Sun. Aug 14th, 2022

Since the Supreme Court was overthrown Roe v. Wade Last week, following the ending of the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy, social media platforms buzzed with anger, dismay and offers of help, especially from people in states with stronger abortion protections.

But a certain kind of offer has attracted media attention. In viral tweets, TikToks and screenshots and re-shared Instagram posts, people are opening their homes to abortion patients who have to travel for care.

“If you choose to have an abortion and need a place to stay, there’s always a bed for you in my Portland apartment. Free. No questions asked,” reads a tweet, liked more than 150,000 times and retweeted by more than 20,000 people.

Providing shelter or transportation to appointments has long been part of practical abortion support, and organizations have honed their methods through decades of experience. With the fall of roe, there is an increased urgency from people who may not have done this work before, but now want to. Offering housing feels like a tangible and direct way to help.

But organizations coordinating accommodation and transportation services worry that an influx of one-off, public and uncontrolled offers arranged via social media could put patients and volunteers in dangerous situations.

Jade, who coordinates volunteers and training with the Northwest Abortion Access Fund, says volunteers go through a number of steps and screenings before they can receive abortion seekers into their homes. After a short intake form, the fund conducts telephone screenings, training courses and home visits to determine how accessible it is – especially for people who have just finished a procedure – who has access to the room and whether there is privacy for patients.

The NWAAF has paused home stays during the pandemic and employees are working to redesign their process in preparation for the program’s relaunch. The preference for abortion funds, says Jade, is that people who need shelter after their abortion go to reputable organizations that know what they are doing.

Balancing appreciation for the influx of volunteers and additional resources with very real concerns about safety and security is challenging, and Jade says they were concerned about the issue as the SCOTUS decision approached.

First, abortion resources, such as funding, transportation and shelter, already come from a variety of sources, and access to these resources is often difficult or confusing – now add thousands of individuals and new groups offering couches, air mattresses and guest rooms. And without training or experienced staff to facilitate something like a host family, a relatively risky arrangement could still become fraught.

“The concern I have is that if there’s no vetting procedure and there’s no clear place to stay somewhere safe, harm can happen from well-meaning people,” says Jade. Worse, the volunteer hosts may be acting in bad faith. Anti-abortion individuals who welcome patients into their homes might try to dissuade someone from having an abortion, similar to how crisis maternity centers operate, or put patients in physical danger.

Immediate and unscreened stays can also be dangerous for hosts. Recent anti-abortion laws suggest that the future of abortion is one that criminalizes not only those seeking reproductive care, but also those who help them access it. For example, the restrictive abortion ban in Texas passed last year allows people to sue doctors, advocacy groups, volunteers, family members, and anyone who helps a patient get an abortion (the ban was temporarily blocked this week by a judge in Texas).

“There are more legitimate risks at this point in being someone who publicly advocates abortion in general,” says Jade. “It gives people the ability to find your address and phone number, contact you, and generally know what you’re up to.”

That risk isn’t a concern for Janie Harvey Garner, a nurse and the creator of the Volunteer Aunties Facebook group, who, on the day of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overrule decision roe† Volunteer Aunts is one of several offshoots that have sprung up since last week, and it has grown to about 3,500 members, many of whom Harvey Garner recruited through another health professionals Facebook group she moderates.

Harvey Garner says she’s not trying to reinvent the wheel — she’s just hoping to connect volunteers with groups that already have access to abortion.

“My goal is to link these volunteers, who are in a demographic that follow me, to existing organizations,” says Harvey Garner. At this point, the group’s goal isn’t to match individual abortion seekers with resources, but she says that if anyone joined the group seeking help, she would point them to available resources.

But choosing a public platform like Facebook groups to host pro-choice volunteers is far from foolproof — several members have expressed security concerns about using the platform to coordinate with one another. People who join Volunteer Aunties have to answer a handful of screening questions before being added, but Harvey Garner believes the group is already being monitored by anti-abortion users.

“I’m pretty sure within the first 1,000 [members] there were people who were anti-woman,” she says.

How platforms themselves will respond to a postroe The world is still unclear and unfolding in real time as people face new challenges in accessing abortion. Earlier this week, Meta clarified that messages offering to ship abortion pills violate its policies on pharmaceutical drugs. Even sharing information about abortion online is under legal threat.

New groups or individuals emerging to provide resources are often ill-equipped to respond to the myriad of situations that can arise as a person goes through the steps of having an abortion, said Marisa Falcon, executive director of Apiary for Practical Support. These less experienced actors may not have considered the questions experienced organizations have, such as how to minimize a patient’s digital footprint, how to respond to a crisis before or after a procedure, and how to protect patient privacy.

Offers of couches and guestrooms may have gone viral on social media, but many hands-on support groups have deliberately moved away from volunteer housing in recent years, Falcon says. Her organization provides resources and training to abortion groups that provide housing, childcare, meals, transportation and other support and maintains a top-notch list of providers.

“What customers generally want and need is a private hotel room,” she says. “They don’t want to sit by the house, let alone on a stranger’s couch.”

Falcon and Jade both say what organizations really need is money and patience to help abortion seekers most effectively. For people who want to help, that means joining the groups in the area that are active, who are generally unfunded and under-resourced, and brace for an even more acute need as protections against abortion are being lifted. demolished.

“A lot of these messages of support are about people wanting to offer the things they want to offer and not necessarily thinking about the needs and interests of the customers,” Falcon says. “We need to talk about what people need, not what people want to give.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.