Just keep in mind that these groups are trying to do a lot right now, including managing an influx of new volunteers. “One of the biggest issues that is occurring right now is that we are getting a flood of people who are well meaning, and who we are so excited to have ready to work, who are coming in saying, ‘I want to do this thing’—not knowing whether that thing is actually the best use of resources or is already happening, or could potentially harm people in ways that they were not expecting,” Marty says. For example, you might want to offer your home up to abortion seekers, but organizers will want to vet you first to make sure you aren’t an anti-abortion person secretly trying to get intel, and to be sure you fully understand what you’re committing to.
Don’t get discouraged if no one replies to your DM immediately, or if the way they ask you to help is different from the idea you initially had in mind. And to hold yourself accountable even after your initial shock and outrage have worn off, consider putting time on your calendar one month from now, so you remember to check back and see what the group specifically needs at that point. “A month [from now] is going to be a completely different landscape,” Marty says.
Still, we’ll all need to be patient. “There’s not going to be immediate change, unfortunately,” Marty says. “People need to know that from the start, because otherwise, they are going to get disappointed. They are going to be despondent. They are gonna drop out of this and we need them so badly—but we need them for the long haul.”
Get hyper local.
Because most mainstream news coverage in the U.S. focuses on what is happening at the federal level, it can be easy to lose sight of just how important local politics are to implementing change. But organizers know that you can have a lot of meaningful influence if you just think smaller. “I think one of the biggest frustrations basically since 2010 is the way that we as a movement incessantly focus on the idea of the House, the Senate, and the White House,” Marty says. Meanwhile, Republicans focused on state legislatures, which is where many of the most aggressive anti-abortion bills in the past decade originated. And by the time progressives were able to regain power at the state level, Republicans had already moved on to cities, Marty says.
“I cannot be clear and more clear how impactful working in cities has been for [Republicans] and can be for us, because city zoning boards are how abortion clinics can be opened or closed,” she says. “Austin, Texas, did that in the middle of the reddest of red states. New York is doing that.” Now, she says, cities are introducing ways to support people who need to leave the state, or are proposing not investigating people who lose pregnancies. “A city is going to be the most impactful place that people can do work because it’s the easiest place to have the biggest effect as a single person, but also because when we look at where abortion happens —where abortion clinics are and where the organizing is—it’s often in liberal, progressive, pro-choice cities, even when they’re in the middle of the most anti-choice states.” Which is all the more reason to connect with organizers doing work at this level.
If you’re able to give money, consider setting up a recurring donation.
“A recurring donation is so impactful in a number of ways,” Marty says. “When organizations are trying to decide how they can help people long-term, that is a way that they know exactly what will be coming in, that they can always count on.” For example, the fund might know it can spend a set amount on handing out emergency contraception to people who need it. Doing this also frees up organizers—many of whom are volunteers wearing a lot of different hats—to focus on other important tasks. “It’s not just a financial gain, as in what a budget will look like, but it’s also a gain logistically for the funds,” she says. When they know money is coming in, they don’t have to plan fundraisers, which frees up their time to do different types of work (including direct patient care).
Mail nice cards to people working in abortion clinics.
The people working to help folks get abortions and other reproductive health care right now are under an intense amount of pressure, and letting them know their work is appreciated has a bigger impact than you might think. “We’re having lots of people send cards, and we love it,” Marty says. “It made us very happy in a very bleak time.” To ensure your good vibes don’t place an additional burden on workers right now, opt for nice notes that can be mailed in an envelope versus larger items like flowers, gifts, or food delivery. “We are worried about people who have access to our clinic and very nervous about packages that we were not expecting,” Marty says. “If you really want to provide us with some sort of support, we love cards. And then if you think that we should have a meal or something like that, a [mailed] gift card is a lovely gesture that we will use. A lot of people are working really long hours. We’ve spent so much money just on feeding our staff because nobody can go home.”
Convert your credit card points to gas cards that you can send to abortion funds or practical support groups.
Abortions can be expensive on their own, and having to drive across the state to receive care can place a heavy burden on folks who might already be stretched quite thin. For this reason, gas cards can be a very straightforward way to help people directly—and if you have any unused credit card points and the ability to convert those to gas cards, now is the time. (This is high on my list of ways to help right now.) If you are able to obtain gas cards, Marty says to simply mail them directly to the practical support groups, abortion funds, or open abortion clinics of your choice; they’ll make sure they get to the people who need them.
Call your senator.
“The biggest thing that I am really worried about right now is the fact that there is not enough noise,” Marty says. “We know pro-choice politicians are stepping up right now, and that is good. If you have a senator or a representative that is not pro-choice, they need to hear it even more: They need to note they’re representing people that have just had the right stripped away and that they will be held accountable in the end.”