Our Work After Dobbs
What am I going to say now instead of “safe, legal abortion?”
It’s hard to answer that question because of the avalanche of feelings its context has always brought about for me, all the more so when it has been made a national reality in my own country. It’s a brain-stopper. It’s like all the blood is rushing to my unsurprised-yet-still-utterly-gutted soul, so none of it can get to my head.
When something as devastating as the Dobbs decision happens, something relevant to potentially every member of your organization and many of those who utilize your organization and its services, directors are expected to say something. All the more so when it’s someone like me, for whom abortion has been and still is a big part of my own work and life.
(Sometimes I can respond in an immediate, collected way with things like this. Sometimes, I just can’t do jack, no matter how hard I try or how much I want to. Friday was like that. So was Saturday, Sunday and Monday.)
One thing you’re supposed to say is where your organization stands.
Unless you are just meeting us for the first time today, or have only scratched the surface of both our content and what our direct services can offer, you probably already know where both we, and I, stand on this. If you have ever utilized our site and services for anything abortion-related, you probably know more than most people about where we’d stand when — and like so many, I have long known it was a when, not an if, especially after the 2016 election — we lost Roe.
Scarleteen has been strongly and actively supportive not just of reproductive choice and justice on the whole from before it even launched in 1998, but especially of abortion and wide, open access to it. I have made very clear to people since I was in my 20s — and it’s been a minute, I’m 52 — that I am not just pro-choice, but pro-abortion, and that’s only intensified for me in the decades since. Again, if you’ve been around a while, you don’t need me to tell you that all of that has absolutely imbued the approach to both abortion and reproductive justice as a whole here in content and additional resources (see "on other sites" in sections like this) on the site, in my books, and in Scarleteen’s direct services. It’s one of the things our detractors like to talk about like it’s a bad thing, and that people or even organizations who now are on board with abortion, but weren’t before have even used to gatekeep us. But it’s one of the things I am personally proudest of when it comes to Scarleteen. We have never wavered or stepped down from our strong, supportive stance on abortion. As long as I have anything to say about it, you can be sure we never will.
I’ve written before of some of the many ways this is very personal to me: like as the child of someone who didn’t have the legal right or any access to safe abortion. It’s personal to me as someone who has themselves wanted and needed abortion: needed economically, needed because of my physical inability to carry pregnancies to term, needed or wanted logistically, and, most importantly and absolutely as validly, wanted simply because I did not want to remain pregnant or parent.
It’s personal to me as someone who has worked directly in abortion in many ways, both in a clinic and as an educator. I have seen the value firsthand that access to safe and effective abortion brings to people’s lives. I have also seen and experienced the terrible and heartbreaking impact of being denied access. The couple of years that I worked in an abortion clinic, I passionately loved almost every part of the job. There was one part that I outright hated though, and that ripped my freaking guts out, sometimes for weeks after, every time I had to do it: the part where you sometimes have to tell people that they can’t have the abortion they want or need.
It’s personal to me as someone whose life started before Roe, when and because abortion wasn’t legal, who has now lived long enough to see it dismantled, who has done their best to fight for these protections and rights most of my life, it is a literal horror.
It’s personal to me as — and pardon my being extraordinarily obvious again — someone who cares about people. In actions, not just words. For real.
These are also all things all of the staff and volunteers at Scarleteen want and care about, and that have always been core parts of our organizations values.
If we’re already past “safe and legal,” then “safe and—“ what?
I’m very late in responding directly to this question, just so that’s clear from the front. But it has been hard to find something new to say. We, collectively, and I, individually — have known for an age that a standard which upholds that safe can only be so when also legal is both deeply white and Western, deeply colonialist and even more deeply ridiculous.
I have known for as long as I can remember that abortion isn’t legal everywhere — it wasn’t for my own mother when she became pregnant with me —and that people have engaged in safe, available and unevenly but sometimes effective means of abortion outside the law for at least thousands of years. (Licensed physicians operating in legally sanctioned environments do not hold a monopoly on safe abortion and never — neither in history nor in the present moment — have.) Not everyone has had access to those safe but unlawful means, and that’s the one of the biggest problems with legal constraints on, or outright criminalization of, abortion. Criminalization takes all safe and effective abortion out of reach for so many. Many people have been and still are left only with the “choice” of forced pregnancy and birth, or unsafe and ineffective attempts to terminate pregnancy, risking anything from criminal consequences to physical harm and sometimes even death. Some haven’t had or don’t have even those so-called choices.
