Late Monday, the U.S. senate moved to confirm Amy Coney Barrett following an unprecedented push in the final week before the election (as early voting continues), directly going against the reported dying wish of former Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and following related super-spreader events that led to a number of individuals on the judiciary committee and in the White House (including the president and first family) testing positive for the coronavirus. Her confirmation, coming shortly after a disturbing ruling from the court on mail-in ballots in Wisconsin, also signals potential complications for the election, should it be close enough for the courts to decide.
TL;DR: People invested in safe and accessible reproductive healthcare — from abortion to birth control to IVF — are scared. And many of these people are looking for proactive, productive ways to use their time, money and resources to look out for their communities. In times of stress, confusion and fear there’s a lot of knee-jerk advice floating around the Internet about where your donation money is best spent or just what to do with all of these fears and feelings — but it’s important to be strategic in these moments and make sure we’re not making any unnecessary missteps.
Among these often highly politicized ill-informed suggestions? Running out to your local pharmacy and attempt to stockpile Plan B or encourage everyone in your life to get an IUD. For one, hoarding medical supplies of any kind (and especially during a time of crisis) is never a good look. If the pandemic taught us anything, it’s that panic-buying is a selfish, ineffective fix to systemic problems. Picking up a reasonable amount of Plan B for yourself (that you can have and potentially use to help your immediate network, given its shelf life), if you have the means, isn’t an issue — but it is not a fix that will help the people who would be made most vulnerable by further erosion of federal abortion protections.
Plus, you do not want to be That Guy who makes emergency contraception harder for a person who needs it ASAP to get because your lizard brain decided you needed a personal stockpile.
— Kat Green (@spygirlpix) October 27, 2020
The people who will most feel the effects of Roe v. Wade being overturned will be low-income women (most likely women of color) from states that do not have additional protections for abortion rights (particularly states with pre-1973 abortion bans that had gone unenforced or states who have passed anti-abortion legislation). Many of the uterus-owning people in these states are already feeling the heat of their reproductive rights being eroded — and have been for years. If you want to make the most impact and do the most good with the fear and anger you’re feeling, here are some better strategies:
Look for the helpers and become the helpers (but don’t reinvent the wheel)
If you’re already following activists and organizations in the reproductive health space, you probably saw this situation coming. If not, there’s still time to get familiar with some national and local groups doing some important work — and it helps to know that they are out there and that no one needs to start at square one. On the national level, there’s of course Planned Parenthood, the National Abortion Federation (NAF), NARAL Pro-Choice America and Abortion Action Front (AAF).
On the local-level (where you know your money is directly working to do the most good in your community in the shortest time), you can also donate to abortion funds. As the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF) writes “Abortion funds are united as a network of local, autonomous organizations that are funding abortion and building power to fight for cultural and political change… Together abortion funds form a network of over 70 grassroots organizations that directly supported 56,155 people in fiscal year 2019. But that’s only 26 percent of the 215,573 calls our network received that year. There is great unmet need. As fierce as abortion funds are, they need more support from people like you who care about making abortion accessible.”
A cool part about abortion funds is that they recognize the power of local activists knowing what their communities need and help connect people to the experts who can do the most good in the most efficient way: “Abortion funds are autonomous in their structures and policies,” per NNAF. “Our collective power as a network is rooted in our community connections and localized expertise. Abortion funds are the experts in direct service across widely varying cultural and political geographies.” NNAF even has a handy map of funds, annotated with the work they do (from helping financially with abortion or emergency contraception to arranging transportation or lodging).
If you don’t have the money to spare, you can also donate your time and volunteer efforts to these groups. Defending reproductive rights is a team sport and there are all sorts of ways you and your individual talents can be useful.
Put pressure on the state level
The battle for reproductive rights (including the various attacks on Roe v. Wade) over the last few decades has always been primarily fought on the state level. Per the Guttmacher Institute, states have enacted 1,074 abortion restrictions since the 1973 SCOTUS decision for Roe v. Wade. Of those restrictions, 288 (that’s 27 percent of them) have been enacted in the last ten years.
However, there are a number of states that passed constitutional or statutory provisions that work to protect people seeking abortion care even if the SCOTUS overturns Roe. If you live in one of these states — or a state that hasn’t been able to pass such provisions — link up with your local reproductive rights and justice groups to see where your time and energy can best be used. It could be calling your reps or organizing within your communities or helping put additional pressure on your elected officials (who work for you!) to fight for these rights.
Likewise, as Manhattan District Attorney Candidate Lucy Lang wrote for SheKnows, other elected officials (including DAs) in the U.S. have the power to protect people’s reproductive rights: “Faced with the threat of Roe being overturned, prosecutors have the responsibility to honor the Constitution, fifty years of precedent, and the American public by declining to prosecute women and medical professionals whose decisions are protected by Roe,” Lang writes. “I know from experience how important it is to have the right to make this very personal decision, and I know we must do all we can to protect that right.”
Vote (and understand the fight doesn’t end at the ballot box)
This one is obvious given our timing, but is not necessarily helpful for everyone— as a number of people who will be affected by any changes made to reproductive health access cannot vote or live in deeply gerrymandered states and counties where their vote or community GOTV efforts are not going to be a silver bullet to these threats.
(And, we get it, telling disenfranchised people to vote in a world where the senators who voted against Barrett represent 13,524,906 more people than the senators who voted to confirm her is not effective.)
But, if you have the ability to vote (particularly somewhere where your voice can support the voiceless?) it’s a simple way to take care of your own on top of some of these more immediate actions.
While you work to take care of others, take care of yourself too. Check out a few of our favorite (and more affordable) mental health apps to look after your brain: