Abortion Funds Are Preparing for a Storm. To Help, “Get in Where You Fit in.”

“We have to be thinking and dreaming and planning really expansively … because when Roe falls, band-aid solutions are not going to be enough,” says Meghan Daniel, a support coordinator with the Chicago Abortion Fund. In this episode of Movement Memos, Daniel and host Kelly Hayes talk about the end of Roe, abolishing police and prisons and how funding abortions builds power.

Music by Son Monarcas, Pulsed & Imprismed

TRANSCRIPT

Note: This a rush transcript and has been lightly edited for clarity. Copy may not be in its final form.

Kelly Hayes: Welcome to Movement Memos, a Truthout podcast about organizing, solidarity and the work of making change. I’m your host, writer and organizer Kelly Hayes. Today, we are talking about how the Chicago Abortion Fund is gearing up for the end of Roe and how prison and police abolition intersect with the fight for reproductive justice. We will be hearing from Meghan Daniel, who is a support coordinator with the Chicago Abortion Fund, or CAF for short. CAF provides financial, logistical, and emotional support to people seeking abortion care throughout Illinois and the Midwest. Laws restricting abortion access in red states have made Chicago a crucial hub for abortion care in the midwest. Those laws have also led to an increased demand for the assistance of groups like the Chicago Abortion Fund. In the first three months of 2022, over 80% of abortion seekers who contacted the Chicago Abortion Fund were living outside the state of Illinois. That out-of-state demand is expected to continue to surge after the fall of Roe. Receiving hundreds of calls per month, CAF is presently on a years-long streak of helping every caller.

For the unacquainted, abortion funds are local, autonomous organizations that provide resources and build power for cultural and political change. After the Hyde Amendment ensured financial barriers to abortion access for impoverished people by banning the use of federal healthcare funds to pay for abortion care, abortion funds began to emerge to help impoverished abortion seekers pay for their procedures. In addition to paying for procedures, some funds provide “practical support,” including transportation, child care expenses, lodging, translation services, abortion doulas, and more. Black and brown people have been disproportionately impacted by the Hyde Amendment, and were largely left behind by mainstream feminist organizations, which failed to make ending the Hyde Amendment a priority.

The National Network of Abortion Funds, or NAF, has 90 grassroots member groups that received over 200,000 requests for assistance in 2019. The funds directly supported 62,933 abortion seekers in 2019. When laws attacking abortion access dominate the news cycle, some abortion funds may see an influx of cash. But the need still greatly exceeds what is being donated, and in a post-Roe U.S., requests for assistance are expected to surge further, as pregnant people in red states attempt to travel to places like Chicago, where they can legally receive care.

United by a national network, these groups operate independently, across varying cultural and political geographies. Here in Chicago, I have been in the streets protesting alongside members of the Chicago Abortion Fund and the abortion fund Midwest Access Coalition many times — often at actions waged in response to police killings. I’ve also been known to hit up CAF’s annual bowl-a-thon, even though I don’t bowl. As abortion funds around the country work to scale up their operations, Meghan and I talked about the end of Roe; why transphobia, prisons and police violence are reproductive justice issues; and how funding abortions builds power.

Meghan Daniel, in addition to being a support coordinator with the Chicago Abortion Fund, is also a PhD candidate in Sociology at University of Illinois Chicago, where she teaches, writes, and conducts research about reproductive justice, social movements and state violence.

Meghan Daniel: So my name is Meghan. I use she and her pronouns. I am one of two support coordinators at the Chicago Abortion Fund, and I work in a team of four full-time staff at Chicago Abortion Fund or CAF as we like to call it. We also have a few part-time folks and a really amazing team of volunteer case managers. There are upwards of 20 folks who donate their time and love and wisdom to supporting people who call our helpline in need of support for abortions. Chicago Abortion Fund provides financial, logistical, and sometimes emotional support to people seeking abortions in Chicago, in Illinois, the Midwest, and really nationwide.

Chicago Abortion Fund was founded in the mid-1980s, by a group of people that came together to meet this need, and I came across some numbers that are pretty astonishing. So in our first full year of serving callers, October 1986 to November 1987, we got calls from 106 people who needed financial support for their abortion care, and we were able to fund 33 of them. And that’s awesome. And in the almost 40 years, since we’ve opened our doors, the landscape of abortion access has shifted and barriers have multiplied, and we’ve really scaled up to meet the need. So in the first four months of this year alone, January through April, we received calls from 2,000 people, 2,000, and these callers came from 33 states. So roughly 30% were calling from Missouri where folks have been living in a so-called post-Roe reality for quite some time now. 20% of these calls came from Indiana where the cost of an abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy is nearly $900, and 15 percent from our home state of Illinois, where though Medicaid does cover abortion services at no cost and legislation posits that all private Illinois insurance must cover abortion care, all pregnant people don’t fit neatly into these insurance categories and costs still run really high.

Chicago is going to remain an important hub. Illinois is going to remain an important hub because Illinois is one of the states in the U.S. where abortion access will remain protected when Roe falls. In previous years with the passage of the Reproductive Health Act, we’ve repealed the so-called trigger ban on abortion so that when Roe v. Wade gets overturned at the federal level, abortion will remain legal in Illinois. So we’ll see these trends continuing, and by these trends I mean people from out of state calling, people traveling to Illinois in increasing numbers. And so Illinois, like many other states in the U.S. with either protected or expanded access to abortion care, will remain an important place for people to get the care that they need and deserve.

KH: The Chicago Abortion Fund has been on a roll, in terms of not having to turn anyone away, but like abortion funds across the country, they are currently preparing for a storm.

MD: Post-Roe I think that we will continue to see an influx in callers. I think that we can expect those numbers to grow exponentially, and I think that the barriers those people are facing are going to multiply. We’re talking people coming from rural areas in states with low access, we’re talking people having to take multiple days off work.

We’re already coordinating things like childcare, ride shares, hotels, sometimes flights, stipends for food. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is ongoing, of course, we initiated what we call mini-grants, which are direct payments to folks in the amount of $50; no questions asked. If it seems like they need them and they’re struggling with their lights getting shut off, or just needing a little something extra, we send that to folks and that’s something we’re really proud of. The intersections of economic precarity and access to health care being very difficult are very real for our callers, and we anticipate this to grow as the cost incurred by people seeking abortion care grow as well.

Having to travel multiple days to get health care from states with low access or from states with 24- or 48-hour mandatory wait periods, it’s a lot to coordinate. We have been expecting this for a long time. It’s something that people inside of repro have been struggling with. It feels like you’re trying to warn people about something they may not be as alarmed about. You know it’s real, you know it’s coming because you’re living in it and perhaps they don’t want to see it, or they’re not seeing it, but the writing’s been on the wall so to speak for years now. So we’ve been deepening our partnerships with funds in the Midwest and across the country with funds in Nebraska, with funds in Wisconsin, because many of our callers are calling us from there.

Abortion funds just deserve so much more than what we currently have, so as a staffed fund, this is painfully clear and we’re interested in continuing to support other volunteer-led funds with intake, with data and with our best organizational practices so that they can get access to the resources that they need and deserve too. We’re not trying to be like the midwest abortion fund. We want to work in solidarity and link arms with our sibling funds with whom we can’t do this work without. We do it in a constellation of other sibling funds of independent clinics, of bigger networked clinics, of providers, of practical support organizations, doulas, midwives of other mutual aid organizations. And deepening those partnerships in the coming weeks and months is going to be so important. We’re going to need each other more than ever.

Illinois’ protected access is not enough, we need expanded access. So we’ve been talking to elected officials and agitating for more protection and expansion of abortion care and engaging with and growing our base to support that work. We also expect that… You know, we see this in cycles, right? With the passage of Senate Bill 8 in Texas, there was an influx in people wanting to get involved and that’s amazing. And with the leaked Supreme Court opinion in May, there’s an influx of people who want to get involved. We want to engage that base to put pressure on our elected officials in Illinois to agitate for expanded abortion access. So in California, for example, there’s a bill that passed the house and crossed over to the Senate that would protect anyone who helps someone have an abortion by prohibiting California courts from taking up any cases based on out of state laws. These are just examples of the sort of creative legislation that people are coming up with to protect each other, and I think that matters.

And we’re using this moment to preach a pro-abortion gospel, so to speak. So we are in the majority; two thirds of people in the U.S. want Roe upheld, and we’re not going to see that happen, but we can’t be quiet about it. We need to name abortion explicitly and we have to have conversations with our people. We have supported a hundred percent of our callers since July 2019, and we want to keep that going. We don’t want to go back to listening to voicemails, logging those voicemails, doing all of that data intake and not being able to support any single one of those people. It’s a horrible feeling to not be able to meet that need, and I am remaining very disciplined in my hope that we won’t have to.

KH: I am so glad Meghan brought up the need for legislation to protect pregnant people, and people who miscarry or abort, even in blue states. As we recently saw in California, with the attempted prosecution of two women who experienced stillbirths, people are still at-risk of being criminalized for pregnancy outcomes in blue states. What can we do about that? Well, there is a piece of model legislation, written by the Public Leadership Institute called The Pregnant Women’s Dignity Act, and while I would obviously prefer a trans-inclusive title, the gist of this bill is that it would protect people who experience the loss of a pregnancy from criminal investigation. We need some version of this bill passed in every possible state. Because right now, we have states declaring themselves welcoming states for abortion seekers where residents can still be investigated and criminalized for their pregnancy outcomes, if they are suspected of managing their own abortion. We also have prosecutors in conservative counties in blue states who are going to want to get in on the criminalization of pregnancy, and will look for any legal avenue to do so. If states want to declare themselves safe havens for abortion, then they need to decriminalize pregnancy entirely. In my opinion, the fact that we even have to talk about decriminalizing pregnancy is a strong argument for prison and police abolition. Laws that offer abortion funds and residents in blue states some legal insulation, when helping abortion seekers in red states that are implementing aiding and abetting laws could also prove important.

This crisis is largely being presented to people as though there are states where abortion is safe and states where it is not. But even with Roe intact, a map of so-called “abortion deserts” in the U.S., created by Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health in 2018, revealed a bleak picture. The color-coded maps that depict what states are most likely to allow or restrict abortion post Roe do not capture the actual availability of abortion care within blue states. As Robin Marty wrote in The New Handbook for a Post-Roe America, when clinics and providers are mapped, “most of America is a spotted wasteland where pregnant people live over a hundred miles from care” — and that’s now, prior to the fall of Roe. For this and many other reasons, even within blue states, people will sometimes opt to self manage their own abortions. Others will simply be accused of doing so, whether they have or not, because pregnancy outcomes are being surveilled, and profiling will come into play. We know this is happening and that it has happened, and if we say we are going to defend reproductive autonomy, we have to fight to protect everyone.

When a swath of near total abortion bans passed in 2019, CAF was among the groups my collective worked with to organize a reproductive justice rally in Chicago. The rally had a major online fundraising component, as we were trying to direct money to abortion funds in states affected by the bans. That rally included chants like, “All genders, all voices, our bodies, our choices,” to emphasize the inextricable connection between abortion rights and all trans health care rights. We also held our ground that day against right-wing protesters. I have been thinking about that action lately, and all the values it tied together, and how desperately those values are needed in this moment. Because, as we have covered in recent episodes of the show, the fight against transphobia and the struggle against white supremacy cannot be divided from the struggle for abortion rights.

MD: The struggle against white supremacy and transphobia shows up in our work every day. At CAF we work towards abortion access from a reproductive justice model and reproductive justice is not interchangeable with abortion access. It’s not interchangeable with reproductive rights or with reproductive health. Reproductive justice is a very specific framework and theory and praxis that was founded by Black and African American women, a group of 12 people here in Chicago in 1994 and it encompasses the right to have children, the right to not have children and the right to parent and care for our families in safety and with dignity. So it’s very broad and it’s a very deliberately laid out framework and theory.

