Washington online ‘aunties’ offer accommodation and abortion pills to people in conservative states

“Experienced Seattle aunt available to help,” wrote Meghan, a Seattle-area woman, on Reddit this week. For two years, Meghan re-shipped medical abortion pills to people across the country, especially those in rural areas.

Across Washington state, in Spokane County, Ryanne Jones offered to house “niblings,” or people seeking abortion help, for four years. She decided to announce her standing offer in Reddit’s r/AuntieNetwork community, after dealing with the news of the Roe v. Wade disclosed.

“If you’re in northern Idaho, I live not too far from Planned Parenthood and other clinics,” Jones, 47, wrote in a Reddit post on Monday. “I will even drive and pick you up if needed and take you to your appointment(s). I also have a spare bedroom that you can use for a short time.

Jones and Meghan describe themselves as “aunts”, an informal network of people, mostly women, who offer homes, routes to get to appointments, etc., to people who may need to travel to meet themselves. abort. These Aunties operate individually and are not tied to any organization. In the wake of the Roe v Wade Project leak, abortion rights advocates in pro-choice states are racing to expand access to outsiders.

The aunts took to social media, to do their part, in hopes of making a connection. Sometimes they do: Meghan estimated she shipped 20 abortion pills. Jones, however, has yet to harbor anyone seeking an abortion.

Given how close she lives to Idaho, that could change in an instant. As is the case in all states, abortion is still legal in Idaho. But it’s one of 13 conservative states with a so-called “trigger law,” ready to immediately ban abortions in case Roe v. Wade would be knocked down. The final opinion is expected in June.

These informal networks are not new. Jones said she views her efforts as a continuation of her grandmother’s legacy.

“A lot of her friends had what my grandmother would have called ‘misadventures,'” Jones said, “And there was no really legal way to get an abortion at the time.”

But while meeting for so-called “sewing circles,” in which the women made clothes and chatted, they shared information about the doctors who would secretly perform the procedure.

“This doctor will do it if you pay him cash and leave at this time of night,” Jones recalled, telling his grandmother. “You have to say that’s what you’re here for.”

Seattle-based gynecologist Dr Charlie Browne said there has been an increase in patients traveling to Washington state from Texas for abortions in recent months. He estimates that the All Women’s Care clinic, where he works, sees between six and 10 patients from Texas a month.

The uptick, Browne said, came after Senate Bill 8, a law banning abortions after detecting embryonic or fetal heart activity (usually 6 weeks old) took effect in Texas last September.

He said that if Roe v. Wade is canceled, “it makes sense that this [number] would increase.”

Jones said the safety of being an “aunt” is a concern – but she has a vetting process in place for potential guests.

“I can go stalk their Reddit story…before they need someone’s help, before it pays to play nice,” Jones said. “I was able to find out the type of comments they left, the type of messages they posted and the type of attitude they generally displayed.”

Meghan, who asked KUOW not to publish her surname due to legal issues, is offering her services on Reddit, explaining in coded language what she can provide. Sometimes people contact her because they have seen her posts. Other times they were referred to him by word of mouth.

A less invasive alternative to in-clinic abortions, the pills come in twos, each containing a different drug. The first pill prevents a pregnancy from progressing; the second, taken within 48 hours, empties the uterus. Megan explained her process for shipping the pills.

The person who needs the medication visits a virtual doctor, with a provider who can then write prescriptions for abortive drugs. The person in need will then pay for the medication, but instead of providing their own address, they will provide Meghan’s mailing address.

When the package arrives, Meghan checks the goods, then uses one-day shipping (she covers that cost) to send it to the person who requested the medicine.

These are mostly people who live in southern states where there are barriers to getting the pills legally, Meghan said, such as Tennessee, Alabama and Texas.

“These are generally more rural communities,” Meghan said. “Often these are places where abortion is theoretically legal, but telehealth is not and getting to a clinic is really, really difficult.”

Meghan said a woman she is in contact with lives in Tennessee, a state with a 48-hour waiting period, meaning she would have to make a second trip to visit the doctor, who is far away. from her house. “It’s not a health issue,” Meghan said, “it’s someone trying to block access to abortion and it works.”

Amelia Bonow, a Seattle-based abortion activist and founder of Shout Your Abortion, told KUOW she supports efforts like Meghan’s.

“Ideally, we were getting drugs in a way that we knew was absolutely legitimate,” Bonow said. “But in the world we live in now – and in the world we’re about to live in, absent a Roe – people are going to have to use other avenues.”

She added: ‘I fear online delivery systems will be flooded and people will end up waiting a long time for their medicines.

For her part, Meghan said that even if there was a legal crackdown on the reshipping of drugs, she would not stop.

“It’s not like abortions started in 1973 [when Roe v. Wade was first decided]”, Meghan said. “This is not a new phenomenon. It’s something that has happened all the time and will continue to happen all the time.

Clare McGrane and Patricia Murphy contributed reporting for this story.

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