How can I help rural women who want to obtain an abortion?
June 30, 2014 4:59 PM   Subscribe

I live in a rural place, the nearest Planned Parenthood is far away and hard to access if you're poor and/or without a car. I want to help women in my area get to the clinic if that's what they need. How can I do this?

We live in a rural part of the country with a lot of poverty and no reliable public transit. The closest Planned Parenthood is an hour's drive from here, in a different state and over a mountain pass that is sometimes closed. I can imagine that a lot of women who would choose an abortion for themselves might have trouble getting to the clinic. I have a car and I work flexible hours from home. Is there some way I can make it known that I'd be willing to give women in my area a ride to the clinic if they need it?

I doubt the PP would hand out my number, but maybe they would? I used to work as a clinic escort so I'm familiar with dealing with patients and problems of access, but this is a different situation. I considered putting an ad on craigslist, but that makes me nervous since our area is very conservative and the last thing I need is a local pro-life psycho coming to my house with his guns.

So, is there a way to do this or should we just up our recurring donation? My husband and I donate every month to Planned Parenthood.

(As a background anecdote: I am the mother of 5 month old twins who I love to the moon and back but being pregnant/a mother has made me more pro-choice than ever.)
posted by blue_bicycle to Society & Culture (13 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'd say best way to help rural women in your community is upping your PP donation.

I'd also go over in person to the clinic to offer your services as a driver (perhaps call ahead to make an appointment). I called a few times to offer various things and it seemed like people were a little nervous/apprehensive on the phone (I wanted to send bagels, or flowers, or something - this was after something crappy happened to a rural clinic in the South) but in person very appreciative and receptive.

You might also post something on craigslist, but my fear with that is that if the pro-lifers caught wind of it they might also start posting ads offering "rides".
posted by arnicae at 5:07 PM on June 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

One thought - is there a local clinic defense/clinic escort organization that works out of the area where the nearest abortion provider is located? Could you suggest/offer to start a project with that organization to offer rides?

It could be a really powerful project, and it could draw support from people who don't want to deal with the confrontation of clinic escort duty. (Or, in some cases, people who have energy and time to spend, but there aren't any protesters. I know that was the case for one location I knew of).
posted by mercredi at 5:09 PM on June 30, 2014 [6 favorites]

Best answer: I have done a lot of volunteer work over the years. Often, you can invent whatever program adaptation you would like to see provided you are basically willing to do all the work yourself. So, if you have a clear plan, answers to any of their questions, etc you might be able to convince them to let you do this for the program.

Alternately, try to find out where poor women hang who might be at risk. Get to know them socially. Put the word out. Once it gets known that you will drive a woman and respect her privacy and all that, you may get "business" based on word of mouth. (Years ago, I read about a guy who began giving black students rides to colleges to tour the campus in order to help them feel more comfortable with going off to college. He started with just word of mouth and his own car and it later became some kind of program.)

You might need to think about a cover story service though to make this work. If riding in your car marks someone as a person getting an abortion, that could put a chill on the service. So maybe more generally offer "rides to planned parenthood"? So that it can be for birth control OR an abortion or whatever? Or even "rides to town to do errands on Tuesdays"? You might think about that angle a bit.
posted by Michele in California at 5:17 PM on June 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

Is there a local college, university, or community college near you? Their women's studies or cultural studies program might know who in the area you could contact.
posted by spunweb at 5:31 PM on June 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

If you really want money to go to women specifically seeking abortion care, donate to your local abortion fund. Find your state's fund (or nearest state, if yours isn't on this list) and donate to that. Volunteer for that abortion fund. Volunteer with the fund, learn how to do intake calls and counsel women in need. They will give you training that will enable you to offer real, meaningful help. You could also volunteer as a clinic escort, if you have nerves of steel, aren't easily provoked, and can get out of your house early on Saturdays.

Also: Write to your state legislators and tell them how important reproductive rights are to you. Tell them why you, personally, believe in abortion access for everyone.
posted by cowboy_sally at 5:31 PM on June 30, 2014 [13 favorites]

That would make for a great charity.
posted by jpe at 5:49 PM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, not all state abortion funds are listed on NNAF's website. If you don't see your state, google [your state] + abortion fund and hopefully you'll get some guidance.
posted by cowboy_sally at 5:54 PM on June 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I would contact PP, explain your clinic-escort background, and see what they say. I'm guessing they'd want you to go through their volunteer orientation and a background check. If I were looking for a ride, I'd love to know you had been vetted by the clinic first.

The other thought I have is finding the local crazy-liberal church (probably Episcopal or UU) and seeing if they have ideas for how to make your offer known. I've found that progressive church volunteers have an amazing ability to leap over a lot of bureaucratic red tape and just get things done.
posted by jaguar at 6:51 PM on June 30, 2014 [4 favorites]

I have some friends who have organized an abortion doula collective in Northwest Texas. Perhaps you could look into starting something similar. Memail if you'd like me to give you more info about it.
posted by jaksemas at 9:03 PM on June 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Word of mouth is pretty strong in rural communities.

That said, be careful. You can leave yourself open to a whole lotta shit by doing something like this. Might be better to do something along the lines of donations, working within an established group or working to establish a group or organization rather than being right on the front line where you might wind up in a car with a crazy.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:27 PM on June 30, 2014

Offer family planning and battered women's counseling through a local, sympathetic church. Explain birth control, pay for it, and support these women. This will put you in position to be the one that they turn to if birth control fails and then you could discreetly drive the lady to the clinic. You may want to consider finding a hotel to put her in for a night. I wouldn't want her to come home, develop complications, and then risk the pass being closed for a return trip. The church and the community should not know that you drive women to get abortions. It would stigmatize any woman who was seen in the car with you and could put you and your family at risk.
posted by myselfasme at 11:07 PM on June 30, 2014 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I think you should think about who else might know about these women, who they might confide in - the high school counselor or a really cool teacher, the local doctors, GP or OB/Gyn if you have one, is there a bar or a diner or other community hangout with a bartender or waitress who is the town "mom" type of person?

If you let those type of people know what you are offering, they can pass your name along when/if they hear of women needing what you are offering, and it would all be word of mouth.
posted by CathyG at 6:59 AM on July 1, 2014 [1 favorite]

Yes, I second calling NAF, PP, or reaching out to an organization like ACCESS ( might have good suggestions for how you can help.

Thanks for thinking of doing this. Very very crucial work.
posted by stillmoving at 9:32 AM on July 1, 2014

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