So it’s fundamentally about whether you as an individual or the state has control over your body or your destiny, your family, your community, these bills are all connected. So the history of fighting for reproductive justice is essentially the history of fighting against anti-Blackness and xenophobia and settler colonial violence. So in order to have the right to care for our families in safety and in dignity, these structures of violence can’t exist. So day after day, we’re seeing transphobic bills roll out across U.S. states, around girls’ sports, for example; that would deputize everyday people to subject young folks to invasive and medically unnecessary pelvic exams, for example, tantamount to sexual assault in order to ensure that only cis girls are allowed to play girls sports. And we’re involving multiple social systems here: schools, health care, the family in what amounts to the sexual assaults of young people.

And this is fundamentally a reproductive justice issue, and we do not need a dissertation to understand why, right? And the deputizing of everyday “concerned citizens” in these efforts should ring the same alarm bells for us as the bounty hunter provisions in the Texas Senate Bill 8 and its copycat bills do. And this isn’t to mention other transphobic legislation that makes hormones difficult or impossible to access for trans folks of all ages. Again, it’s about bodily autonomy, about creating and caring for the families that we want and deserve. Queer children deserve to be protected and we deserve to see our elders grow up. And we know that because of how different forms of oppression intersect, that people of color, especially Black folks, are going to be most impacted by these types of bounty hunter legislations, right?

We have seen, and we can talk about this when we talk about criminalization, we have seen how invitations to become bounty hunters most adversely impact people of color, right? And we don’t have to do mental backflips to try to get inside their head or ask ourselves, “How can they be doing this if they know women and girls, or if they care about women and girls?” Right? I think it’s well intentioned and I think folks are really trying, but white supremacy is what ties all of these strategies together for the right. It is what allows them to justify the control of particular people’s bodies, of particular people’s reproductive and sexual health, and it’s what allows the right to control how particular people create and care for their families, and whether particular people are separated from their children or whether particular people are caged. That’s how they make sense of their strategy.

In our daily work, we’re very deliberate in our language. We say abortion, and we say pregnant people. We ask people what their pronouns are, we don’t assume. We don’t use euphemisms like a woman’s right to choose because that’s not what we’re talking about. And we know that the framework of choice is overly individualistic anyway, right? We refuse to leave our trans and non-binary and queer siblings behind. We’re not going to do that. Additionally, we see over and over again, that white supremacy creates multiple barriers for Black women, especially.

If folks have not listened to the “Movement Memos” episode with Dr. Dorothy Roberts, she lays this out exquisitely and all of her research and all of her books do as well, right? That white supremacy creates structural barriers, anti-Blackness specifically. And that pregnancy and reproductive healthcare are particularly dangerous for Black women. This shows up in our work every day and we see the barriers that people are facing in pregnancy, unwanted pregnancy, right? And it’s our job to fill that gap in care, to fill that gap in resources and connect them to the abortion care that they need and that they deserve, and to make sure that it’s a good experience when they get there.

KH: At that reproductive justice action in 2019, that I mentioned earlier, we actually used some coathanger imagery in our signage and props. It made sense at the time, but if we organized the action today, we would not use that same imagery, because we are now in a moment when we are desperately trying to get the word out to people that, even after Roe falls, there will be medically safe options outside the law. For now, at least, there are many trustworthy online sources of information for people who want to self-manage their own abortions, and there are already people working in their communities to assist people who are managing their abortions outside the medical system, on their own terms. But the threat of criminalization hangs heavy.

