Asha Dahya 00;00;14;03
Hello friends! Welcome to another episode of the Repro Film Podcast series, the one where I, your host Asha Dahya, have the privilege of interviewing filmmakers, activists and organizers in the repro space, as a way to share important messages about reproductive health and justice, at a time when we are staring down the barrel of Roe-pocalypse! But seriously folks, at the time of this recording, it is early June and we are all collectively bracing ourselves for the Supreme Court ruling on the Dobbs v Jackson case that is set to overturn Roe v Wade. While there is a lot of uncertainty right now, one of the ways we want to share hope is to give listeners and our repro film community bite-size pieces of action through our monthly periodical newsletter, which you can subscribe to at reprofilm.org. Today’s episode does exactly this – lays out the current situation in very alarming detail, but it will also end with action items you can take to ensure bodily autonomy is a reality for everyone.
Asha Dahya 00;01;18;18
I’m thrilled to be in conversation with filmmaker Andrea Raby, director of the short documentary “Undue Burdens”, and Marie Khan, the director of operations for Midwest Access Coalition, who is featured in the film. Originally released in 2019 and made in response to the heinous abortion bans that were being introduced in Georgia and Alabama at the time, yet being even more relevant than ever in 2022, ‘Undue Burdens’ is A film about the women that have stepped in to help others when the laws do not.
Asha Dahya 00;01;50;22
In 2017, more than 5,500 people traveled from out of state to terminate a pregnancy in Illinois. TRAP laws (Targeted Regulations of Abortion Providers) and other restrictions wreak havoc on midwestern states, causing pregnant people to have to travel hundreds of miles to the nearest clinic. Sometimes there are waiting periods, which means staying in a different city for multiple days. When time off work means not getting paid, many people struggle to deal with the costs of accessing this procedure. That’s where funds like Midwest Access Coalition come in, filling a hole in the funding gap that so many pregnant people need. But these abortion funds look starkly similar to something else – something that existed even before Roe V. Wade. The Chicago Abortion Counseling Service, nicknamed Jane, formed in 1969 out of a need to connect women in Chicago to the abortions they so desperately needed. They were a radical organization that provided over 11,000 illegal abortions, and even started doing abortions themselves. But they weren’t necessarily people who considered themselves “heroes” – they were housewives, students, and working women that saw a need and mobilized to be the solution.
Asha Dahya 00;03;07;22
Undue Burdens follows Midwest Access Coalition, a practical abortion fund that helps people traveling to, from, and within the Midwest, as they organize to provide people with funding for travel, hotel stays, childcare and food, and help women access abortions throughout the Midwest and beyond. Looking back at Jane, we can see how powerful women can be when they band together to make something happen. Undue Burdens compares these two organizations – one that existed out of necessity because of the illegality of abortion, and the other that exists out of necessity because of the failure of our legislature. I hope you enjoy this conversation with Andrea and Marie, and leave feeling like you have practical ways to support the movement going forward, in spite of the current situation.
Asha Dahya 00;04;05;13
Well, thank you both for joining me today, Marie and Andrea, it’s really wonderful to be speaking with you on this auspicious occasion at the time of this recording. Obviously, we are still waiting to hear whether the Dobbs Supreme Court case opinion will come out. Not the leaked one, but the real one so we are still waiting on edge. But in the meantime, I’m really thrilled to be speaking with you both. Andrea, I want to start with you and thank you for making this film because it really is a timely reminder not only how far we have come since pre Roe v Wade days, i.e., before 1973, but also how far we are now going back which is a little terrifying and depressing. I’d love to find out, Andrea, what was your initial motivation for making ‘Undue Burdens’, and how did you first come across Midwest Access Coalition?
Andrea Raby 00;04;53;12
Yeah, so I first got connected or heard about the story of the Janes at I think I was just out like a talk or something here in Chicago and it was like, oh, this local kind of Chicago history of this group that provided underground abortion access. And I was like, That’s cool. Why have I never heard of that before? And so I got a book that is the kind of comprehensive book about Jane and read that and was like, This is incredible that people just kind of came together and were like, This is what we have to do. Let’s provide access because people need it. But was also like, Oh, how do we look at this through the lens of today’s access to care? Because it is like, I mean, I made this film and it came out in 2019, and even then it was like, we’re sliding backwards a little bit like things are starting to we have a lot of abortion bans happening and like, so how do we look at it through today? And I was talking about this with a friend who’s also a filmmaker and she was like, you should check out Midwest Access Coalition (MAC).
Andrea Raby 00;06;00;12
They’re a practical support fund and I was like, What’s that? So I was learning a lot as I was kind of researching and going through pre-production, which was awesome and learned a lot about what mattered and then approached them, had a couple meetings and was like, I would love to do this in a way that kind of compares like what practical support looked like pre Roe and what it looks like now and what that sort of process is helping people get to their medical appointment So yeah, that’s how it started. Then it was just kind of a process of like filming MAC trying to figure out what we could film because so much of it is like is like on the phone or like doing emails and like this trying to get people from point A to point B and then connecting with different Janes and seeing who I could interview who’s in Chicago who’s around the country and kind of getting that story of their process of yeah, of setting up this group and, and doing an underground abortion. It was a really, really cool process. I learned a ton and I’m so happy that I’m connected with MCC now because I love the work that they do.
Asha Dahya 00;07;13;09
Well, I think you did a great job of really showcasing what the work is. You know, I as an audience member, I got a sense of this is who the volunteers are. This is how they work. You know, the cool people that connects them, they get them access and get them to where they need to go to get care. So I really loved the way that you showed that throughout the film. And I also would love you to kind of explain the significance of the title Undue Burden for people that may not be familiar with the term.
Andrea Raby 00;07;41;21
Yeah, absolutely. So the Undue Burden Standard is kind of a standard within legal proceedings. I think it’s for other things too, but it comes up a lot around abortion because it’s like, is this a burden that is too much to be placed on someone when they’re seeking abortion care? So kind of the thought for the title being Undue Burdens is like what burdens are placed on people every day when they’re seeking this care, despite this legal precedent? Like there is a burden clearly that we have placed that people are traveling out of state to access abortion care. But then also, what is the burden that’s placed on us, the people that are going, this is a problem and we need to help and we need to fix this? And what are these organizations that are kind of taking that burden and saying, like, we’re going to help So it’s yeah, a play on the legal precedent, the legal term, but also, yeah, how can we help relieve this burden that is placed on people?
Asha Dahya 00;08;41;16
Yeah, that seems to only be getting heavier, sadly. Marie, it’s lovely to see your face and we’re recording this on video obviously for the people listening to audio only disclaimer. You are in the film and you talk about Midwest Access Coalition, and we got to see some of your team in action. And first of all, I want to thank you for the incredible work that you guys are all doing, many of whom are volunteers. I love to find out how MAC’s work has changed significantly since the Texas SB-8, six week ban, which the Supreme Court allowed to remain in place at the end of last year. And now with the Dobbs case at the Supreme Court how has your work changed in light of those laws?
Marie Khan 00;09;21;16
Thank you so much for including me along with Andrea. So with Midwest Access Coalition, our mission is to provide practical support for folks traveling to from and within the Midwest. And we were deliberate about that because we know some folks, because of certain states in the Midwest who who either historically or in the present day are working to to shore up abortion access. There’s some states Midwestern people come to outside of the Midwest for care. So when Texas happened, there were Texans and there are still Texans that are coming up to Kansas to access abortion care. That are coming to central and Southern Illinois to Chicago. And that is that is because of where abortion clinics are allowed to exist in this country, where laws have enabled them, or at least not put enough barriers that that there’s clinics able to be there.
Marie Khan 00;10;12;00
So MAC immediately saw because again, these are Texans coming to the Midwest so this isn’t a Texan traveling within the state where another another Texan there on the ground is going to have information on travel, is going to know all the info for the environment they’re going to when you’re coming to a different region of the country, there are there are different things to be aware of and know of and understand, even if it’s sometimes just knowing like where the time zones change and shift. [Yeah] So we saw an immediate need. We immediately saw Texans that were contacting us at that point. Texans were also going to Oklahoma for care that wasn’t a state yet that has has the the ban now in place that’s limiting that. So we provided support for Texans. We synced up with Texas practical support orgs like Funds Fund, Texas Choice to figure out, OK, how do how can we work here within our existing parameters to do the least damage because we’re all trying to work together. As you mentioned, we’re mostly volunteer. We have two full time paid staff and two part time. And that’s been a recent that’s been it’s basically since COVID when the realization of, oh, this area of of abortion practical support needs to be funded and looked at and what we saw with Texas is the immediate groundswell of folks finding us, folks reaching out to their provider that’s now located in the Midwest because they can’t go to a clinic in Dallas and that Midwestern provider who normally refers Midwestern is to us is like, oh, yes, Midwest Access Coalition is an option for you.
Marie Khan 00;11;31;25
And while it I everything that’s been done to Texas is disgusting and the way it’s it’s just been ignored by folks like that. How Andrea mentioned that’s an undue burden that is not access my if one could prescribe any sort of like you know bright spot to Texas. It kind of I think it gave those of us an activist faces an opportunity to see what is going to be coming and what’s what we’re going to see those of us in reproductive justice communities especially because we’ve known this and we’ve known the movement this had to occur in our region due to racism due to lack of care in a myriad of areas, not just abortion. But now we’re seeing the other parts of the country, like Texas has its own racism. It’s had its own horrible environment that allowed this to percolate and people that allowed this to happen. And now we’re seeing it spill over into other states, which is this this terrifying concern. So the Texans seeing folks, we’ve had folks that have come up and for example, from Louisiana, we’ve seen folks in New Orleans, all those spaces that in COVID we’re hitting where states try to limit and close down abortion care. They said, oh, this isn’t this isn’t emergency care. This isn’t care that has to occur right now. It can be waited on we saw it. We saw what that happened in that it forced folks to travel north. We saw the same thing with Texas. So our concern, our our biggest concern now is, you know, what, how are we going to be able to support the people and how do you decide who’s worthy of support, quote unquote?
