“We need to support each other, let people know they’re not alone,” says Stephany Bolivar, who lives in Brooklyn, New York. In a Facebook post, she offered to accommodate anyone who had to travel to New York to have an abortion. She then messaged several young women she once babysat in Georgia, where Bolivar grew up, and expanded the offerings should they ever need it.
“I just feel like we should stick together,” said Bolivar. “This affects everyone.”
Eddie Phanichkul, who lives in Milwaukee, said he would help cover transportation costs for anyone who had to travel to a neighboring state to have an abortion. His inspiration was partly to think of the rights his daughter had taken away.
Some posters attempt to defraud vulnerable individuals, while in others the communications may create digital trails that could be used for possible prosecutions, legal experts told DailyExpertNews.
“There are people who are sincere and would welcome a stranger into their home,” said Khiara M. Bridges, a law professor at the UC Berkeley School of Law. “But I do think it raises some questions about opening up liability.”
“When someone faces barriers to care, it’s often complex. Often it’s more than one barrier and abortion funds really have that particular expertise in helping callers overcome barriers including funding, travel, shelter, childcare, language barriers,” said NNAF Director Debasri Ghosh.
“It’s amazing there’s such a deluge of support,” Ghosh added. “We want to ensure that that energy is directed in a way that really helps people access care, while respecting their safety and privacy.”
Why they offer to help
Frustrated and taken aback, Phanichkul wrote a short message offering to help pay for or set up transportation to Minnesota or Illinois for anyone in Wisconsin who needed the procedure. “If someone is really struggling, I’m more than willing to help find resources, help pay, help them drive,” he told DailyExpertNews.
Bolivar, who works as a software engineer in Brooklyn, said she also thought about the many people around her who were affected: the young women from her home state who were now on their way to college and her best friend from college, who needed the procedure years ago. Bolivar said she wanted those close to her — and anyone who found her mail — to know she was there to help in her own little way.
“It was very frustrating,” she said. “(The emotions) still range from really really angry and just extremely pissed off to just being sad and trying to figure out what I can do to help.”
Sydnee Corriders, a therapist and racial equality counselor in Brooklyn, said she grieved after the verdict and wanted to act as a resource for those around her who may need help finding organizations to contact or needed other types of help. .
“As long as I’m able, I will pay for/contribute to anyone who doesn’t have access to abortions, and get the care they need,” she wrote on Twitter, while also offering to help people find therapy— options.
“I am by no means wealthy or wealthy, but being able to have a steady income…I wanted to show up as a member of the community and recognize my privilege and be able to make some money available to those in my community and then who might be in need,” she said.
An ‘unprecedented’ legal landscape
“It kind of depends on which anti-abortion state decides to do this first, which providers, or helpers, or patients they target, what the state law says, what the abortion-support state law says, and how they’re fighting it out,” Greer says. Donley, an associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh Law School, “These are going to be extremely complicated questions.”
“I’m not sure if there has ever been an example in history, or at least modern history, where the states are so divided and have such intense interest in opposing directions,” Donley added. “It’s certainly unprecedented, in modern history.”
What Experts Say You Should Consider
It’s not just legal concerns that experts and lawyers worry about, especially for those who would like to travel for the procedure. Law professor Rachel Rebouché, the interim dean of Temple University Beasley School of Law, said she is concerned that some of the online help offers are attempts to spread misinformation or take advantage of vulnerable individuals.
Others are concerned about the privacy implications of information posted online.
“We all know that our data is not safe on social media, that there are very few privacy protections when you use social media apps,” Bridges said. “I’d be surprised if that data isn’t checked.”
It’s why abortion rights advocates are urging anyone seeking an abortion to look to established organizations for help, NNAF’s Ghosh said.
And those who want to help others can contact established organizations to see what services are needed, Ghosh said.
“We encourage people to get deeply involved with local abortion funds, asking them what they need right now, be it volunteers, offering rides or financial support,” Ghosh said.
“I believe there is a place for everyone in this movement, but we need to be strategic and respond to the needs of the people doing this work on the ground.”