Even with Roe intact, we have seen the criminalization of pregnancy fall most heavily upon Black and Indigenous women and people of color. State Supreme Courts in Alabama and South Carolina have ruled that a person’s substance use during pregnancy constitutes criminal child abuse. Several states have also created child welfare laws that make prenatal drug exposure grounds for terminating parental rights because of child abuse or neglect. Such penalties have been disproportionately applied to Black women, whose demonization during the crack epidemic of the 1980’s was leveraged to pass such laws. As Dr. Dorothy Roberts explained in a previous episode of Movement Memos, the criminalization of pregnancy as we know it today evolved from this framework of demonizing Black mothers who had used substances while pregnant.

In 2018, 19-year old Brittney Poolaw was convicted of manslaughter in Oklahoma after having a miscarriage. When she was questioned by police at the hospital, Poolaw, who is a member of the Comanche Nation, admitted she had recently used methamphetamine and marijuana. At trial, a medical expert testified that Poolaw’s drug use may not have resulted in her miscarriage, but the jury was unmoved and convicted Poolaw in less than three hours. She was sentenced to four years in prison.

Many people are familiar with the case of Purvi Patel, a South Asian American woman who was sentenced to 20 years for feticide and child neglect in Indiana before her conviction was overturned. Patel’s pregnancy ended outside of a medical setting and she was accused of self-managing an abortion. By the time the court downgraded the charges against her, Patel had already served a year and a half in the Indiana Women’s Prison. Feticide laws ostensibly exist so that people who commit violence against pregnant people can be charged with the death of the fetus. Patel was the first woman charged in the U.S. under a feticide law, but it appears likely that she will be the first of many. While investigating, police questioned Patel about the ethnicity of the fetus’s father, believing that because she was an Indian woman, Patel might want to abort a baby conceived with someone of another race. This kind of profiling and surveillance provides a snapshot of what to expect from the state as it polices and surveills miscarriages in a post-Roe United States.

In the 1980’s, laws criminalizing drug use during pregnancy led many pregnant people to forgo necessary medical treatment. The same should be expected in the new age of surveilled miscarriages in red states after the fall of Roe.

Given the role of criminalization in this moment, I was eager to hear Meghan’s thoughts on how the fight for abortion rights connects with the struggle for prison and police abolition.

MD: Prison and police abolition is integral to our fight for abortion rights and specifically integral to our fights for abortion justice and reproductive justice. Criminalization, especially criminalization of people of color and Black people in particular is the foundation upon which the right hopes to control people’s reproductive outcomes. So the hyperfocus and hyper-criminalization of Black women’s pregnancies. And again, Dr. Dorothy Roberts speaks to this, whether conduct during pregnancy or miscarriage or still birth, criminalizing pregnancies for Black women is widespread and has deep historical roots.

Beyond the criminalization of pregnancy outcomes, whether they be miscarriages, whether they be still births, whether it’s the criminalization of abortion, we can think about prisons and policing themselves as reproductive justice issues. Incarcerated people who are pregnant may be outright denied access to abortion or pressured by guards and jailers into getting abortions if their pregnancy is the result of assault. Roth and others have done incredible work on this really important research, documenting these horrific practices inside. So there are tremendous medical needs for people who are incarcerated: substandard prenatal care, abortion restrictions and bans, coerced birth control and shackling during childbirth, even though this has been specifically outlawed in many places. So we can think of incarceration itself as a reproductive justice issue.

Now, if we’re talking about somebody who is on electronic monitoring or EM, let’s picture them in a state where there’s a 48-hour mandatory wait period, or a 24-hour mandatory wait period, that means they have to leave the house twice, right? And getting clearance to leave the house is such a bureaucratic nightmare and that’s part of it. It’s part of the punishment. Additionally, anti-choice protestors outside of clinics create massive, massive disturbances and people will say, “Well, oh, can’t the police be there?” And the police and the anti-choice protestors are some of the same folks. The Venn diagram is almost a circle. We can think of policing as a reproductive justice issue as well. We have had folks stopped by the police in Chicago on their way to get abortion care, harassed by the police in Chicago. There have been multiple studies about policing influencing poor reproductive health outcomes, especially, especially for Black women and Black pregnant people.

