For the time being, the Religious Right has won on federal abortion rights. The Supreme Court is stacked with Catholics—two thirds to be precise—and they have voted to overturn Roe v Wade. For now, conservative Christian theology limits your legal rights and the rights of people around you. But there is a lot we can do immediately to take back some control and, especially, to reduce the amount of harm this will inflict on real people.
- Get the word out about abortion pills and internet access. Abortion pills, also known as “Plan C,” are extremely safe—so safe that a group of fierce young women from Shout Your Abortion swallowed them on the steps of the Supreme Court to make this point. When taken orally, the pills trigger an ordinary miscarriage—so ordinary that once it is in process medical providers can’t tell the difference. In most countries, a majority of abortions happen this way. And now they are available on the internet via telemedicine. Through AidAccess, a woman anywhere can talk to a medical provider in the Netherlands and have pills mailed to her. So, talk about this, write about this. Make sure all of the young people in your life know.
- Prebuy a course of abortion pills. AidAccess doesn’t require that you be pregnant to sell you a set of medication abortion pills. For $150, you can keep a set on hand in case someone in your life needs them. Share information verbally (not in writing) about who has pills. Send them to college with your kid. At AidAccess, people pay what they can, so think of your purchase as a donation. Your paying full price allows them to subsidize pills for desperate people with fewer resources.
- Join or fund the underground railroad. Across the U.S., abortion funds arrange travel, lodging and medical appointments for women who must travel out of their state to get an abortion. Go to the National Network of Abortion Funds. Familiarize yourself with the site. Find your local abortion fund or pick a state you care about. Donate, offer to be a driver, offer to provide housing.
- Find out if there are any independent abortion clinics in your area and help them. (Map of independent clinics here.) In red states, these clinics will be providing important aftercare for the five percent of women whose self-managed miscarriage doesn’t quite do the job. Even without pills, miscarriage is quite common. Over half of fertilized eggs either fail to implant or boot themselves out at some point during the gestation process. But sometimes a miscarriage doesn’t flush out all of the tissue and a medical procedure is needed to complete the process. Miscarriage management and post- medication abortion management are identical. Independent clinics know how to do this work, and unlike religiously-controlled hospital systems, they won’t harass someone about whether or not she deliberately brought on the miscarriage—and then call the police when a frightened person admits that she did. We need to protect and support them.
- Help people not get pregnant when they don’t want to. This is our most leveraged, humane, empowering, and cost-effective strategy for mitigating post-Roe harm. With top tier contraceptives like IUDs and implants, the need for abortion drops to near zero, and because these methods last anywhere from 3 to 12 years, they buy time while this political insanity plays out. (By contrast, each year 1 in 14 couples relying on pills will get pregnant. For those relying on condoms that’s 1 in 8. Mind you, without any prevention, about 85 percent of sexually active couples will experience a pregnancy within a year.)
Specific Planned Parenthood affiliates—in Eastern Washington, Central Oregon, and Southern Illinois (operated by PP Missouri) for example—are gearing up not only to provide out-of-state women with abortions, but to send them home with the long-acting contraceptive of their choosing so they don’t have to go through the same nightmare twice. Support these clinics directly.
Want to be even more strategic? Top tier long-acting contraceptives can be expensive, not all clinics stock them, and not all providers know how to insert them. Upstream USA is changing that. They train clinics across the country to provide the full-range of contraceptive options and they work with insurers and states to remove financial barriers. Their early work on contraceptive access in Delaware caused both unplanned births and abortions to plummet. By the evidence, their model dramatically reduces unmet need for abortion.
- Fight. Fight. Fight. Make no mistake, this Supreme Court decision is about religion, specifically vestigial Judeo-Christian* views of women and children. In the absence of Iron-Age-derivative theologies very few people honestly think that an embryo is a person or that the pulsing of a few microscopic cells is a heartbeat. Religious conservatives have been able to impose their theology on the rest of us because they are fanatical. They have been absolutely unrelenting because they believe they are doing God’s work. We have to be equally unrelenting and passionate about our own moral imperatives. Abortion access is a moral good. It promotes wellbeing. By contrast, forcing people to incubate and bear unplanned children simply because they want the pleasure and intimacy of sex—or because they have been sexually assaulted—is morally wrong. It promotes hardship and suffering. So, take the fight for chosen childbearing to the streets, or to state government, or to regulatory agencies, or to other countries. Get involved with legally defending people who have or provide abortions. Work on democracy reforms that undercut extremism, like ranked choice voting. The best way to engage is whatever fits your skills, capacities, social networks, and passion.
The fight for the Supreme Court and Roe may be over for as long as a generation. But the fight for reproductive freedom is not. Far from it. As Amelia Bonow from Shout Your Abortion pointed out, the battle has just shifted for now—from rights to access. And in that we all have a role to play.
*To be fair, modern Judaism has largely transcended these views, and even the writers of the Torah never prohibited abortion. Jewish theologians have written and spoken in defense of abortion access as a moral good–as did many mainline Christian theologians at the time of Roe v Wade. Nonetheless, the view of women as reproductive chattel is spelled out quite clearly in the texts of the Bible.
Valerie Tarico is a psychologist and writer in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light and Deas and Other Imaginings. Her articles about religion, reproductive health, and the role of women in society have been featured at sites including The Huffington Post, Salon, The Independent, Quillette, Free Inquiry, The Humanist, AlterNet, Raw Story, Grist, Jezebel, and the Institute for Ethics and Emerging Technologies. Subscribe at ValerieTarico.com.