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Works of Radical Imagination

(Photo credit: Robin Marty, 2016)

With the recent passing of icon and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the end of Roe v. Wade is almost guaranteed. Prior to Ginsburg’s death, the constitutional right to an abortion already rested completely within the hands of Chief Justice John Roberts, a Republican appointed by President George W. Bush. If the Senate pushes through a nominee before Inauguration Day, Roe can be overturned even without Roberts’ vote. A Democratic win and nominee could potentially hold status quo, but only if Roberts decides to uphold precedent – and his actions on other cases don’t bode well in that regard.

Even now, with abortion technically legal, we’ve seen an increase in pregnant people using the tools they know best to try to access abortions. Requests for money, medical advice, even abortion pills themselves are proliferating on social media channels like Facebook and Reddit even today. When Roe is gone and approximately two dozen states make providing an abortion illegal, that number will balloon.

In order to ensure that people are able to access abortion both today and in the future, Seven Stories Press is releasing an early excerpt from The New Handbook for a Post-Roe America, the second edition of Robin Marty’s 2019 publication. In this excerpt, Marty provides a list of best practices for using social media to obtain abortion information while trying to maintain privacy from friends and family, legal observers, and anti-abortion activists. The New Handbook for a Post-Roe America will be on the shelves in March, 2021.

Seeking Abortion Help On Social Media - Tips

Maybe you have decided that you simply cannot access an abortion without help online? You aren’t alone. Since 2019, a proliferation of online social media outlets sprung up with the express goal of helping strangers on the internet find information, support, and most often the money to get care. On Facebook these groups are often referred to by names like the Janes, or Abortion Support, and they are also quite active on Reddit in channels like /r/abortion.

If you choose to go to a Reddit page there are a number of ways you can protect yourself and still get the information or assistance you want, without giving away your identity. 

1. Do a thorough search. If you are looking for information about clinics, supports, laws, experiences, try to search for similar posts first rather than create something new.

2. Make a throw away account. Use a completely new name and email, and nothing that is associated with your identity or current location or other details)

3. Make your post as vague as possible. Try not to give any details you don’t need to give. Mention a state or region rather than a city. Avoid your age or race. Never mention an employer or even an industry. Every bit of information you release could make it possible for someone to figure out who you are and puts your privacy (and your safety) at risk.

4. Ignore anyone who isn’t helping. You don’t need to read troll comments or respond to people in your messages if you don’t want to. If they aren’t helping, just report, trash and ignore.

5. Delete it when you are done. People forget that Reddit (and a lot of the internet itself) is forever. If you got what you needed – or you didn’t but a lot of time has passed – delete your post and walk away. 

Trying to get information – or especially financial or logistical assistance – on Facebook is a much more complicated endeavor. If you need support in obtaining an abortion, first of all know that you can contact any local abortion fund in your area and they will provide you with all of the information you would need, as well as help you find any financial support required – all while keeping your identity completely private. 

However, if you do have a reason that you prefer to seek abortion information and support through Facebook, here are some tips that you should keep in mind while using Facebook abortion groups for assistance:

1. Consider setting up a new account. A new ID on Facebook, just like a throw away account for Reddit, is the easiest way to protect your privacy. Do not use any real world identifying details – including photos – if you do this.

2. Lock down your privacy settings. If you are using your real account in order to join groups and post messages, Make sure that all of your privacy settings are locked down. Click on “Settings” in the right hand drop down menu, then on “Privacy” in the left column on the next page. Change your settings to make sure that only your friends can see your friends list, so no one potentially contacts your friends or family to tell them about your activities. Then go to Manage Profile and make sure your email, phone number, and any other info is only available to friends. Make your photos private so they cannot be used by others. Remove your workplace if necessary in order to protect yourself in case someone tries to contact your employer. Make sure all posts on your page are set to “friends” rather than “public.” And finally, go double check and see what your page looks like to someone you haven’t friended. You can do that by clicking on the three dots beneath your cover photo and hitting “view as.”

3. If asking for money, consider a passthrough account or a throwaway account. Many people are using Facebook groups to try to crowdsource expenses ranging from emergency contraception to the procedure itself. If you are going to attempt to crowdsource for funding (something that in a just world wouldn’t need to happen at all), consider reaching out to someone you trust to act as the go between to protect your own privacy. If you do it yourself, look for an online banking app that you haven’t used before and set up a new account (think Cashapp or Venmo rather than your usual Paypal account). If you do use an already existing account, remember that for many people their Paypal is often their email, too, which opens you up to possible abuse or unwanted interaction. Meanwhile, if you use your Venmo account, make sure you turn the transactions to private so your contacts don’t see what the money is being used for.

4. Move it to a more secure forum. Facebook is a VERY easy place for authorities to access information. If you suspect that your conversation could get you into legal trouble, take it to a secure place like a phonecall or text on Signal. And absolutely be completely sure you trust the person on the other end.

5. Delete and leave. Just like Reddit, do your post, get what help you need, and then delete your post and go. If it was on a fake new account, deactivate it. If it was on your real account, leave the group afterward. The less of a trail you leave the better.

6. Sadly, be prepared for some abuse. Not content with putting themselves in front of patients trying to access abortion in clinics, anti-abortion protesters and abortion opponents have decided to also infiltrate online groups in an effort to coerce people out of abortions there, too. This is one of the reasons it is so important to try to lock down all of your privacy settings before posting. If someone begins harassing you online, either on your posts of through your direct messages, try to report them and ignore them. You don’t owe anyone your reasons or your attention.   

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