Marie Khan 00;12;56;25
You know, we which is a disgusting, horrific question to to subject anyone to and what we saw and what we ended up doing that is that the system we came up with Texas is we developed much closer relationships with the funds that were already down there. And we figure out ways, OK, can we cost share on this? We have this we have this information. We know how to do this really fast. Can we support these folks upfront? And then you all can come in and assist with the costs so it’s a lot of those types of overarching relationships to provide try to continue to provide this patchwork substitute for medical care because this isn’t happening. Like our medical care should include transportation. It should include safe housing, it should include all these pillars of basic human rights. And it doesn’t happen.
Marie Khan 00;13;39;07
We know that the need is only going to grow especially as we have states go dark within the Midwest, too. Like like there is there’s in our own states that we’re worried about worried about Wisconsin this law from 1972 and while this is happening you know we’re going to have Florida with limited access we’re going to have South Carolina with limited access. All these states that are going to be going down and going dark and there’s going to be so few that people can go to that it’s terrifying when Kentucky went dark for a couple of days about a month ago I want to say now was we immediately saw Kentuckians that were we’re calling to try to get care in Illinois to try to get care in Michigan. And we know that that’s just going to continue and keep on happening as these other states go dark, not within the Midwest, but with folks that are going to end up needing to come to the Midwest for care.
Asha Dahya 00;14;26;04
And does not necessarily mean that they will get to see a doctor or a medical health professional, even though they travel like that’s obviously going to put more waiting lists, are going to be longer and places less offerings that.
Marie Khan 00;14;40;21
That is a really big terrifying concern because were the statistics even being conservative, it’s estimated that there’s going to at least be an increase of about 45 to 60,000 abortions that are going to need we need to be able to be performed in Illinois. So we don’t we know that we don’t have the structure to support all of the Midwest, let alone folks from other cities other states that are going to need to come up.
Marie Khan 00;15;07;26
And the way we work with in practical support and I would say probably most practical support orgs kind of the the the bare first requirement you need to get synced up for practical support is have the appointment booked because then we know, OK, this is this is how many days you need to stay at a hotel. This is the distance you’re going to need to travel. This is how many days you need to have babysitting provided for. And what this delay is forcing is going to force on people is that they are going to they’re not maybe going to have the abortion they want the abortion experience they want and deserve maybe they’re going to need to look into medication abortion and utilizing pills when perhaps they’d like to be pregnant longer and go talk to someone at a brick and mortar clinic.
Marie Khan 00;15;47;13
None of that’s going to be available for folks. Folks are going to you’re going to have you’re going to have one shot. You’re have a small window for you to get scheduled for your abortion or for you to get your medication abortions except the pill option in the US which it’s usually ten weeks or less folks folks take it with with medical guidance. Abortion pills are incredibly safe but you’re pigeonholing people into specific time windows when they get to access care and if you’re only if and now we’re in this situation you know we now there’s clinics that are three weeks out booked four weeks out booked for care those are clinics that are seeing folks for in a myriad type of pregnancy context folks that have co-morbidities that that their pregnancy is literally killing them.
Marie Khan 00;16;24;24
And because of the state they live in, they can’t go to their hospital to get care because heaven forbid, state Medicaid should cover someone, you know, experiencing a pregnancy that’s killing them. That is that’s all off the table. People can’t do that. People can’t do that. And people need to really understand this. So those folks are traveling to other states to try to get care for abortion and miscarriage care at abortion clinics and at hospitals. And there’s an incredibly limited number of appointments. We only have so many abortion doctors. There’s and as we’ve seen and I know your pod discusses the laws and the regulations that states try to put in place requiring that doctors have ambulance admitted ambulatory admitting privileges at hospitals, not necessarily requiring that people be MDs OB-GYNs to provide abortion care. Midwives, doulas like we are entirely just honoring the entire indigenous black queer communities that have come together to support those experiencing birth, those experiencing pregnancy loss, those making the choice for an abortion or needing to have an abortion for their own care. And what we’re going to see is people that can’t access brick and mortar care, hospital care that should be able to access that care.
Marie Khan 00;17;34;06
And we’re going to see people that are never going to get close to accessing that because appointments are going to be too filled up. And it’s not going it doesn’t enable someone who’s working, who’s parenting individuals, who’s a caregiver who’s in a great relationship. I mean, these are all people in ideal spaces. It’s still hard to get an abortion. What’s going to happen if you are in a context of domestic violence? If you are in a context of abuse, if English is not your primary language, like all of these create these huge undue burdens that get put in front of people. And we know that, like we can predict these. We have statistics on these. We know the types of communities pregnant people are coming from and what their needs are. But we don’t want to fund this on a government level. We take very cruel, cruel tactics to make sure people get deprived of medical care. And when all else fails, you know, we fall back on racism. We fall back on sexism. And misogyny. And at the end of the day, that person doesn’t get the abortion they need that the person doesn’t get to be seen by the doctor, that they deserve to get to see all of that.
Asha Dahya 00;18;34;01 – 00;18;51;17
It’s terrifying to think that a lot of these things, like you mentioned, have already been burdens and barriers that people are experiencing. And it’s only going to get exponentially worse. And it’s all by design. Which is it’s just really horrendous because it’s people at, you know, on the margins that are really going to be affected the most.
