Feel totally helpless about what's going on right now? You aren't.

By Elly Belle
May 15, 2019 @ 7:45 pm
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You might have heard by now that the state of Alabama passed legislation to totally ban abortion on Tuesday, May 14, and that by Wednesday evening the Governor had signed it into law, making America’s most restrictive anti-abortion law a reality. If reading this makes you feel like the future is bleak, that’s understandable.

There’s much talk on social media about how legislation like this ban doesn’t end abortion, it only ends safe and legal abortions. But what can you do to help, especially if you don't live in Alabama, and you have a feeling that frantic tweet storms aren't going to cut it? There actually are many different immediate actions that can be taken, whether you’re in Alabama or not, to help women and people in Alabama continue to access the care they need. All hope is not lost, and every little bit of collective and individual action can make a difference in the lives of people who are directly affected by the ban.

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InStyle spoke with Helmi Henkin, Vice President of Public Outreach for Yellowhammer Fund and Chair of West Alabama Clinic Defenders in Alabama to learn exactly how abortion funds work, especially in light of restrictive legislation, and how anyone can pitch in to help.

Donate money to abortion funds in Alabama like the Yellowhammer Fund.

Abortion funds are organizations that help people pay for and access abortion care. This can include the cost of the procedure itself; transportation and lodging before, during, and after; funds to alleviate the financial pressure of taking off work, paying for childcare, and so forth. While some have started GoFundMe’s and the like to individually fundraise for people who need abortions, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. There are many abortion funds and grassroots initiatives that already exist and need your help.

Henkin says there are only three abortion clinics in Alabama to begin with, so much of the money they raise goes to paying for people to go to clinics out of state. “Ninety-five percent of counties in Alabama don’t have a clinic, and we have a 48 hour waiting period so that means abortion-seekers have to go to the clinic, they have to go through the state-mandated session that explains the process of getting an abortion, which usually shames them, and then they have to go home and think about it. And most people have to wait a week because with any job you can’t get two to three days off in a row, and it’s hard to find lodging, childcare, transportation, and then people have to wait to fundraise their appointment,” she says. Donating money to abortion funds in Alabama like the Yellowhammer Fund will ensure that your money goes as far as possible as soon as possible.

Donate money to other organizations that provide resources and help to people in need of abortions.

There are other kinds of grassroots causes you can donate to, like the P.O.W.E.R. House in Montgomery. The P.O.W.E.R. House sits right next to the abortion clinic in Montgomery, and is an actual house that provides shelter and resources, like food and support, to those who have traveled to get an abortion and need somewhere to rest and rejuvenate. Supporting grassroots organizations like this ensures that people can not only afford to go get an abortion but experience the comfort and care they need after the experience, which can be an emotionally and physically taxing ordeal for some. Donate here or sign up to volunteer.

If you can’t afford to donate, share other people’s posts about raising funds.

Maybe you’re broke or just not currently in a position to help out financially. That’s okay! It is not the only way to make a difference. Henkin encourages signal boosting other people’s posts about donating, and sharing out links to donations, protests, and other ways to help. Amplifying other people’s voices is often just as valuable as donating your own money. Sharing information might not be sharing dollar bills but it still means you’re helping the issue to reach more people’s eyes and ears, increasing the chances that others will donate and volunteer their time.

Hold a fundraiser event or solidarity protest wherever you are.

One way to help raise money, regardless of how much you personally can afford to give, is to hold a fundraiser. This can be larger scale (hosting a party or event that you sell tickets for, ask for donations at the door, charge for drinks, gather money in hats and buckets — whatever you and your friends are up for), or super small (baking some cookies and selling them on your street) then donating proceeds. Hosting an event for like-minded people to come together and lend support is a great way to create a sense of community during scary times, and it will make a material difference when you send in your donation.

If your party is more of a noisy street corner protest, or a gathering at your own state capitol or courthouse steps, then so be it. Solidarity protests are great, too, Henkin explains. They can gain press attention (which, in turn, can help raise more funds), and they show Alabamians they aren't alone.

RELATED: This Tattoo Is a Subtle Nod to Abortion Rights — and More and More Women Are Getting Them 

If you’re actually in Alabama, become a clinic escort or volunteer.

“There are plenty of things to do in your local communities,” Henkin says. See if there's a local abortion fund in need of volunteers. Clinics, too, are also always grateful for escorts to make people who come seeking treatment feel welcome and less alone. If you don’t want to be an escort, or feel you don’t have the time in your schedule, there are all kinds of ways to volunteer. There’s something for every person, no matter what your skill or availability is like, Henkin says. That means there’s definitely a way for you to spread hope and tangible change.

Find abortion funds across the country, here.

Learn about how abortion bans affect more than just women, and support the LGBTQ community.

Our understanding of gender is constantly evolving, and that means the way we talk about issues like abortion access and reproductive rights must change, too. Using language that explicitly states that men are not affected by abortion bans, and that all men don’t care about reproductive rights might sound correct, but it isn’t. There are transgender men, as well as gender nonconforming people who need abortions and reproductive health care, and saying that abortion bans and limitations to reproductive rights doesn’t affect them can only harm them.

RELATED: Alyssa Milano's "Sex Strike" for Abortion Rights Missed the Mark, Here's Why

If you want to specifically help the LGBTQ community in need of abortions and reproductive support in Alabama, consider supporting Birmingham’s local LGBTQ center, the Magic City Acceptance Center in and the TAKE Resource Center in Birmingham. In Montgomery, there’s Pride United. Your support for LGBTQ people who are affected by lack of access to abortions is invaluable.

Be thoughtful and cautious about the information you spread and the way you talk about abortion.

Last but not least, one of the most important things we can all do is be mindful about how we talk about abortion and reproductive rights, besides simply being gender-inclusive. Being reactive and snarky on social media might get us a few followers, but a joke about how terrible men are won’t necessarily change circumstances for the people in Alabama who need help right now.

“What you say and the narrative you use to frame abortion can really hurt people in Alabama who need our help,” Henkin cautions. “Don’t say to boycott Alabama. It’s very privileged to be able to do that. People can’t just move, or change the fact that they’re in Alabama. That completely dismisses the complexities of race and class and ability, and the organizations on the ground.”

If you feel like tweeting about your despair or disparaging business for supporting Alabama, or anything of the like, remember that your energy could be better spent supporting the people who need it. Ultimately, Henkin says we all have a part to play in making sure that people in Alabama who need abortions still have what they need to access whatever health care they need, despite the ban. Whether you donate, volunteer, fundraise, or spread helpful information, you can make a difference for Alabamians — and you can pretty much reference this list and use it for any other state impacted by similar laws. Georgia, for instance. Louisiana and Texas aren't far behind.

“We’re not giving up on our state. We’re not giving up on the people most impacted. We’re not going anywhere,” Henkin says. “Someone asked me this morning, ‘What’s going to happen to the clinic?’ and I said ‘We always come back. We’ve had clinics shut down before.’ For whatever reason, if Roe v. Wade gets overturned and abortions are banned, we’re still going to be there to provide the care people need, whether that means getting them out of state or giving them resources through our reproductive justice centers. We’re not going anywhere.” And those of us across the country who are ready to help? We're not, either.

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