Following the news the US could potentially overturn the legal right to abortion, people started organising protests.
Meanwhile, a different kind of organising was taking place on Reddit.
Posts with titles like ‘Oregon Auntie ready to help’, ‘AL Auntie stepping up’, ‘Librarian in Massachusetts Ready to Help’ started popping up on a the subreddit r/auntienetwork soon after the news broke.
The group, created in 2019 as a ‘place to help anyone who has a uterus’, is dedicated to providing information and resources to those in need of abortion services in the US.
Abortion is an expensive process in America and for residents in states where it’s illegal, it comes with the added burden of needing to travel out-of-state to obtain them or order medications to manage their abortions at home.
Members of the group, calling themselves ‘aunties’ and ‘uncles’ to those who need abortion resources go beyond online outrage and offer support in the form of a bedroom, food and transport to and from abortion clinics in their state.
‘4 years ago, my best friend needed an abortion. The nearest clinics were in New Orleans, but it would have cost somewhere around $900. She couldn’t afford that,’ one ‘auntie’ told Metro.co.uk.
She ended up driving her friend on a 1,287 km round trip to a cheaper clinic in Los Angeles for the procedure, where they stayed with another friend.
Now, she’s ready to help others by doing the same.
The group has a number of people offering up their homes and spare bedrooms in abortion friendly states.
‘Married Auntie (34) and Uncle (37) in Connecticut with an extra room for a niece/nephew/nibling,’ reads one post mentioning Connecticut’s position as a sanctuary state.
A lot of the members who have chosen to help have had abortions themselves and want to help people in a similar situation
‘I have gotten one myself and went with my best friend who had to get one due to her baby no longer having a heartbeat,’ said one auntie, reminding us what’s at stake.
‘Compassionate care, safe care, and a judgement free environment. Most of all their right to choose what happens to their body. I would not have been able to do it without the support and education in place,’ she said.
‘It actually sickens me, no government should get to decide what a women does with her body. We should not be going back to women dying from coat hangers or unsafe abortions,’ she added.
While some members find their way to the subreddit while searching for abortion resources for friends online, others say they found it on ‘some Handmaid’s Tale forums’, referring to the dystopian TV show.
This rings eerily true to some of the posts from residents in Canada offering to pick people up at the border and drive them to abortion clinics.
Online groups like r/auntiesnetwork are already vital for people in US states where abortion access is already limited and they will become even more necessary should Roe v. Wade be overturned.
‘Initially, I was devastated, but now I’m motivated. Abortion has always been very hard to access here in Mississippi, and it’s been inspiring to see people come together,’ one member told Metro.co.uk.
The shame and stigma surrounding abortion has pushed conversations about it online through whisper networks but it looks like the 63,600-strong group might be the best hope for people scrambling for access to reliable abortion resources in the coming days.
‘I’m planning to help with financial assistance for travel and procedure costs, providing transportation myself, offering lodging for recovery or, potentially, a place to stay during self managed abortion. I’ve also started building a small stash of birth control, Plan B, and abortion pills,’ one ‘auntie’ told Metro.co.uk.
If the US does outlaw legal abortion, r/auntienetwork members are unfazed saying they would ‘only go deeper underground’.
‘With the rise of social media in general, making connections and subverting asinine laws is a part of modern activism. We’re letting people know that help and support is out there, and it may even be locally available,’ one ‘uncle’ told Metro.co.uk
‘Banning abortion only bans safe legal abortions. If a person needs to remove a pregnancy, they are going to find a way…safe or not,’ he added.
Members also engage on the group in spite of the potential risk involved. Trust is an important part of the group but how do you trust a stranger online to help with something as sensitive as an abortion?
‘It’s a dangerous situation for everyone involved but desperate times call for desperate measures,’ said one queer member who worried him and his wife were at risk of being attacked by someone that could against LGBT+ rights.
People offering help are using encrypted messaging platforms like Signal to ensure safety and privacy.
‘I feel like we’re experiencing one of the early chapters of The Handmaid’s Tale. They didn’t arrive at the last chapter all at once, it took everyone ignoring the slow erosion of women’s reproductive autonomy that led to the final chapters,’ Mary Harrison, another ‘auntie’ told Metro.co.uk.
‘I’m terrified for my daughters and future generations,’
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