I help people travel to have an abortion. My job is already dangerous – it will get worse if Roe v. Wade falls.

Lexi Dotson-Dufault.

Lexi Dotson-Dufault.

  • Lexi Dotson-Dufault is a 24-year-old Resource Coordinator for Women Have Options Ohio.
  • Dotson-Dufault helps pregnant women find and travel for safe and legal abortion care.
  • Here is his story, told to the writer Fortesa Latifi.
  • For more stories, go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

This narrated essay is based on a conversation with Lexi Dotson-Dufault, a 24-year-old resource coordinator for Women Have Options Ohio. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

A month after my own abortion in 2019, I started working as an intern with Women Have Options Ohio – otherwise known as WHO/O. I worked my way up and after graduating from university became a resource coordinator for WHO/O, where I help pregnant women who need to access abortion services.

One of the things I do at work is help people who have 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 get 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 raise the funds needed to get someone access.

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

There are transportation costs, accommodation costs, childcare costs and sometimes they have to take time off work. That’s a lot, and we’re there for people throughout the process. There is so much work to do to help someone access care.

When someone first contacts me for abortion care, I ask where they are and try to find out the status of their pregnancy, as this helps us determine which clinics will serve them. (There’s this website called AbortionProvider, where you put how far away you are and your location to find an abortion provider. It’s really helpful, but sometimes people don’t have secure internet access – or no Internet access at all.)

From there, I ask them if they have any security issues. Sometimes I feel like an uncertified social worker. I ask if they have someone who can drive them to their appointment and if they need funding to help pay for accommodation and transportation.

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

The possibility of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade is terrifying to abortion workers

If this change occurs, we are going to be totally overwhelmed by the number of cases we have to support. And I can’t help but think that if Michigan loses access, and we send patients to Michigan, where will the people of Ohio go? The time and cost of travel would add up terribly.

If there are more barriers to care, women are going to be pregnant longer than they want – and then they will need care in states that have fewer restrictions. I have seen people having to sell personal possessions they liked to get the money needed for treatment. Even if you have insurance, abortion is often excluded from coverage.

If Roe v. Wade falls, our ability would be stretched 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 fires every day when it comes to abortion access and the laws that target it. Not to mention that the workers themselves are not safe – there is a target on everyone’s back in this movement.

People who work in abortion care are not safe

We are already receiving hate mail at the clinic and the harassment of abortion workers as a whole is increasing. According to the National Abortion Federation, cases of violence against abortion providers have increased from 95 in 2010 to 1,627 in 2020. We only expect this number to increase even more if Roe v. Wade is canceled.

It’s obviously emotionally draining to work in the abortion field, but it’s so rewarding. My favorite thing about this job is being able to overcome the internalized stigma I experienced because of my own abortion.

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

I want people to know: it’s okay to have an abortion

This is a normal medical procedure. You are valid and your choice is valid. Everything you feel about it – be it grief or relief – is valid.

I don’t want people to feel lonely like I did, and in the work that I do I’m able to hold people’s hands as they walk down this road. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t had an abortion. It allowed me to have the life I wanted, and I want that choice for everyone.

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