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The Logistics Arm of the Abortion-Rights Movement Is Gearing Up

A group of abortion providers who had just flown home to California from a conference with colleagues huddled together in the airport to process the news. In Washington, D.C., reproductive justice activist Renee Bracey Sherman cried on the metro. On a farm in Illinois where she raises goats while coordinating travel for abortion patients in the region, Alison Dreith took half a Xanax and went to bed, understanding that she needed to be rested for the next day—for the next decade.

For abortion rights activists, the confirmation that the fall of Roe v. Wade is imminent felt at once inevitable and unthinkable. “We have all—as a movement and as an organization—been working toward this moment because we knew it was possible,” Marisa Falcon, founder of Apiary, an organizing hub for groups that coordinate practical support for abortion patients, told me in an e-mail. “But I have to admit, it still hurts to see it in writing.”

For many abortion providers and activists, this moment confirms an implicit understanding they have had for years—that absent any uncharacteristically aggressive action from a Democratic Party that seems more interested in campaigning on the loss of Roe than taking meaningful action to address it, mitigating the unimaginable desperation that is about to descend on this country will be almost entirely their responsibility.

“Where is Joe?” crowds outside the Supreme Court Building chanted Tuesday, the day after the news of the leaked Supreme Court decision broke—a day Biden spent promoting Javelin missiles at a Lockheed Martin facility and deflecting questions from reporters about whether Democrats should end the filibuster to save Roe. Thousands gathered outside the court; some, like Bracey Sherman, stayed there for more than 12 hours. “We know what this moment means because we know what having access to our abortions meant to our lives,” she told me.

That same day, Oklahoma, the destination state for about half of abortion patients leaving Texas due to the six-week ban there, enacted its own six-week abortion ban, forcing patients further afield to Kansas and elsewhere. Dr. Christina Bourne, medical director of Trust Women, which runs clinics in Oklahoma and Kansas, said staff in Wichita are bracing themselves. “We have hired a bunch of new staff; we are creating a call center; we have bought a bunch of new equipment,” Bourne said. “We have shifted what we view as a normal day.”

Meanwhile, reproductive justice advocates in the state said they are not giving up on the fight to win back the right to legal abortion.

“We feel like we are in day one [of] getting abortion back in Oklahoma,” Tamya Cox-Touré, cochair of Oklahoma Call for Reproductive Justice and executive director of the ACLU of Oklahoma, said. Cox-Touré said organizers are discussing ideas including proactive constitutional amendments or legislation, and a renewed focus on elections in the state.

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