I Help People Travel for Abortions. If Roe Falls, Many Will Suffer.

 I Help People Travel for Abortions. If Roe Falls, Many Will Suffer.

  • Lexi Dotson-Dufault is a 24-year resource coordinator for Women Have Options Ohio.
  • Dotson-Dufault helps pregnant women find and travel for safe and legal abortion care.
  • This is his story, as told by writer Fortesa Latifi.

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 was edited for length and clarity.

A month after my own abortion in 2019, I started working as an intern at Women Have Options Ohio – otherwise known as WHO/O. I worked, and after graduating from college, I became a resource coordinator for WHO/O, where I helped pregnant women in need of 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 for up to 20 weeks unless the patient’s life is in danger, so sometimes at WHO/O we help people travel to Michigan, Illinois, or Pennsylvania to access care. But bringing people to other states for abortion care can be very expensive, and sometimes we work with other organizations to collect funds to get someone.

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

There are transportation costs, living costs, child care costs, and sometimes they have to take a break from work. It’s a lot, and we’re here for people throughout the process. So much work is in place to help someone access care.

If someone first contacts me for abortion care, I will ask where they are located and try to figure out how far their pregnancy is, as that will help determine which clinics will serve them. (It has a website called AbortionProvider, where you input how far away and your location to find an abortion provider. It really helps, but sometimes people don’t have secure internet access-or any internet access.)

From there, I would ask if they had any safety concerns. I don’t seem to be a certified social worker sometimes. I would ask if they could take them to their appointment and if they needed funds to help with living and transportation costs.

If we help people cross state lines for abortion in Ohio, they usually go to Michigan or Pennsylvania. We are lucky that other abortion funds and organizations can help us when we need to bring patients to their state.

The possibility of the Supreme Court reversing Roe v. Wade is terrible for abortion workers

If this change happens, we will be completely overrun by the number of cases we have to deal with. And I can’t help but think that if Michigan loses access, and we send Michigan patients, where will the Ohioans go? Travel time and cost can add up a lot.

If there are too many barriers to care, people will get pregnant longer than they would like-and then they will have to take care of states with fewer restrictions. I see people having to sell expensive personal items to get the money to take care of them. Even if you have insurance, abortion is always not covered.

If Roe v. Wade, our capacity will grow beyond what is possible. There are only four people working at Women Have Options Ohio. We’re trying to build our organization, but it’s hard when we’re focused on putting out the fire every day when it comes to abortion access and laws that address it. Not to mention that the workers themselves are not safe – there is a target behind all of this movement.

People who work in abortion care are not safe

We’ve been getting hate mail at the clinic, and harassment of abortion workers in general is on the rise. According to the National Abortion Federation, cases of violence toward abortion providers increased from 95 in 2010 to 1,627 in 2020. We can only expect that number to rise further if Roe v. Wade collapsed.

Working on abortion care is obviously emotionally exhausting, but it is very rewarding. My favorite part of this job is overcoming the internalized stigma I face from my own abortion.

I grew up in a conservative home and attended Catholic school until college. I knew nothing about sex or my own body or abortion, other than the negative, hurtful things I heard growing up. When I got pregnant and decided to have an abortion, I felt alone. I made the decision for health reasons, and sometimes I think that if I hadn’t been sick, I would have continued my pregnancy just because of the stigma I was facing. For me, it’s so sad.

I want people to know: There is nothing wrong with you having an abortion

This is a normal medical procedure. You are valid, and your choice is valid. Whatever you feel about it – whether it’s sadness or comfort – is valid.

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

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