Meet the ‘underground railroad’ network helping women in states passing anti-abortion laws

Andreya Willis is opening up her Iowa home to any woman living in a state that recently passed extreme anti-abortion laws.

“You’re welcome to stay here as long as you need and I’ll provide you with transportation to anywhere you need to go,” Willis wrote on Reddit.

Willis is doing this to help women get safe, legal abortions or have access to any other reproductive healthcare option.

Willis told the Daily Dot that no one has taken her up on her offer yet, but over 700 people from around the U.S. have offered similar support to women seeking abortions after being inspired by her post.

“I decided to open my home because if I were in their shoes I would want someone like me to be there for them,” Willis said. “It’s important to me that all people have options and these laws are taken that away from them.”

Like Willis, many people are now forming an “underground railroad” network of sorts to help women after Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio passed laws that either outright ban abortion or greatly restrict access to it. The individuals are offering a place to stay, rides, and other amenities so women can travel to these states and get safe and legal abortions.

“Hey Georgia ladies (Ohio and Texas, too),” Lynnie Couillard-Blance wrote on Facebook. “If you need to visit your Auntie/Cousin Lynnie in NY, you just DM me.”

Couillard-Blance started the Auntie Network as a resource to help connect these women with those who wish to help and support them.

“Got a free bed and the willingness to share it for a couple days? Excellent!” says the group’s Facebook page. “Can offer a drive? Perfect!”

The group is currently figuring out how to ensure the safety of its participants and creating a sign-up system for those who want to be “Aunties.”

“Need help, a hand to hold, a way out? We are so sorry to hear that but know you aren’t alone,” the page says. “No judgments. No questions. Just help if you need it. Your family is here for you. We’ll figure it out together.”

Women traveling to get abortions is not a new phenomenon. Before Roe V. Wade in 1973, abortion was already legal in several states. Women often found themselves traveling to these states to get abortions, but often had to do it alone, without a support network. Some women did not have the means to travel, leaving them to have abortions in an unsafe, illegal way.

The internet has offered modern women, who find themselves in the same predicament as their predecessors, a support system consisting of everyday citizens that will give them the resources their own state and representatives won’t.

“I feel very disappointed that we have to band together like this. It’s almost as if we regressed 50 years politically,” Willis said. “But on the flip side, I think it’s incredible that people from every corner of the United States are offering their support and assistance.”

The Daily Dot has reached out to Lynnie Couillard-Blance.

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Eilish O'Sullivan

Eilish O'Sullivan

Eilish O'Sullivan is an editorial intern for the Daily Dot studying journalism and government at the University of Texas at Austin. Her work has appeared in the Austin Chronicle and the Daily Texan.