A How-To Guide on Advocating for Abortion Rights
June 24 marked a day of mourning for reproductive rights activists nationwide. While many anticipated the outcome of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization after a leaked Supreme Court opinion in May, the overturn of the landmark case Roe v. Wade still gutted millions. However, abortion advocates would not be defeated.
Reproductive rights supporters have activated many, who are arranging protests, initiating campaigns, and speaking at state legislatures. Since the decision, trigger bills limiting abortion access were activated in many states with others like Indiana calling special legislative sessions to enact similar bans. As abortion access is threatened nationwide, Planned Parenthood and abortion providers are calling us to action.
How can we answer the call? There are many ways. Throughout your advocacy, remember to take time for yourself, to process or unwind. Giving your time and energy to a cause while rewarding, can be extremely demanding. Whatever you contribute, take comfort in knowing you are bolstering a nationwide fight for comprehensive healthcare and reproductive autonomy.
The right to protest has been continually exercised for the past two centuries. Taking to the streets and demanding visibility has always been an integral part of advocacy. Below are ways to find protests as well as ensure personal safety while protesting.
Tools for finding a protest
Nationwide campaign Bans Off Our Bodies worked with its partners to develop this interactive protest map, complete with embedded RSVP forms. Search the map to find a protest near you.
Local Facebook groups and Eventbrite gatherings are common mediums organizers use to plan protests.
Reproductive justice organizations list events on their websites. State-specific Planned Parenthood chapters often advertise any affiliated protests. To find your local Planned Parenthood, visit this link.
Tips for staying safe while protesting
Pack your protest bag, including water, snacks, sunblock, identification, emergency contact information, and any medication you might need throughout the day.
Ensure your phone is fully charged before you head out. You should always have a way of contacting someone.
Review the route and location of the protest. Identify different means of transportation from the event.
Bring a face mask or two to prevent potential COVID spread.
Don’t wear clothing or accessories that can be easily grabbed. Refrain from donning jewelry, ties, hair accessories, etc.
Wear comfortable, closed-toe shoes. Protect your feet.
Be mindful of the weather. Avoid heat exhaustion by wearing thinner, lighter clothes and drinking water. Pack layers if the temperature will fluctuate.
Leave the contact lenses at home. Tear gas and pepper spray can get caught behind the lenses and severely irritate your eyes. Opt for sunglasses or swimming goggles
Consider packing a bandana soaked in water, lemon juice, or vinegar to cover your nose and mouth. This can aid in breathing during chemical exposure.
Know Your Rights
Freedom of Expression and Assembly:
Everyone has the right to verbalize their opinions publicly.
Protection of the Right to Freedom of Assembly:
Law enforcement must facilitate and not restrict a peaceful public assembly.
Freedom from excessive use of force:
In the policing of non-violent protests, police must avoid the use of force.
Right to Medical Assistance:
If you are injured you have a right to medical assistance without delay.
Freedom from Arbitrary Arrest and Detention:
If you are arrested you have a right to be told of the reason for your arrest, you also have the right promptly after your arrest to have access to a lawyer and to your family.
Right to Complain:
If your rights have been violated you have a right to file a complaint and to be provided information on how to do so.
Photography and Video:
When you are lawfully present in any public space, you have the right to photograph anything in plain view, including federal buildings and the police. On private property, the owner may set rules related to photography or video.
Regarding a Permit:
You don’t need a permit to march in the streets or on sidewalks, as long as marchers don’t obstruct car or pedestrian traffic. If you don’t have a permit, police officers can ask you to move to the side of a street or sidewalk to let others pass or for safety reasons.
Stick with a group of friends or fellow protestors if possible. Be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Avoid engaging with anti-abortion protestors. Don’t accept any materials from them.
Avoid direct contact with police officers. If you’re stopped by the police, don’t resist. Keep your hands visible. Ask if you’re free to leave. If officers say yes, calmly walk away. Don’t consent to a search of yourself or your things, including your phone. Here’s what to do if police violate your rights.
Protect your cell phone privacy. Lock it, turn off thumb/face unlock, disable location services, etc. Learn more about digital privacy with the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s protest guide.
It’s important to recognize that fundraising isn’t the only way to advocate. Considering inflation and a widespread rise in the cost of living, donating is not fiscally possible for many. Still, abortion funds and other organizations are always in need of more financial support. Make sure you know how your money is being used when you donate.
Independent abortion providers still perform the majority of abortions nationwide. They also generally receive less financial support and visibility.
Abortion funds are non-profit organizations that provide financial support to abortion seekers. Funds pool their donations and then distribute them to cover procedure and transportation costs. By donating to an abortion fund, there can be comfort in knowing your money is going directly towards abortion care.
If/When/How is a national network of legal professionals that defend those criminalized for seeking and promoting reproductive justice. Donations go towards legal defense including advice, representation, and attorney referrals.
Donating to Planned Parenthood
As mentioned previously, many don’t have the means or flexibility to offer their time. However, if you wish to volunteer, there are many positions available at abortion clinics or even virtual phone banks.
Consider joining a phone or text bank to advocate for reproductive justice and abortion access.
Sign up to volunteer at your local Planned Parenthood chapter.
Volunteer with the organization Trust Women, where you can work as a clinic volunteer, patient liaison, phone banker, or canvasser.
Apply to be a clinic escort through Clinic Access Support Network.
Social Media Activism
Taking to Twitter or Instagram in addition to taking other actions can effectively garner widespread support. Here are some ideas about how to approach discussing abortion rights via social platforms.
If you are safe and able, share your experience with abortion in order to normalize the procedure here or on other social media platforms. Consult Planned Parenthood’s Social Media Kit for more information.
Amnesty International provides tips on streamlining posts and choosing hashtags in their Abortion Advocacy Social Media Guide.
The Center for Reproductive Rights designed posts and captions anyone can use.
Follow reproductive justice accounts to stay informed and motivated.
Engaging Your Representatives
It’s the chorus we hear from our parents’ generation and older whenever we express disdain for a recent political decision. While drafting emails and calling politicians’ offices with little or no direct response can become discouraging, your perspective matters and can affect how your representative(s) address policies. Try starting at the local level, and then work your way up to your senators and congresspeople.
To locate your representatives, visit this database.
The Green Party and National Women’s Caucus created a pre-filled form you can direct towards your representatives. You just need to provide an email address.
Here is a generic email template to send to your representatives.
Pro-Choice America suggests holding a postcard writing party—where you and others gather to write and address postcards to their representatives.
Article originally published in Keke Magazine.