We — and I — also have long known that the entire legal system here itself has done and still does great harm and is not a system in which a majority of people, particularly the most marginalized people, are at all safe. We all should have been looking at this through an abolitionists lens long before the Dobbs decision that rolled back Roe, and with it, some of the most basic human rights of so many, on Friday.
You’re also supposed to say what you’re going to do at times like these.
That part’s easy.
We’re going to keep doing the things that we have always done when it comes to abortion.
We are going to continue to create, produce, and provide accurate, non-judgmental, inclusive and supportive information to our readers and users, including about abortion and access to it, both in our static content as well as in our direct services, in-person outreach, and among our colleagues.
We are going to continue to advocate for young people, and help them do so for themselves, when it comes to their reproductive rights, abortion, and other kinds of essential bodily autonomy. We are going to continue to provide counsel or other direct support to users who come to us for things like options counseling when pregnant, or who are asking for help accessing abortion, including utilizing self-managed methods, or looking for emotional support after abortion.
We are going to keep uplifting everyone in this arena of work, especially those who do some of the heaviest lifting: clinics, their staff and other abortion direct care providers, abortion funds, clinic escorts and other individuals, groups, projects and organizations who work to provide abortion, abortion access, and/or sound, intersectional and accurate information about or support for abortion without apology or stigma. We are going to continue to make our help and support available to those folks when they want or need it. (And if you’re reading this and saying, “I/we would love that help!” email us!)
We are going to keep saying most of the same things we have always said about abortion, access and legal protections here:
That abortion is essential healthcare.
That everyone, including young people, should have unfettered access to abortion for themselves without institutional or other kinds of externally or systematically imposed limits.
That ideally, the costs of abortion should be considered and covered like most other essential healthcare is by nations and their respective healthcare systems.
That not only is abortion not wrong, abortion is often very right and always is and has been for a tremendous number of people.
That abortion is a public, and most often personal, good.
We are also going to keep doing what we can do to protect, increase or restore abortion access, and policies that protect people with abortion and their access to it.
Everything we have always done when it comes to abortion is what we most likely will just keep on doing. We’re now only more strongly dedicated to all of this work than we were already. We’re also going to be saying “safe and legal” a lot less than we have been, and instead using frameworks and language that are both more realistic and correct for many people, but that also aim higher for what we all want and need than mere and — as so sadly evidenced with Dobbs — often fickle lawfulness.
Like, “Safe, effective and both fully and universally accessible.”
To start, anyway.
- Heather, Scarleteen founder and director, 6/28/2022
We are currently reviewing and updating all of our abortion content after the Dobbs decision, and will continue to do so. Even after we have completed that review, please know that as an organization for whom abortion is not the sole focus, and a resource that is international rather than local, we will not ourselves always have the most current information or the information for a specific location or situation.
To always find the most current information on legality of and access to abortion in the United States and its individual states, we suggest some of the sources we look to with this information:
• For information about where each state stands after the decision: this and other related pieces at the New York Times, this one from the19th*, and this one from the Center for Reproductive Rights.
• For help accessing abortion in the United States/finding out what your access options are, the National Abortion Federation's hotline: 1-800-772-9100
• For legal help with or more information about self-managed abortion, and if you are under 18: The Repro Legal Helpline (also by phone at: 844-868-2812).
• For legal help with abortion and other resources: If/When/How's helpline. They also maintain this in-depth Wiki on Judicial Bypass.
• In the event you want or need a self-managed abortion, or want pills for advance provision, AidAccess is an excellent place to obtain abortion pills.
• Keep your eyes on our social media: our Twitter and Instagram are two places where we often circulate important information and/or resources about and for abortion. There are also several of these excellent resources linked further up in this piece.
• You can always come into our direct services (the message boards, text service or chat service) to ask us to help you find information about accessing abortion where you live, or for any other information about abortion. We will, as we always have, gladly walk someone through everything we can offer with abortion: accurate, tailored-to-you and supportive information, help making choices, help finding access or funding, emotional support, and other kinds of help and support before, during and after. <3