We can think about what it takes to cross state borders for pregnant people to access abortion care, we need to be thinking about warrants. We need to be thinking about the fact that somebody’s support person might not be able to cross state boundaries because of being criminalized. The pregnant person might not be able to because of being criminalized, and then where does that leave us? Right? So when we are thinking about abortion access, it might feel overwhelming, but we have to be thinking and dreaming and planning really, really, really expansively. We have to be doing what prison and police abolitionist thinking encourages us to do. We need to be thinking about building a new world entirely because when Roe falls, band-aid solutions are not going to be enough. We need to be thinking about building something better in its place, because a lot of people are going to be left behind otherwise.

When we think very critically about criminalization and policing and prison, we need to keep our focus laser focused on the social structures that criminalize people and the lack of resources that make people more susceptible to criminalization.

And when we do that, it frees us from these awful perceptions that blame people for their own incarceration, that blame people for ending up in cages. And It frees us from this invitation to categorize people into good people and bad people. It frees us from this moral binary that I think ultimately is so useless. And when we can imagine ourselves in solidarity with folks who are incarcerated, we can do really good work. We can be more strategic. I think we can build better movements, we can build stronger movements and our analyses will be sharper. On a less theoretical level and a more material level, we can get people free, and that’s the most important thing.

For people who are newly activated, newly energized, or perhaps reactivated and re-energized in the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned, I say welcome. We’re so glad you’re here. And we need you. I think everybody has something to offer, and doing a scan of what your skills are and how that matches to the needs of collectives and organizations that are already doing work to make abortions more accessible for people in your community is the best way to get started. I think doing a bit of research to see what’s already being done and then figuring out how you fit into that is the way to go. My mentor and friend, Sekila Enzenga, always says, “Get in where you fit in.” And I think that’s a really sound piece of advice.

There are so many ways to help with organizing and to help with this type of work. Not all of it is glamorous, not all of it is fun. Some of it can be crunching numbers. Some of it can be transcribing a really beautiful virtual event. Some of it, yes, can be helping to organize the marshals at a protest or a march in your local city or town at the behest of an organization who needs your help. For those who are really interested in direct service work, something I wish I knew earlier is that it can be really hard.

There is a lot that abortion funders and people working with these collectives can address. Abortion funds work magic. I mean, we just do: financial support, logistical support, getting people from A to B. And there are so many things going on in people’s lives that we, even as an organization, even in a beautiful network of funds and clinics, practical support providers, with all of the connections that we as individuals bring to this work cannot solve. And that is crushing. Sometimes you will feel crushed under the weight of systemic oppression and that’s part of the work.

KH: One thing Meghan and other organizers have strongly cautioned people against in this moment is the reinvention of wheels. Before you consider starting anything new, please do a solid search for people and groups who might already be addressing the need you are concerned with. Because they are probably out there, and this kind of support work requires a lot of training and preparation. There are major safety concerns to navigate, and there are also many essential lessons that organizers have learned along the way, in their years, or even decades of doing this work.

MD: For people who are newly activated, newly energized, or perhaps reactivated and re-energized in the wake of Roe v. Wade being overturned, I say welcome. We’re so glad you’re here. And we need you. I think everybody has something to offer, and doing a scan of what your skills are and how that matches to the needs of collectives and organizations that are already doing work to make abortions more accessible for people in your community is the best way to get started. My mentor and friend, Sekile Nzinga, always says, “Get in where you fit in.” And I think that’s a really sound piece of advice.

There are so many ways to help with organizing and to help with this type of work. Not all of it is glamorous, not all of it is fun. Some of it can be crunching numbers. Some of it can be transcribing a really beautiful virtual event. Some of it can be helping to organize the marshals at a protest or a march in your local city or town at the behest of an organization who needs your help. For those who are really interested in direct service work, something I wish I knew earlier is that it can be really hard.

