Life

I help people travel for abortions. My job is already unsafe — it'll get worse if Roe v. Wade falls.

Business Insider US
Lexi Dotson-Dufault.
Lexi Dotson-Dufault.
  • Lexi Dotson-Dufault is a 24-year-old resource coordinator for Women Have Options Ohio.
  • Dotson-Dufault helps pregnant people find and travel for safe and legal abortion care.
  • This is her story, as told to writer Fortesa Latifi.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Lexi Dotson-Dufault, a 24-year-old resource coordinator for Women Have Options Ohio. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

One month after my own abortion in 2019, I started working as intern with Women Have Options Ohio — otherwise known as WHO/O. I worked my way up, and after graduating from college, I became a resource coordinator for WHO/O, where I help pregnant people who need access to abortion services.

One of the things I do at work is help people who need to travel out-of-state for abortion services.

In Ohio, abortions are legal up to 20 weeks unless the patient's life is in danger, so sometimes at WHO/O we help people go to Michigan, Illinois, or Pennsylvania to access care. But getting people to other states for abortion care can be really expensive, and sometimes we work with other organisations to gather the funds to get someone access. 

There are so many details that go into a patient crossing state lines for abortion care

There are transportation costs, lodging costs, childcare costs, and sometimes they have to take time off work. It's a lot, and we're here for people throughout the entire process. So much work goes into helping someone access care.

When someone first contacts me for abortion care, I ask where they're located and try to figure out how far along their pregnancy is, because that helps us figure out which clinics will serve them. (There's this website called AbortionProvider, where you input how far along you are and your location to find an abortion provider. It's really helpful, but sometimes people don't have safe internet access — or any internet access at all.) 

From there, I ask if they have any safety concerns. It kind of feels like I'm an uncertified social worker sometimes. I ask if they have anyone who can drive them to their appointment and if they need funding to help with lodging and transportation costs. 

If we help people cross state lines for abortions in Ohio, they generally go to Michigan or Pennsylvania. We're lucky that other abortion funds and organisations will help us when we have to bring patients to their state.

The possibility of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade is terrifying for abortion workers

If this change happens, we're going to be totally overrun by the amount of cases we have to take on. And I can't help but think that if Michigan loses access, and we send patients to Michigan, where will Ohioans go? The travel time and cost would add up terribly. 

If there are more barriers to care, people are going to be pregnant longer than they want to be — and then they're going to need care in states that have fewer restrictions. I've seen people have to sell beloved personal belongings to get the money to get care. Even if you have insurance, abortion is often left out of coverage.

If Roe v. Wade falls, our capacity would be stretched beyond what is possible. There are only four people working at Women Have Options Ohio. We're trying to build our organisation, but it's hard when we're focused on putting out fires every day when it comes to abortion access and laws targeting it. Not to mention that workers themselves aren't safe — there's a target on everyone's back in this movement.

People who work in abortion care aren't safe

We already get hate mail at the clinic, and harassment of abortion workers as a whole is increasing. According to the National Abortion Federation, instances of violence toward abortion providers rose from 95 in 2010 to 1,627 in 2020. We only anticipate that number rising even more if Roe v. Wade is struck down. 

It's obviously emotionally exhausting to work in abortion care, but it's so rewarding. My favourite part of this work is being able to overcome the internalised stigma I faced from my own abortion. 

I grew up in a conservative household and attended Catholic school until I went to college. I didn't know anything about sex or my own body or abortion, except the negative, stigmatising things I had grown up hearing. When I was pregnant and decided to have an abortion, I felt very alone. I made the decision for health reasons, and I sometimes think that if I hadn't been sick, I would've continued my pregnancy just because of the stigma I faced. For me, that's so sad.

I want people to know: There's nothing wrong with you for getting an abortion

This is a normal medical procedure. You are valid, and your choice is valid. Anything you feel about it — whether that be grief or relief — is valid. 

I don't want people to feel alone like I did, and in the work I do, I'm able to hold people's hands as they walk down this road. I can't imagine what my life would be like if I didn't have an abortion. It allowed me to have the life I wanted, and I want that choice for everyone.

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