Last week, two days after a federal judge halted Texas’ restrictive abortion law, a U.S. appeals court reinstated it, resulting in the latest blow to abortion rights across the country. Senate Bill 8, which went into effect in September, bans abortion after six weeks and deputizes Texans to report citizens who help someone terminate their pregnancy.
Despite the heavy media coverage of Texas, it isn’t the only state introducing legislation that limits access to abortion. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 90 abortion restrictions have been enacted in 2021, more than any previous year. This includes states like Oklahoma and Arkansas, which prohibit abortions in any instance unless the pregnant person is in danger for their life, and states like Idaho and South Carolina, which have passed “heartbeat bills” similar to Texas, preventing an abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected.
In December, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the Mississippi abortion case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which could result in overhauling the landmark Roe v. Wade. The case challenges the state’s restrictions and its ban on abortions after 15 weeks, before the fetus is viable.
Even with continued blows to abortion rights across the country and the upcoming Supreme Court case that could restrict access even further, advocates across the country don’t need to feel hopeless. There are actions people can take to assist in the fight and ensure that anyone seeking an abortion can access it safely.
Reach out to your local organization or donate (if you can)
Many local organizations use funds to offset costs for someone receiving a safe and legal abortion, and provide other resources. Donations can also go toward helping support activism efforts and lobbying in both local and federal legislation. You can research organizations to see if they focus more on lobbying efforts or access to health care.
A simple Google search can lead you to multiple organizations in your state. These two lists compile a number of abortion rights organizations across the country, but looking through social media, reaching out to women’s health programs on college campuses, and using other networks can connect you to more grassroots organizations that might need support.
And while money is one of the most crucial needs for abortion funds and other organizations, advocates recognize that not everyone has the resources to donate. If that’s the case, there are many other ways to contribute.
Keep an eye on local officials and legislation
The passage of Texas’ SB 8 did not come as a shock to those who had been paying attention. Texas legislators have been making access to abortion difficult for years through banning cities from partnering with Planned Parenthood and requiring pre-abortion counseling. In many cases, local elected officials run on a platform of being anti-abortion, the first indication that women’s health care could be used as a tool to gain voters. Organizations like the Guttmacher Institute and Planned Parenthood have a chart listing abortion restrictions based on state, which can be used to track restrictive laws and where people can get access to abortion.
Despite anti-abortion laws making headlines at the state and national levels, many of these conversations start locally. Activists and organizers emphasize paying attention to municipalities and elected officials. Understanding city laws and stances of officials can help determine the future of abortion. A guide from Advocates for Youth breaks down state policies on abortion, which can affect the city you live in.
Paying attention to local and state laws, voting, writing to your local and state representatives, and making your voice heard at a city council meeting can ensure that elected officials know your concerns. For those who want to go to the federal level, they can call their senators to express their stances on other laws up for consideration both statewide and nationally, such as Rosie’s Law and the Women’s Healthcare Protection Act, which would protect the right to access abortion care throughout the U.S.
Create space for people to tell their abortion stories
A lot of people who seek out or have obtained an abortion feel ashamed to speak out about it. Outside factors including religion, culture, or relationships can result in people feeling ashamed about their abortion and cause them to choose secrecy as a defense mechanism against the stigma. But in a study published in the journal Social Science & Medicine, 99% of women who had an abortion said they felt relief.
“Something [people] can do is talk about abortion and to do so unapologetically,” said Denise Rodriguez, the communications manager for the Texas Equal Access Fund. “We know that the reality is that for most people, abortions brought them the biggest relief. Abortion to them is a good thing and thats how we talk about it. And so we need to push back on the ideal that we need to feel apologetic about the fact that we support abortion.”
While helping people tell their abortion stories, Diana Gomez, the advocacy director for Progress Texas, says that showing your support means educating people and breaking down the stigma that comes with abortion—and it starts with family and friends.
“Everyday folks can make it really apparent to the networks they’re a part of that they can be a part of that support system,” Gomez said.
People who would like to help others share their abortion stories can create space for the loved ones in their life to open up, or they can get involved in a more official capacity. The Washington, D.C.-based organization Advocates for Youth has a storytelling project called Abortion Out Loud, which lets people tell their abortion stories. The project is a way to normalize talking about abortion and show support, whether through educating or increasing access to care.
“It’s really important for [people] to know that if you’ve had an abortion, you are loved and you are supported, and if you need one there is support still out there,” said Anna Rupani, co-executive director of Fund Texas Choice. “There are so many of us willing to help any pregnant person get the care they need, whatever that care may look like. Whether that care means just getting to an appointment and talking to someone, or if it means actually getting the procedure done or not the procedure—there’s support here and we want to make sure that they know that.”
Volunteering offers mental and emotional support for those who need access to an abortion.
Abortion clinics and abortion rights organizations often rely heavily on volunteers to walk people in and out of a clinic, or who can drive them to appointments or procedures.
With the passing of SB 8, organizations have received a flood of offers for help. Rupani says calling an organization and asking what they need is most effective in getting people help.
Use social media to spread awareness
Social media is a powerful tool that can be used to spread awareness. Commenting or resharing a message by an abortion rights group increases the chance that the information will reach someone who might need it.
Utilizing hashtags such as #BansOffOurBodies and #KeepAbortionLegal contributes to national solidarity and helps people to find local protests in different cities across the states. And the more people are talking about an issue, the more likely something will be done. Social media abortion activism has been proven to lead to some real-life changes. Users on Tik Tik recently banded together by spreading awareness on a “whistleblower” website created by an anti-abortion group in Texas, which later got shut down due to all the fake tips and spam.
Moving forward, activists want people to know that regardless of what anti-abortion legislation gets passed in the future, the fight to ensure people receive safe, easy access to abortion care will continue.
“At the end of the day, folks should know that abortion has always happened and it will continue as well,” Gomez said. “Abortion care has always been necessary and abortion care will be necessary regardless of what any judges decide.”