Marie Khan 00;18;51;17
We are we’re creating we’re ensuring that people stay in classism, in poverty. And we’re, we’re ensuring also that more people will now be swallowed up and caught within those economic margins that people are in. We I mean, we’re not for baby formula, all the things to allow people to continue and have healthy existing families isn’t being provided for. So then to force someone to remain pregnant or to seek out an outcome for their pregnancy, isn’t what they would like to do. That is just an added screw in the coffin of what is being done to these folks. Like how are you able to back yourself out of a space that you’re in economically when now you’re forced to give birth to a premature child at a hospital that isn’t going to survive and you weren’t able to get that abortion care you wanted the whole time.
Marie Khan 00;19;41;29
Now you have this big hospital bill that that you that you have to deal with or don’t. What happens when you don’t deal with it? Like we know all of this all of these medical bills are one of the big, big primary causes in this country that force people into debt if they are not in debt at that point. And we’re we’re just setting people up for failure. We’re studying family work, forcing family is to be created, you know, from a very cis, hetero white lawmaker perspective. And we’re doing nothing for those for those individuals.
Asha Dahya 00;20;12;07
It really goes to show how, you know, what the Janes had set up was, you know, the idea of access to abortion is a human right. I mean, it is a human right. And what the Janes were doing really was trying to bring that idea of human rights back and dignity back. And Andrea, I want to ask you about some of the Janes that you featured in the film. You know, a lot of them, a few of them had shared their perspective on, you know, going what it looks like to go back and see these horrendous abortion bans being put into place. It reminds me of the inevitable sign that we see many women’s marches saying, I can’t believe we still have to protest this shit. Which is, you know, I get depressed seeing those signs because it’s like, is my daughter going to have to be holding up a sign, you know, two years? I’d love to find out what was the most eye opening comment or confession from some of the original genes that you’d heard that whether was in the film or not, what what was something that you learned from that?
Andrea Raby 00;21;09;22
Yeah, I feel like probably the most impactful for me was bringing the scene kind of close to the end of the film, bringing Eileen Smith, who is one of the Janes to kind of meet with some of the folks from MAC and talk about access and like what from her perspective, like how how Jane operated and how MAC operated and how those are very similar. And it’s been it’s eye opening and disgusting to have someone be like, I was so part of this. And then when we when Roe happened, they were very much like, well, if we keep operating, it’s going to be medical malpractise. So we’re done. We’re it’s it’s all assault. It’s good. And to see Eileen basically would be like, maybe I should get involved with MAC.
Andrea Raby 00;21;56;26
And like so years later is like it’s part depressing, but part like these this like kind of second gen feminist wave, I think. Does need to like stay involved and stay part of this because it’s like we do have to keep fighting. And I do think to the Jane’s were primarily white women helping a very different population, primarily women of color, primarily women from the south side of Chicago.
Andrea Raby 00;22;28;06
I do think it’s very encouraging now to see like MAC led by like women of color queer women like this movement and reproductive justice is like being led by these people that are like seeing all these issues, seeing how it’s all interconnected and saying like, no, we have to like stop look at this as an all encompassing like, like what you were just saying, how poverty and how like access to baby formula, it’s all connected. And so I think it’s really interesting to see the Janes and older women that were part of this movement back in the seventies and the sixties be like, we soft protest this, but also like let’s look at everything else and see that it’s connected. And so I think, I think that’s happening and I think unfortunately we’re here now and Roe is already kind of possibly on the chopping block, but at least we have people now that are looking at these issues in the way that is hopefully going to help people as a as a addressing full economic problems as opposed to let’s just get a person an abortion.
Marie Khan 00;23;35;17
So let’s look at the reproductive justice… Even if you want to call it reproductive justice, but that includes like the ability to like safely parent and that includes the economics behind it and acknowledges that someone someone who is terrified about being mean, being pushed into poverty, being into a place of poverty that is as concerning of a of a concern around your pregnancy as someone who has experienced postpartum if the prior pregnancies and they’re worried about that like economic health is important to someone in addition to physical health. All of these affects someone’s ability to parent to continue a pregnancy all of this.
Asha Dahya 00;24;11;00
Yeah it’s all connected. I really love that reproductive justice framework because it is holistic and it shows that it’s it’s such a bigger ecosystem than just do you have access to abortion and you don’t want to be pregnant anymore. Maria, I’d love to talk about you know, with the Jane Movement, there’s been a lot of protests and marches that we’re seeing right now. There are people using like handmade sail costumes and holding up posters and things like that. And I really want to mention that because a lot has shifted in terms of abortion access and knowledge, especially around medication, abortion and FDA approval. I’d love to talk about I’d love for you to kind of explain what will be some of the main differences when Roe falls and why it’s not going to be, you know, holding up coathangers kind of environment anymore.
Marie Khan 00;24;59;03
Exactly. Yes. The coathangers are super damaging. Like I understand from historic perspective, like they definitely have a time and place and there’s definitely like there’s so much like history behind that. But as you said, like medication abortion, which is a combination. There’s it’s more misoprostol and mifepristone. It’s a two pill combination. Sometimes you hear anti-abortion folks refer to them as a “chemical abortion,” quote-unquote, it’s literally just pills you take.
