Reddit’s ‘Auntie Network’ Prepares for a Post-Roe World

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When Victoria Spring woke up on Tuesday to the news that abortion rights could soon be overturned, she felt a weight in her stomach and hoped it was a bad dream. After processing the moment in her Queens apartment, she sprang into action, donating $500 to a national abortion nonprofit and signing up to do something she didn’t have to. never heard of before: becoming a Reddit “aunt”.

Spring is not alone. Within hours of a leaked draft opinion, the Supreme Court is likely to overturn Roe vs. Wadethe landmark law legalizing abortion nationwide, Thousands of people have flocked to a Reddit community called the Auntie Network, a pseudo-underground gathering space aimed at making abortions easier at a time when access is shrinking. On the page, volunteers sign up to house, transport, assist and care for people in need of abortions who are alone or in states where it is difficult to obtain one.

A modern adaptation of the underground abortion networks that helped people access care when the procedure was illegal, the Auntie Network stands alongside formal organizations like the Brigitte Alliance and the National Network of Abortion Funds that coordinate travel and remove financial barriers to abortion. But as the prospect of terminating a pregnancy in America faces tight restrictions across large swaths of the country, the Reddit group offers a glimpse of a post-deer The era of getting an abortion will require an influx of community help to organize and help.

“People are outraged and using social media to form these activism networks,” said Spring, 32. “In the absence of institutional support… we are going to have to rely more and more on each other.”

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The Reddit community, r/auntienetwork, started in May 2019, according to the band’s page. It was meant to be an organic space for people who needed help posting abortions and find help from others. During its first two years of existence, the group’s membership grew at a rapid pace, growing from a few hundred people to 18,000 members.

But soon after Texas’ near-total abortion ban went into effect in September, membership grew by the thousands within days, eventually reaching around 45,000 per year. end of April. Wednesday morning, just over a day since Politico released the Supreme Court’s draft opinion on Roe vs. Wadethe group grew to over 58,000 members.

In the feed, users from all over America offer various services for people who want to have an abortion.

There is the rural colorado aunt who lives with “my dad” near a Planned Parenthood and offered people seeking abortions a “comfy twin bed and a good place to crash” in the mountains. The poster offered to cook meals, deliver or pick up packages, and said the household supported “420,” a code for marijuana.

Then there is the Cleveland area aunt who will drive you from the airport to the nearby Planned Parenthood Clinic and “take you to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and take lots of photos so you don’t have to tell anyone the real reason you came here if you don’t ‘I don’t want to!

The spike in activity has been a challenge for the group’s moderator, who spoke to The Washington Post on condition of anonymity to describe the sensitive work. Since news of the draft notice broke, the moderator, who goes by the Reddit username LallybrochSassenach and has spent roughly two decades as an abortion clinic escort, has been frantically moderating the Reddit thread and reviewing the new members, barely stopping to sleep, eat or use the bathroom. “It was a crazy night,” she said.

As the group’s only active moderator, she single-handedly reviews every post and comment to ensure the community isn’t overtaken by anti-abortion activists and remains a safe place for people seeking reproductive care or offering An assistance. (So ​​far, she estimates that between 5 and 10 percent of the thousands of posts and comments she’s reviewed were hateful and should be removed.)

“I’ve met a lot of people who felt guilty for making that choice,” the moderator said. “Making someone feel guilty for any decision they make about their personal body just isn’t helpful.”

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Andrea Miller, president of the National Institute of Reproductive Health, said self-help organizations like Reddit’s Auntie Network show how “ready and eager” people are to help those in need of health care. abortion, “especially in the face of this hostile Supreme Court”.

She added, however, that Reddit members who sign up to volunteer should consider offering help to formal groups that have been around for years, such as the Brigid Alliance, which organizes and funds travel trips. those seeking abortions, or the National Network of Abortion Funds, which helps remove logistical and financial barriers for people seeking abortions. “We want people to get involved,” she said. “But [we] really encourage them, if they can, to get involved and connect with the growing network of grassroots organizations that…are above ground.

Miller added that formal groups have a deeper knowledge of local abortion laws than Reddit communities and can vet potential volunteers more thoroughly.

“We have far too many examples…of ways that those who are absolutely committed to preventing people from making decisions about their reproductive lives and having abortions will literally stop at nothing,” she said.

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To prevent scammers and bad faith volunteers, the Auntie Network requires users to have a footprint on Reddit, including “A SOLID recent posting history of 30 days before posting”. However, the moderator acknowledged that as membership increases, new procedures may need to be developed. “It’s always been a 30-day post story and a judgment call,” she said. “Like any judge in any court, you do the best you can with the information you have at the time.”

And for Spring, who is 13 weeks pregnant, joining the Auntie Network has added weight. She tried several times to get pregnant and had miscarriages. She imagined how scary it could be to put your life in the hands of a stranger when seeking an abortion, saying that if someone asked her for help, she would provide information about her identity and would ensure that her home is set up in such a way as to ensure that the person she is hosting feels safe.

Mostly, she said she blames those in power for creating a world where this kind of underground network is needed.

“It’s heartbreaking for me,” she said. “People are already in a desperate and terrifying situation and now they have to rely on the goodwill of strangers to get access to needed health care.”

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