Young People Have Been Preparing for Years for Roe's Fall | Opinion

The first time a friend came to tell me she had had an abortion, I didn't know what to say. I was a teenager, and didn't know how best to support her. She was looking for emotional support in processing her what had happened, and it made me realize how little I knew about the wide variety of abortion experiences people can have.

She challenged my preconceived notions and assumptions about abortion. She taught me that every abortion story is as different as the unique circumstances in which it happens. I also realized that every person seeking an abortion deserves support, and in whatever way they need it.

That's why I work to support abortion access. My goal is to make sure everyone has the care they need, regardless of where they live. In Ohio where I live, there are already dozens of abortion restrictions, with a near-total ban held up in court. After today's decision overturning Roe. v. Wade, it's likely that my state will become one of the many to ban abortion entirely. Even before now, the restrictions created great difficulty for clinics and for patients seeking abortion care. Until recently I lived in Appalachian, Ohio, where the closest abortion clinic is an hour and a half away. Cost and transportation were already huge barriers for the people in this area of Ohio.

Abortion Protest Outside the Supreme Court
Abortion-rights activists react to the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization ruling in front of the U.S. Supreme Court on June 24, 2022, in Washington, DC. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

And as soon as the ramifications of the Supreme Court's decision begin to be felt, it's only going to get worse.

I started my activism on the political side of abortion advocacy, and that's important work. But it can also be complicated work — and as we lost more and more battles around abortion law in Ohio, I saw the impact that had on young people who needed abortion care. Too many of us were struggling. Too many of us wanted to help but didn't know how to offer it. And for many, the closest place that purported to offer help to those who needed abortion care was a crisis pregnancy center — organizations that don't actually provide abortion services. Instead they shame and mislead people seeking abortion care by sharing inaccurate information about abortion and telling pregnant young people that abortion is morally wrong.

That's what led me to co-found Athens Healthcare Support Network.

A practical support network like this offers material support to people who need abortion care — whether it's through helping with travel, reimbursing for lost wages, providing housing, or whatever else is needed. Some practical support networks work with doulas who can offer emotional and logistical support to a person throughout their abortion process. Some provide information on self-managed abortion through medication. Some networks, like the one I co-founded, also provide information and mutual aid for other types of health care.

Athens Healthcare Support Network began with a conversation: I asked a group of friends and contacts how we could help with the reproductive health crisis, along with the broader health care crisis, ensuring young people and others left behind have access to the care they need. We weren't experienced at this — in fact, we were mostly just broke college students. But we saw the need for a practical support network. It hasn't always been easy, but we found success by combining our skills and resources. We also had to leave behind the idea that we can rely on courts or legislators.

Young people know that the courts won't save us. But we're not going to let abortion access go away — it's too important. We are ready to help each other get the abortion care we need — by sharing information, funds for mutual aid, transportation to states where abortion is legal, or whatever else is needed. The future of ensuring abortion access is to talk about it, to share information, and to strengthen our communities and networks so that everyone knows their options and has what they need.

We all have something we can offer — whether it's a ride to the clinic, cash to help cover costs, a spare room, or a social media following to share information. So many of our skills can be put to use supporting abortion access. There are practical support networks and abortion funds all over the country, and we're going to need all of them and more. Now that the court has swept away 50 years of progress, It's time to think creatively.

Emma Schultz is an incoming public health graduate student at the Ohio State University and is an intern with Pro-Choice Ohio. Emma is a member Advocates for Youth's Youth Abortion Support Collective, and is a co-founder of the Athens Healthcare Support Network.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.