Hey all! I’m Hannah Schulz and for these past few months, I’ve been working as NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio’s spring intern. As a recent graduate from the University of Mount Union, I was looking for meaningful work related to an issue that I deeply care about and this position has been the perfect fit. I’ve represented the organization at events on college campuses, created fun and educational resources and researched upcoming outreach opportunities.
In the midst of this global health pandemic, many of these traditional in-person meetings have been cancelled or postponed indefinitely. Although these changes are necessary and understandable, it is still disappointing. I was looking forward to continuing my internship in Cleveland, learning more about non-profit work and having conversations with community members. I’m sure many of you were looking forward to various organizing events, too. NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio has adapted to work from home and I’m still involved in meaningful work, though not in the way I originally imagined. While this situation may be discouraging and certainly not what we are used to, there are still plenty of ways to be involved at home and online. The following are a few actions that you can take during quarantine to advocate for abortion access and reproductive rights in your community.
Start a conversation around the intersection between COVID-19 and reproductive rights: While everyone’s attention is centered on COVID-19 and our response to the crisis, reproductive rights seem to be lower on the list of priorities. They shouldn’t be. The obstacles that people normally face while obtaining reproductive healthcare, such as cost, transportation and childcare, are exacerbated by the virus and attempts to slow its spread. Mothers seeking abortions encounter new financial struggles as they must care for their kids at home from school and seek childcare while they have the procedure. Young adults who are recently unemployed may face the difficult decision between rent payments and groceries, an abortion, or even birth control. Now is not the time to become quiet about these issues. Raise these concerns with those around you, and make it known that reproductive rights are threatened and are in danger of becoming less accessible due to COVID-19.
Donate to your local abortion fund: Due to financial strains caused by the pandemic, abortions are difficult to obtain at the moment for many individuals. If you are in a more comfortable financial situation, consider donating to an abortion fund. These funds are used to offset the cost of an abortion for those in financial need, therefore removing some of the stress that can be associated with having an abortion. To support patients at clinics in Ohio, you can make a donation to Women Have Options. Preterm in Cleveland also has an access fund (specify that your gift go to the “Abortion Access Fund” in the comments section), while Aggie’s Fund supports those seeking abortion in the Toledo area.
Write an opinion piece to your local newspaper: Every week, it seems that there is a new development regarding abortion access somewhere in the country. Though the outcomes are not always negative, media sources may portray the news in a variety of ways, and an opinion piece is a good way to publicly support the expansion and protection of reproductive rights while exposing restrictive measures. These letters should be focused and, unsurprisingly, opinionated. This is an opportunity for you to be vocal about your beliefs and share your thoughts with others. Not everyone will agree with you, but those that do will likely be encouraged and reassured by the presence of another individual in their community who shares similar values.
Thank your local abortion providers: Those who work at abortion clinics face pushback and threats on a regular basis, yet they continue to show up and provide compassionate care to those who need it. The actions of these individuals are even more outstanding today considering how they have been attacked by politicians looking to take advantage of the pandemic and further their own agendas. Take a moment today to reach out and share your appreciation for your local abortion providers and their staff. Be sure to contact your local clinic directly before sending them anything in the mail, though, so they know to expect a package from a supporter rather than a protestor. Sharing a message via social media or email may be the easiest way to show your support right now without needing to leave your home or jeopardize your abortion providers.
Educate yourself: Take this time at home to learn more about the intricacies of reproductive rights. There are plenty of great resources out there to help you become more informed. Reproaction, an all-virtual organization, offers helpful webinars and fact sheets that cover plenty of issues. For more facts and figures, you could spend a whole day reading information from the Guttmacher Institute. Podcasts like Rewire News’ Boom! Lawyered and our own NARAL’s The Morning After provide timely updates and discuss developments related to reproductive rights. Documentaries like Reversing Roe on Netflix or Abortion: Stories Women Tell and Trapped are also informative. When you come out of this quarantine, you’ll be better versed on the issues you care about and more comfortable busting stereotypes and myths surrounding reproductive rights.
Vote… and encourage your friends and family to do the same: Although Ohio’s primary election has only just come and gone, it’s time to start thinking about the general election. November 3rd may seem like a long way off, but it is never too early to encourage your friends and family to register to vote. Commit yourself to following up with them. Make it a personal goal to reach out to at least three friends or family members this election cycle and encourage them to vote. Together, you can ensure that your registration information is current, each person is knowledgeable about the candidates and issues on the ballot, and everyone has a plan on when and where they’ll vote. This is also a great opportunity to talk about candidates’ platforms and encourage them to prioritize pro-choice individuals.
Contact Attorney General Dave Yost and your other elected officials: Express your concerns to your elected officials about the need for continued healthcare during this time. Abortion is a time-sensitive procedure and cannot be delayed indefinitely; in fact, it should not be delayed at all without risking profound consequences. Abortion also becomes more expensive further along in the pregnancy and waiting for an abortion may not be economically feasible for some individuals. Attorney General Dave Yost needs to know that abortion access is essential and attempts to shut down clinics are grossly opportunistic and will not be tolerated. Add your name to a petition condemning his political attacks on abortion access. Additionally, many legislators are utilizing social media to remain in contact with the individuals they represent by hosting virtual town halls and posting updates surrounding COVID-19. Since lobbying in person is not an option, take your lobbying online. Ask your representatives questions during their virtual town halls, call them out directly by tagging them in posts, or share your opinions on specific issues in text or video formats. There is no limit to how often you can contact your representatives this way. Be persistent and make your perspective heard.
Attend online events: Since in-person gatherings are not possible at the moment, many organizations have been working to transition events to a digital platform. For example, NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio recently participated in a webinar for Freedom of Choice Ohio Advocacy Day rather than gathering in Columbus. (This webinar included many useful tips and updates! If interested, you can listen to a condensed version of it here.) I’ve found it helpful to follow different groups’ social media pages to hear about upcoming digital events, such as interactive webinars, panels, and live videos discussing relevant topics. Being involved in this way allows you to show support for these organizations and their efforts as well as provides you the opportunity to form relationships with others involved in the effort.
Invest in yourself: Our everyday lives have been significantly altered these past few weeks, and it has surely taken some time to adjust to our new schedules. Chances are that you have more spare time than you’re used to having. Capitalize on this situation by using that time to take care of yourself. Meditate. Take a bath. Pick up that book you’ve been meaning to read. Don’t just consider it a break from work but rather an opportunity to recharge. When in-person advocacy resumes, you will be energized and feeling your best.
I hope that this post finds you well and that you are encouraged by the opportunities to make a difference during these unexpected times. You don’t have to engage in all ten of the actions described here. Rather, choose a few that interest you, maybe even one that challenges you, and set aside time over the next few weeks to pursue that action. Call a friend or two and make an evening of it by completing some of these activities together. Who knows, you may just find a new favorite way to digitally advocate even after in-person events resume.