Marie Khan 00;25;28;08
Usually they’re sub sublingual unless you put them in. You have that, you have a advice to the medical provider, but you put them in your cheeks like this isn’t this isn’t an invasive procedure. And these are the options that are available for folks. Now, they do not need to consider or resort to any sort of harmful objects in their vagina. In their uterus. None of that. There are there are botanical options. There’s medication, abortion that’s here and packaged together and available. And there’s organizations like eight access like Plan C that assist and work with folks who maybe have maybe can access the pills legally in their state. And I say legally because the state state requirements and legislation that different states use to try to attack abortion pill medication.
Marie Khan 00;26;11;04
And if someone can’t access this in their state, there’s mobile clinics and there’s other telemedicine providers that can work with folks to at least get them to their states border or get them outside of the state in order to access these pills. And there’s amazing grassroots activists on the ground that have medication abortion pills available and will work with people, especially in these in these communities, in our communities and our communities of color, where we know we’ve talked to each other and we know we can reach out and trust that particular person on that street. And we like our hope back. So we want all of that to continue. We want all of those structures to be in place. Because as we’ve seen, you know, assuming that the health care system is going to take care of this for us, assuming that our governor is going to legislate against this, it works in some states. Sure works right.
Marie Khan 00;26;54;22
Now, but is it’s by no means up. It’s no one by no means. You know, it has blanket guaranteed protection at all. And so with this this return to these concerns of coathangers and Handmaid’s Tale, A, it ignores the progress in which we’ve came from, which is great and which is monumental and which is like I cannot medication abortion pills if someone’s at that stage in pregnancy that they can utilize those which in the US is ten weeks or less, that that is an amazing resource. And there’s folks that are very creatively have found ways to get that and harness those. And we’ve worked on ways to have them legally provided to people. So there’s always those options available for folks the fear mongering and the the imagery with The Hand with The Handmaid’s Costume is especially frustrating because it’s a great book. I love the book. It’s awesome to read but like this has been in existence for so many people of color in so many spheres, not just reproduction, not just tied to family structures. And all. And so to kind of bring this back as like a harbinger, it’s like this is already happened. This is already happened to so many people who weren’t given a uniform to parade around in that were enslaved, that were that fell because of genocide, that were forced to march in different parts of this country.
Marie Khan 00;28;12;22
So really letting go of those topics and focusing instead on, all right, where have we come from? What is our history shown us? that are there that see that like harm reduction spaces are amazing to me. They see, hey, you need Narcan. And you need safe crack kits. You need to have STI testing. You need to have abortion pills like all of this. All of this is wrapped up in the harm reduction conversation. And how we should actually be meeting people where they’re at with what they need in order to allow them to to preserve their own life and to progress and continue living their lives without judgment.
Marie Khan 00;28;51;27
And what we see with these very, like, fear mongering and like approaches like that, I worry because it’s not actually providing information to the pregnant people that are out there on the streets that you can use effectively, like these messages of like, oh, yeah. Come to come to Colorado and camp with your auntie. First off, like I’m South Asian, I’m not calling a white women “auntie” white women are not on this like get over it. It is it’s also a term very much used by the black community as well like no and so like information like that when it’s out there and like it’s well intentioned and I can get it and it’s people saying we’re with you, we’re worried about you. But at the end of the day, all that does is cloud the airwaves and creates confusion for pregnant people who need to know where can I safely go to get my abortion?
Marie Khan 00;29;32;13
At a clinic, at a hospital by by mail, by telemedicine? Where can I where can I relax as my body is is healing, is undergoing these processes and you know, where can I get maybe emotional support after the fact? And I’m going back to my family when I’m talking with my spouse and I’m talking with other relatives or maybe it’s something someone needs to internally is going to be keeping to themselves that they had an abortion. All those folks still need support. And being out in the streets in a handmade costume does not help do that. And it’s also not it’s, in my opinion, honestly, not going to sway lawmakers minds like like these lawmakers do not care. And I really think that ship, it’s sailed and it’s not it’s not helpful to pregnant people that are trying to figure out what to do.
Asha Dahya 00;30;14;15
Yeah, I like that. I love that you just made a distinction between what helpful and what’s not and what’s more. Yeah.
Marie Khan 00;30;21;27
Yeah a pink floofy hat does not do shit. A pink…like there’s a time and place for like rage, right? And I fully get that. But at the end of the day, if it’s not actually doing something for the people that are the most marginalized that we know are the most marginalized, it’s like, what’s what’s the point of that activism?
Asha Dahya 00;30;39;26
It’s just a Halloween costume at that point.
Marie Khan 00;30;42;22
Asha Dahya 00;30;43;04
Speaking of the legal implications. I’d love to find out, Marie, for a second. What is how is MAC preparing for when Roe falls how do you adapt to the new legal landscape? Like, are you consulting with lawyers? Like, how is that all that works, especially for patients who might be wondering like am I allowed to call an abortion fund? Am I allowed to call an access fund? Like, how does that work? How is that going to work going forward?