There is a lot that abortion funders and people working with these collectives can address. Abortion funds work magic. I mean, we just do: financial support, logistical support, getting people from A to B. And there are so many things going on in people’s lives that we, even as an organization, even in a beautiful network of funds and clinics, practical support providers, with all of the connections that we as individuals bring to this work cannot solve. And that is crushing. Sometimes you will feel crushed under the weight of systemic oppression and that’s part of the work.

When Trump got elected, we saw these so-called anti-networks popping up. In our movement, we knew immediately that these were pretty dangerous. I want folks to know that you need a lot of training and expertise to do direct service with people who are seeking abortion care. And I would say you probably need even more to be running that kind of practical support network to be hosting people in your home or to be starting your own organization. So “get in where you fit in” is again, the sound piece of advice that I keep coming back to. But everybody has skills that they can offer and if it’s not within an organization, then there are some really great low-lift individual ways that people can get involved. You can become a monthly donor to your local abortion fund. And when I say any amount matters, I do really mean any amount. You can give $5 a month to your local abortion fund. That goes much further than giving to a big national organization.

We work in partnership with some of these organizations and they do excellent work in clinics, and we appreciate them so much, and your donation to your local abortion fund will go much further by way of getting direct support to people needing abortion access. If a monthly donation just isn’t it for you right now, you can have a heart to heart conversation with somebody in your life about abortion. You can say the word abortion when you have that conversation. I think people may not realize how important this is: Ask folks in your lives if anyone they know has had an abortion.

I’ve had really beautiful conversations with my family members about whether or not grandmas or great aunts have had abortions. And I’ve learned that they had, but it was always in secret, right? It was very hush hush. And this work has cracked open a lot of really beautiful conversations with loved ones for me that just never would have happened and has shifted them in ways that I had never expected. And it’s because I was encouraged and supported by people in our network to have those conversations. And that peer-to-peer work and connecting with us or connecting with your local fund for resources about having those conversations is I think more powerful than people realize.

KH: Despite being uplifted and even celebrated in some circles, abortion funds remain seriously underfunded.

MD: Abortion funds are still seriously underfunded compared to large national organizations, when we look at the funding landscapes of major grants making organizations. When we look at the breakdown from major grant making organizations in the reproductive rights, health and justice landscape, abortion funds receive just 3% of that funding.

This is really important because the direct service budget of abortion funds is quite large proportional to their organizational funding needs. So we’ve gotten 2000 calls in the first four months of 2022, we’ve called all of those people back. Our average pledge or grant to a caller for their abortion care is about $160, $175 right now. They could be as little as $100 and they could go all the way up to $2,000. So that funding is needed and that funding goes directly to our callers. Funding abortion funds, equipping abortion funds with the financial material resources to do this work will help us scale up to meet the growing need that we’re going to see in the next weeks and months to come. We’ve already seen a huge influx of calls in the past year. I gave you a quick statistic about what we funded in 1986 and what we’re funding now. So 33 calls versus 2000 calls and that’s a huge jump.

But in 2019, we were getting just under 200 calls the whole year and funding just under 200 people the whole year, and now we’re getting 2000 calls in four months. So this influx began as barriers were starting to stack up for people, before the overturn of Roe v. Wade became imminent. And that’s exactly what the right has designed for us to be the reality for pregnant people across the U.S. And so abortion funds need material resources so that we can scale up, so that we can have staff to do this work, so that we can spread out the number of calls, so that we don’t have people who are burned out, so that we can invest in the leadership and wisdom of people who have had abortions to do this work of Black and Brown people to lead our funds and make sure that this work is sustainable for the folks who are doing it.

KH: This is a tense and angry time for a lot of us. I know I’m fucking furious. Every day, I take in the news, and I process the trajectory we are on, and I feel like I could punch a hole in the wall. But, as talking with Meghan reminded me, our anger is not our greatest strength right now. Don’t get me wrong, our anger has power and I plan to put mine to use. But we are going to need so much more than anger to get through this. To protect and defend each other, to fight for reproductive justice and the world that we deserve, we are going to need to double down on our relationships, and we are going to have to care for each other.

