WASHINGTON — Michelle Waczak was prepared for a post Roe world when she joined an informal network that allows women from other states to have a place to stay, transport to a clinic, and a shoulder.
Waczak, a St. Paul suburbian, is one of thousands of women who have joined a Reddit group called the “Auntie Network,” which is a semi-underground community that aims to help women living in states with severely restricted or outlawed abortion.
Friday’s long-awaited Supreme Court decision in Louisiana overturned Roe V. Wade,the seminal decision of the high court that gave federal protection to abortion rights. Another Supreme Court case, Planned Parenthood., was also overturned. This case bolstered Roe’s abortion rights.
The high court’s decision stated that “The Constitution doesn’t confer a right or privilege to abortion; Roe, Casey and the authority to regulate it are overruled”
Waczak was horrified by the Supreme Court’s decision to end abortion access for women. She decided to join the Reddit group.
Waczak (43), said, “I’m in the position to help.”
Waczac anticipated the Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe.
She said, “I am so mad that things I took for granted are going be taken from a whole generation.”
Reddit aunties often live in “blue” States like Minnesota where abortion access is not threatened. They offer assistance to potential “nieces”, including free apartments, bus and plane fares reimbursements and letting visitors crash on a couch.
Waczak is a Starbucks barista and said that she expects to see “an influx” of women in the Twin Cities.
Thirteen states including South Dakota and North Dakota have “trigger” laws that will ban abortion once Roe is overturned. Others have passed restrictions that were deemed unconstitutional but will still be permitted to exist in the post- Roeworld.
Iowa has, for example, approved a ban on abortions after the third trimester, unless it is necessary to protect the woman’s health or life. This was contrary to Roe. Wisconsin passed a ban on abortion in 1849, except for those that could save the mother’s lives. Roe had nullified this ban.
Minnesota has strong protections for abortion rights. In 1995’s Doe case, the state Supreme Court ruled that Minnesota’s privacy provisions protect a woman’s rights to abortion
Minnesota aunties know that the state’s safeguards will make it a safe harbour for those in need. Illinois is the only state in the Midwest that will continue to offer legal access to abortion services.
Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison stated that he had been meeting with assistant attorney generals to prepare a response in anticipation of the ruling. He stated this week that he would defend the rights of women to travel from other states to have abortions and refuse extradition requests from any state that might make it illegal.
Ellison stated that he will not take action against Texas residents who have been granted the right by a state law to sue anyone who provides abortions or assists in any other way. His office has created a webpage that provides information about Minnesota’s legal protections for abortion.
A new University of California study has found that more than 25% of all abortion clinics nationwide would close down following the passage of Roe. The study found that those 2020 closings would “decimate abortion access” for South and Midwest women.
The number of aunties on Reddit continues to grow. The site was launched in May 2019. It now has more than 78,000 members. The site had just a few thousand members when Texas’s strict ban on abortions took effect in September. After that, membership spiked and then soared again following the publication in May of the Supreme Court draft opinion on Roe.
Auntie Network asks users to have a solid 30-day history of recent posts before they post. This is to prevent scammers and other unwanted parties.
Noella, 25, a 25-year-old “auntie”, lives in the Twin Cities Metro Area and offers lodging, transportation, and “someone you can talk to.”
She said that she couldn’t imagine how stressful it must have been for women who might not be able to access abortion in their home state or hometown.
Noella, who prefers not to be identified in this story, said that after posting on Reddit, she received messages from women in Minneapolis-St. Paul offering to help.
Noella stated that they said, “If they need meals or a ride let me know.” “It’s great to know that there are other people who will help me, and that I am not the only one.”
Wacsac stated that it was “very uplifting to receive messages from other females.”
Noella, a married librarian who works for a corporation has yet to hear from a potential “niece”. She expects that she will.
She said it just days before the Supreme Court revoked Roe. “We are ready for anything.”
There are several organizations that organize and fund travel for women seeking abortions. These include the Brigid Alliance, the National Network of Abortion Funds, and others. The grassroots movement that grew on Reddit demonstrates the interest in grassroots activism for the abortion rights movement.
Noella stated, “You must keep fighting but also have hope.”
Reddit is today’s replication underground abortion networks that allowed women to access care before Roe.
One post, written by “a Minnesota social worker who is happy to help”, stated that she would help anyone traveling within 100 miles of Twin Cities.
The post stated that a 32-year-old female social worker would be happy to give up her bedroom (or the living room) to any person in need. I am available to provide food, lodging, support, and transportation within 100 miles.
She said that she also lived with her mother and daughter, who “make amazing cookies!” and two “sweet and gentle dogs.”
A Minnesota auntie claimed she was located about 20 minutes west Minneapolis.
“Complete discretion. You’ll have your bedroom and bath with total privacy. Please DM me (direct message) and we can coordinate on Signal. The post stated that they were not alone.
Another woman, who said she also lived near Minneapolis, stated that she was “terrified” that South Dakota could become one of the states where laws will change quickly.
If so, I can get to Sioux Falls & return on any weekend. (And again the next weekend if you wish to visit the Twin Cities for approximately a week. If you live farther out (like Central and Western SD), I may have to stay in a hotel overnight before I bring you back. But if you’re way out West and need help getting to Minneapolis, then I’ll certainly see what I can. This was the post by a trans woman in her 50s.
She said, “Don’t worry about contributing gas money.” There are many friends in my circle who would be willing to help you.