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An underground network of pro-choice activists has popped up across the internet with the goal of helping women get safe, legal abortions after several states recently passed laws that either outright ban abortion or greatly restrict access to it. But abortion fund organizations are advising against joining the pop-up groups.
Through Reddit and Facebook, individuals are offering a place to stay and other amenities so women seeking legal abortions can travel out-of-state. Organizations like the National Network of Abortion Funds and the Midwest Access Coalition, however, have already been doing this kind of work for some time now.
The nonprofit groups are claiming that even if pop-ups are well-intentioned, they pose a safety risk to participants and divert much-needed resources from established organizations.
The Midwest Access Coalition, for example, provides women with transportation, places to stay, medicine, and emotional support.
“I would caution anyone from doing this, both for their own safety but first and foremost for the patient’s safety,” Marie Khan, director of operations for the Midwest Access Coalition, told the Daily Dot. “Advertising free housing on Reddit, Imgur, and Facebook is incredibly dangerous.”
After her social media post went viral, Lynnie Couillard-Blance started a Facebook group called the Auntie Network as a resource to help connect women with those who wish to help and support them. The Auntie Network claims it is currently working on ways to ensure the safety of its participants.
“Please know this is all voluntary, and I have no way of guaranteeing safety,” the Auntie Network’s Facebook page says. “We’re coming up with a plan to vet participants as best as we can, but I am not responsible for the actions of anyone in the group. Participation is at your own risk.”
Couillard-Blance wrote that the group vets its members by perusing the profiles of users who wish to join.
The National Network of Abortion Funds consists of about 70 local funds across the U.S. It works to provide women with funding abortions, transportation, child care, places to stay, and translation services.
Yamani Hernandez, executive director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, said the organization’s abortion funds are already limited and that pop-up groups divert possible resources like funding and volunteers.
“We would prefer that people interested in organizing access to care join us,” Hernandez said.
Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio recently passed laws that either outright ban abortion or greatly restrict access to it, and many are rushing to find ways to help women living in these states.
“It’s lovely that individuals want to help folks ad-hoc,” Khan said. “The damage that this could cause for folks seeking abortion procedures, and those established structures that have been helping with housing and other practical costs, is very worrisome.”
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.