysmal maternal mortality rates. So there’s the compounded fear of carrying a pregnancy to term. And the constant lingering threat of criminalization—Am I capable of legally access an abortion? Will I get in trouble for crossing state lines? Am I breaking a law?—partially stoked by media misrepresentations or sensationalism finally ends up creating a further barrier to our people accessing care and is a type of psychological violence. The attacks on abortion access are on the service itself, it’s on the communities we help access that care, and it’s a coercive power tactic to maintain people in place. I don’t need to miss out on the psychological impacts that surround the questions of legality that limit our willingness and skill to search out the services that we want.
Where are you all finding hope and joy today?
Tylar Frame Photography
Destini Spaeth, ND WIN Fund: Roe is gone. Now now we have the chance to begin from the bottom up. We all know what our demands are, and we don’t need to stop at Roe. We’ll proceed to expand, and make it greater and higher. Accessible, free look after everybody—that’s the last word goal.
Roe is gone. Now now we have the chance to begin from the bottom up.”
Oriaku Njoku, National Network of Abortion Funds: I actually have a whole lot of hope and a lot joy in doing this work. Even the enjoyment in resistance. The enjoyment in seeing abortion funds thrive. The enjoyment in knowing someone was capable of get to their appointment, no matter what legal and political climate we’re in. The opposite thing that offers me hope is that people are beginning to think beyond a binary alternative. It’s not only having an abortion or not having an abortion. Reproductive justice is about having an abortion and the entire other issues that influence our decision-making process day by day. Folks having the ability to see what’s happening with abortion access with an intersectional lens, having the ability to see that race, class, gender, the economy, access to jobs, labor rights, all of these items are tied into how people can get their abortions. I feel like individuals are starting to grasp that. And that’s exciting. To me, that’s this radical love coming together to be like, we actually can change our future. We’re accountable for our own destinies. So, on this moment, what can we do to come back together?
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Madison is a senior author/editor at ELLE.com, covering news, politics, and culture. When she’s not on the web, you’ll be able to almost definitely find her taking a nap or eating banana bread.