Marie Khan 00;31;06;05
Anyone’s allowed to call an abortion fund, an access fund. And when I say allowed, I mean allowed in the sense that you’re not prevented from doing it. Now, as we saw with with [name] down in Texas. She looked into resources. Presumably she wanted to she went to a doctor who chose to do this to her to provide this cruelty. She went to an E.R. asking for care, needed medical care, and was instead, you know, arrested and put into police custody so it’s like, yes, yes, people can legally access this information, reach out to us. But as we’re seeing every day, it is becoming a more and more terrifying reality for folks that, you know, if I go to the public library and if I Google abortion, practical support resources, resources, I’ve come here to print out my bus ticket. I’m getting all everything’s set up for my for my trip next week. All of those are contexts and situations that have caused MACC to look at ways to expand the surveillance not not surveillance, the tech tools for that we have available for clients and resources and information to help try to limit the state’s surveillance as much as possible on people’s bodies.
Marie Khan 00;32;18;08
When someone is pregnant. There are so many a a the the the odds of violence being inflicted on a pregnant person are much higher than someone who’s non pregnant. When you are pregnant, there’s a greater increase of domestic violence, of interpersonal violence. And at the same time, someone who maybe has been utilizing getting checked at a local health care clinic, maybe they’re using Wick or SNAP, other types of other types of resources through their pregnancy. All of those things are things that get documented. So those are the scary things.
Marie Khan 00;32;50;01
Now, sitting back and we’ve been thinking about this, but those are the things that especially are terrifying now as we see states taking these really insidious routes to track and monitor pregnant people and continue to do that. States, states know who might be pregnant. States know that no family structure. States work long and hard to try to get in here and destabilize homes that we see within our communities of color. And this surveillance is concerning. And yes, this definitely so this means that we are we’re working with other orgs that can assist with providing information that we especially don’t want to try to confuse clients, clients that are coming to us maybe with a burner phone, maybe without their own computer.
Marie Khan 00;33;29;10
They’re operating in areas that aren’t as tech resource as others of us might be in. So working with folks to try to keep them as safe as possible while they’re doing the work to figure out their options for abortion funding, where they’re going to stay, all of this and also we’re working with law firms and lawyers both within reproductive justice and reproductive access and outside of that, because sometimes it’s nice to have a fresh set of eyes of of not different non risk averse lawyers in different spaces. But it’s it’s really it’s a concern. It’s a huge concern because we we know we have folks working at funds that are in red states that are in states that are looking to remove nonprofit status from abortion clinics, status who’s elected officials send out letters and then post them on Twitter saying they’re going to go after all the donors of abortion funds like this type of direct coercion [It’s terrifying] and fear mongering. Yes, all of it. All of it. And so, yes, it’s something we’re constantly watching. We’re paying attention to talking with lawyers and and we’re hoping by by being as informed, we can be ahead of things enough that that’ll give it’ll give us a it’ll give us a leg up and a chance to be to be there and be able to to meet whatever legal problem is coming at us in the best way possible.
Asha Dahya 00;34;44;21
Yeah. Well, if there’s any way we can support obviously by sharing the resources and information that back. Yeah. And let us know.
Marie Khan 00;34;52;09
People need to pay attention to who their attorneys general are. Some states some states elect some states they have weird appoint appointment things. But attorney generals are one of the key people at that and that this is not even a political statement like talk to your attorney general, find out, you know, like let them know these are my viewpoints on abortion because that person has a lot of sway, especially in determining like lawsuits in states and yeah, it.
Asha Dahya 00;35;16;14
And maybe also Google your doctors and health practitioners to see if they have a choice.
Marie Khan 00;35;20;28
Yes, yes. Yes. Those are women’s insurance that are privileged and resource like if you’re able to go to your doctor and they are getting money from your insurance for your paps, for your mammograms, for all of this, find out if find out maybe they can’t do abortions in their state. We’ll find out. Are you actually pro-choice, even let alone pro-abortion? Are you actually supportive of this? You know, are you as a doctor, are you out there you know, putting your title and your education on the line and saying, yeah, I’m an M.D. and I support abortion. I’m an advanced practice nurse practitioner and I support abortion like all of that all of that needs to continue and be amplified because folks are claiming they don’t hear it. They’re claiming, you know, the majority of Americans don’t agree with abortion. You know, that is factually false, factually false.
Asha Dahya 00;36;05;24
Terrifying. But I think it’s something to really be aware of and know so thank you for sharing that knowledge. And yeah, it’s just the reality of where we’re at. Andrea, I know that you and I mentioned we spoke earlier before this call and you had mentioned that the film was originally a film in 2019. And at that point it was in response to the horrendous bills that were being passed in Alabama at the time. And there were a couple of other sites. But of course it’s still an even more relevant now and you put it. So that’s depressing. But also great to have a film like yours as a resource out there. I’d love to hear from your perspective as a filmmaker, how you hope documentaries like yours can potentially bring hope. And so people to action, you know, trying to find ways to move forward rather than just thinking about the depressing part of it, if that makes sense?
Andrea Raby 00;36;56;26
Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think like , the hope with this film was to expose or show people that are maybe the left leaning Democratic Democrats but haven’t really engaged with this issue, that there is infrastructure here set up already, that you can engage with, that you can volunteer for, that you can give money to, that will directly help people that are seeking abortions and that this is even in LA, in Chicago, this is like a legacy of care that MAC is a part of. And they’re doing such fantastic work. So I think the hope is with I mean, with my documentary and then I’m sure other documentaries that are about abortion in general is to like bring that this issue to the forefront of people’s minds because it is something that people get up in arms about when there’s something in the news and then it falls off and they don’t think about it again.
Andrea Raby 00;37;49;12
But people are trying to access care every day. And so like become a donor to make like a monthly donor. Like there are ways that you can support this work and and really make a difference because the infrastructure is already there. Like Marie was saying, we don’t have to create the auntie network. This is not something that’s real. The stuff already exists and plug in where you can find the abortion fund that’s in your state, you’re in your area, volunteer like I think that’s the biggest thing that hopefully documentaries like this can expose to people that there are ways that you can help, even if you can only give like $10 a month, that helps someone get a hotel room hopefully for their abortion.
Marie Khan 00;38;34;27
So it really honestly does. Like we one of the things I’m proud of MAC too and a lot of practical support orgs, we try to really creatively meet people. So it might be Cash App, Venmo, PayPal, Zelle, it might be having cash for them at the clinic. It might be, oh, you’re you’re going to have a volunteer driver because you’re in a you’re in a context that is concerning, scary, violent. We’re going to work with you on that. You’re a young person like all of these things are are situations where for that person money may be able to solve like in in addition to all the other hurdles, trying to figure out how to book things, trying to get access to trying to figure out how the Amtrak system works, how to figure out flying works. All of these are things that money is unfortunately needed for. And the donations are we often see that for a Met I think it was Cosmo a couple of years ago. $525 was the standard cost for a medication abortion when someone’s traveling for that care. And if you’re going to a state that mandates two visits like Ohio or up to four visits like North Dakota, you need to your your cost for housing, for us to hotel for food.
Marie Khan 00;39;42;04
It’s way going to outweigh the costs for the actual stupid pills you’re taking to terminate your pregnancy. And a lot of people, I think, don’t realize that at first, like, oh, yes, abortions are very expensive. Like if you’re getting later care, this is this is easily upwards of 15, 20 grand. That’s a horrific amount of money if you’re getting super early care, you are still having to pay for that hotel, travel for that gas, do all of that. So even even small donations are incredibly helpful like that’s that’s food for someone that’s maybe they need prescription ibuprofen to help with pain management and their Medicaid won’t cover it because they’re from out of state. All of those things donations assist with and on the ground. Volunteers are incredibly important for for logistical planning and other types of direct client support that MCC does and a lot of other practical support orgs across the country do.
Asha Dahya 00;40;30;00
Yeah, every dollar goes a long way. And even buying coffees, I was thinking like, you know, donating money for meals or coffees and things like that. Andrea, you’re going to say something.
Andrea Raby 00;40;38;21
I was just going to say to like I think I’ve had this conversation with people from MAC before, but like the biggest thing that I feel like I took away from making this film to you is like we can’t rely on our lawmakers and our our country in general to support abortion care the way it needs to be supported. Like, we have to do this ourselves because because Republicans are so hell bent on taking us away from us that this is up to us. And so, like, we have to support one another in this issue and we have to support one where and when we can, whether it’s working in it, whether it’s volunteering, whether it’s donating, attending a march or what have you. But like it’s it’s becoming more and more clear even since 2019 when the film came out, more and more clear, like this is mutual aid is going to be the thing that keeps us going. It’s not going to be relying on our lawmakers.
Marie Khan 00;41;34;12
Yes. And big a big thing, too. I want to mention the why that mutual aid is I think is especially incredibly important is that the the state of banking in our country which not to get into it but so many people are underbanked so many folks do not have a debit or credit card with their name on it. And that becomes critical when it comes time to check into a safe hotel overnight, when it comes time to fly and you’ve never flown before and you’re getting hassled and someone’s like, what are your what corresponding documents do you have with your name on all all these things create really they’re big points of stress and concern and anxiety for folks.
Marie Khan 00;42;09;06
And the number of people that have said, oh, yeah, I will. I got the money together for my appointment and I figured out gas funds and I’m just gonna sleep in my car like that. It’s a regular occurrence that people indicate to us they already that was their plan, like they’re set to go or they, they just assumed that would be what their option was. And they were looking for safe spaces to park in Chicago or whatever city they’re in so they don’t get hassled and that is just it’s absolutely disgusting. And without having the mutual aid piece where you mentioned Andrea, that’s so key because you do need that mutual you do need to be interacting with folks and meeting them where you’re at.
Marie Khan 00;42;43;00
You can’t just say, oh, here’s an Uber gift card. You know, that’s fine. You don’t know if that person has a smartphone. You don’t know if that person’s navigated Uber before. You don’t know if they are able to request the address, request to ride safely to come and pick them up. You don’t know if they’re being monitored or observed. All these things that when someone isn’t banked and isn’t familiar in the lexicon of of utilizing all of these financial resources, that’s a huge hurdle for folks right off the bat trying to travel and access care and book a bus ticket online. You don’t have a debit card. How are you going to book? How are you going to book a Greyhound ticket online?
Asha Dahya 00;43;18;11
Yeah, there’s so many little moving pieces that people need to be aware of when it comes to access. Yeah, very important. Thank you for sharing all that. Well, I want to mention that a rePRO Periodical and this podcast series is our way of trying to get people actionable items in bite sized pieces. There’s so much happening in the world today. It could be overwhelming, but there’s always small things that we can do. It doesn’t have to just involve money. There’s so many different ways that we can all get involved. So I’d like to end on somewhat of a positive note if we can. I’d love for you both to share what you hope to see in the future in terms of abortion access and the conversation surrounding it. Based on the work you are both doing individually as a filmmaker and as an activist yeah.
Andrea Raby 00;44;02;17
I mean, for me it’s just raising up abortion funds. I feel like this is the way that moving forward post Roe, this is the way that people are going to access care. So find your local abortion fund, volunteer, give money, support them, send them a letter. Like any way that you can support them. And the work that they’re doing is going to is going to help people access care that they need. And I feel like that’s the biggest way that we’re going to be able to move forward.
Marie Khan 00;44;35;02
Yeah. Yeah, I agree. Continue to elevate, focus on the networks that folks have been utilizing to get this care that are in existence and ways to bolster and increase those network’s reach and strength, because that’s we’re all going to have to be supporting more people. And as I said, to people that are now going to be forced to be people that are be forced into levels of poverty that they didn’t experience before, and they’re going to try to navigate and figure out and they’re going to need to be met by all sorts of mutual aid structures to support them, not just related to pregnancy.
Marie Khan 00;45;09;01
Another area that is related to or is somewhat related to the power of elected officials that I’ve seen some success in is cities that have I think it’s been it’s been way too late in coming. But cities who have put up municipal funding for abortion access and care like we’ve seen cities like Austin, Texas, that have done some really awesome stuff in a you know, in a state with with legislators there that are out to stop them. So I think efforts that people can make also within their communities that support and let elected officials know, yes, you want municipal funding for for for menstruation products, for abortion, for a plan B, like not even just like not even just the abortion pill, over-the-counter, like plan B, for goodness sake, which is available for someone at any age in the US used to have an age limit of 13 and then that got put down a couple of years ago like plan B should be out there for everybody.
Marie Khan 00;45;59;06
And if we could get municipal funding available that would recognize this funding available for folks coming to that city that are seeking abortion care, regardless of whether they’re a resident of the state, regardless of whether they’re a citizen, quote unquote. All these super xenophobe big lines that we try to draw to determine who deserves care, quote unquote. If we could if we could really get you municipal funding and tied up and there and available and working with these mutual aid networks that have been on the ground doing this, it would really it would be something it would be something that could help solidify and get a system going, a process going to get funding for people that are traveling for care.
Asha Dahya 00;46;34;05
Yeah, I love that idea. I think it’s really I want to be aware of who’s who’s up for election in your local city and run for office. If you don’t see anyone who’s pro-choice and you’re passionate, you consider running for office. No pressure, but consider it. So I really love that. So where can folks find out more about Midwest Access Coalition, and where can people watch Undue Burdens?
Marie Khan 00;46;55;00
You can go to MidwestAccessCoalition.org. We have a website there on all of our socials are linked off of that. I would say our Instagram @MidwestAccessCoalition is the name of it. That that that’s probably the most the most social messaging space right now. So yeah, that’s where folks can definitely find us there. And then on like we’ve been we’ve been fortunate to be able to talk with awesome folks on podcasts and in especially local news sources. I’m from Wisconsin originally, so I’m always partial to talking to folks also within that area of the Midwest to be our websites. The best place MidwestAccessCoalition.org.
Asha Dahya 00;47;31;02
Andrea Raby 00;47;32;21
Yeah and Undue Burdens is available to view on our website on UndueBurdens.com. There’s also a lot of great resources there to a lot of abortion funds within the Midwest. We kind of compiled a list of abortion funds in your area and there’s like a watch kit if you want to watch at home with your friends or some discussion guides, things like that, fun snacks you can make and things like that.
Andrea Raby 00;47;58;03
Yeah, that came out during COVID really. So we try to make it a nice viewing experience for people at home. So yeah, UndueBurdens.com – Go check it out.
Asha Dahya 00;48;09;17
Come for the movie and the snack recipes and leave with some actionable items. I love that. I think it’s great, great combination. Well, Marie Khan and Andrea, thank you so much for joining me today. This has been a wonderful, very informative conversation. You know, we’re living at a time where there’s so much uncertainty, but I really admire the work that you’re both doing and we’re really thrilled to have the opportunity to share it with our listeners. And so thank you and best of luck in the future with your future endeavors.
Andrea Raby 00;48;37;14
Marie Khan 00;48;37;27
Thank you so much.
Asha Dahya 00;48;40;16
Be sure to watch the film by heading to UndueBurdens.com, and support the work Marie and her team are doing by heading to midwestaccesscoalition.org.
The Repro Film podcast is executive produced by mama.film – Hosted and produced by me, Asha Dahya, Edited by Kylie Brown, with original music by ParisJane and Marrice Anthony. Our Monthly periodical is programmed by Neha Aziz and written by Emily Christensen.
Don’t forget to sign up to our periodical at reprofilm.org and subscribe to this podcast series! I look forward to bringing you our next conversation, next month. Bye for now!