MD: I think in the coming weeks and months, there will be a lot of fear and a lot of sadness and a lot of anger, but that won’t sustain us. I think what will sustain us is our hope and is our love for each other. What will sustain us is our commitment to our callers. What will sustain us is our commitment to reproductive justice and our commitment to eradicating criminalization, to fighting against white supremacy. Loving each other and holding each other close will be what gets us through these moments. We need each other and we can’t do this alone.

That means all of us individually can be thinking about how to love each other, how to appreciate each other, how to hold each other close. And it means as an organization, we’re always aware that we don’t do this work alone either. It’s made possible by all of the incredible sibling funds we have in the Midwest and nationwide, all of our clinic partners who are opening up extra days already to meet the growing need for their influx of patients, the amazing doulas and midwives who do abortion care work, people who provide practical support. All of us and all of the people who love on us so that we can show up to do this work, have to keep hopeful and grounded that the wisdom and love that we have cultivated together will get us through because it has to. And having each other and relying on each other has to be our fuel because the fear and the anger and the resentment is only going to get us so far. I think the hope and the love has to be what gets us the rest of the way.

KH: The hope and the love have to be “what gets us the rest of the way.” I could not agree more. There are so many ways we can show up for each other in that spirit right now, and I really encourage folks to do so. I also encourage everyone to have conversations, not only about abortion, but about the prison-industrial complex and its many tentacles. Talk about what pregnant people are going to be up against in 2022, given that the surveillance state extends into schools, hospitals and interpersonal communications. We live in an age when texts about being surprised, scared or unhappy about being pregnant could become evidence in a criminal case, as could the information in our period tracker apps. Purvi Patel’s doctors helped the police criminalize her. That is the world we live in now and we have to talk about it.

Many people have never really imagined themselves as being subject to the criminal system, or even begun to process what that would mean, if they have considered it. For this reason, that system, and its expansive reach, can become invisible to them. But it’s time to see the unseen. It’s time to make connections and understand what we’re really up against. Because the prison-industrial complex is the beast the Republicans would feed us to, and its ongoing fortification and expansion is a bipartisan project. But we have the power to organize against that monstrosity and compromise its reach. We have the power to organize for abortion rights and reproducive justice. We have power. And we have each other. So let’s do what we can, when we can, to get each other through these times.

I am so grateful to Meghan Daniel for talking with me about the Chicago Abortion Fund and the powerful work that they are doing. You can learn more about their work at chicagoabortionfund.org. You can also check out the show notes of this episode on our website for more resources about funding abortion, self-managed abortion and how you can take action. I also want to thank our listeners for joining us today, and remember, our best defense against cynicism is to do good, and to remember, that the good we do matters. Until next time, I’ll see you in the streets.

Show Notes

Resources:

  • If you are self managing an abortion and need support, you can call the call the Miscarriage + Abortion Hotline at 1-833-246-2632.
  • You can learn more about The Chicago Abortion Fund by checking out their website or by following them on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.
  • If you or someone you know finds themselves under scrutiny for a miscarriage of any type, you can contact If/When/How for legal assistance.
  • To learn more about model bills and legislation, such as the “Pregnant Women’s Dignity Act,” you can check out this resource from Robin Marty.
  • Aid Access “consists of committed team of doctors, activists and advocates for abortion rights. The purpose of the website and the service is to create social justice and improve the health status and human rights of women who do not have the possibility of accessing local abortion services.”
  • Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and HowToUseAbortionPill.org have created this video series for anyone looking to learn more about an abortion with pills up to 13 weeks of pregnancy.
  • The National Network of Abortion Funds builds power with members to remove financial and logistical barriers to abortion access by centering people who have abortions and organizing at the intersections of racial, economic, and reproductive justice.
  • If you live in a red state, you may want to get rid of your period tracking app. One alternative is Euki, a period tracker that does not store any of the information you enter into the app in the cloud or anywhere else.

Further reading: