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Preparing for a Post-Roe Abortion Ban in TN

Preparing for a Post-Roe Abortion Ban in TN

Interview with Mountain Access Brigade

Mountain Access Brigade is a fully volunteer run doula collective and abortion fund located in East Tennessee. We talk about what it would mean if Roe V. Wade were overturned | practicing self-care | secure & private communication | barriers to access | concerns of safety in the clinic community | and a ton more. The interview is RICH in information & resources.

Mountain Access Brigade (MAB) Contact Information

IG @mountainaccessbrigade

Twitter @accessbrigade 

Secure Support Line for East TN


Listed Resources  

We apologize for the quality of this transcript, which was provided by Otter.Ai

Unknown Speaker  0:03  
Hello, hello, Katie from Mountain access brigade. I'm very happy for you to be here. I'm super grateful for your ability to be here last minute because we just talked about this yesterday

Unknown Speaker   0:17  
as well as you know, it's like this urgency right now because of the possible but high chance of Roe being overturned and such like everything is super urgent, right? It's like, they're usually would be like, oh, let's, let's plan a conversation two weeks out or my fall. But now I was like, actually, we need to be bringing this conversation to the forefront ASAP. So thank you for being here.

Unknown Speaker    0:40  
If you will, can you tell us about yourself, your organization, the organization you're a part of in the work that's done there? Absolutely. Yeah. I'm so excited to speak with you today. And I appreciate the urgency because we do need to get this information out to people because they're looking for it right now. And

Unknown Speaker  1:00  
so I'm a volunteer with mountain access brigade were fully volunteer run abortion doula collective and abortion fund located in East Tennessee. So we fund that the two  clinics here in East Tennessee, in Knoxville and Bristol and we provide abortion doula services to anyone who calls into our secure support line. And we also can communicate by text. Everybody reaches an abortion doula, who, you know works with them to assess what their needs are, what their support system looks like, and where we can fit in to kind of bridge the gaps in, in what they need in order to to to get their abortion and feel fully supported in their abortion. So that looks like accurate information about abortion. Because, you know, the wild wild web is full of misinformation. You know, the CPCs have a strategy of

Unknown Speaker  2:12  
creating these fake websites that disseminate fake information and ensnare people that way.

Unknown Speaker  2:20  
And so we have that set, good quality info for them about what their options are out there gestation,

Unknown Speaker  2:30  
how it works, what it's going to be like, and then

Unknown Speaker  2:33  
emotional support a lot of people who get abortions in Tennessee, they don't have supportive people around them in their life

Unknown Speaker  2:43  
that can walk with them through that process. So we're happy to be there for them in that way. And then,

Unknown Speaker  2:51  
of course, the financial support and logistical support around.

Unknown Speaker  2:57  
You know, are you taking time off? work late? Do you need childcare? How can we help you meet those needs, and then also helping people put money down on their procedures, and also connecting them with other abortion funds and other resources so that they can can

Unknown Speaker  3:17  
can fundraise for their procedure, if they can't afford it.

Unknown Speaker    3:22  
Thank you, that is so much work. And it's so needed. And I appreciate you for doing the work because it is nonstop. And we know you know, if roe gets overturned, that is going to be even more crucial. One of the questions that I have for you is so my understanding, right, because I also am in 1000 places, but my very simple understanding of overturning roe would mean that instead of it being federally legal to have an abortion in every state, it will become illegal in some states, right depending on like, what the state decides and whoever's in the seats and blah, blah, blah. So one of the things I kind of read on this NPR article was that Tennessee is kind of is one of the states that will presumably abortion will be illegal. And so I was wondering, like, how does that change or possibly change the way that you do the work in Tennessee, and just what that means for community members in Tennessee seeking abortions?

Unknown Speaker  4:15  
Yeah, so you know, you're totally correct that Tennessee will see an abortion ban if there's an overturn of Roe basically overturning roe returns the decisions around the legality of abortion two states and there's quite a few states that are have been waiting for this overturn. They actually already have laws on the books called trigger bands, that as soon as roe is overturned, that ban goes into effect. So we actually have a 30 day period between the decision release and
a total ban in Tennessee with no exceptions. So we, we actually, you know, ever since the case was taken up, and we knew that this was a possibility, we've been working since last year to develop our relationships with funds at clinics and in other states to make sure that our clients are going to be able to access care and other states. So we've kind of defined our service area here in Tennessee, East Tennessee, of what counties that we can support residents traveling out of state to get care. And that's gonna look like for now, we think, you know, and this could change,

Unknown Speaker  5:48  
North Carolina and Virginia are going to remain legal, which are, you know, pretty real, you know, we share a border with East Tennessee. So

Unknown Speaker  5:58  
those are going to be the most accessible locations to kind of Shepherd people out of state. And then looking further away, Illinois and DC, which both are in zero danger of of outlawing abortion, however, they are about seven to nine hours away, depending on where you're located in East Tennessee. And so, that's going to be more probably plane than car.

Unknown Speaker  6:33  
And that's a whole nother expense, another amount of time being requested off, if you can request time off a whole nother level of just barriers. Mm hmm. Yeah, it's gonna create just such a huge burden for people who are seeking abortion care to travel out of state. And it's going to increase the the total cost of their abortion because you're adding in either gas or plane tickets, bus tickets,

Unknown Speaker  7:06  
for travel, and then, you know, potentially lodging, and things like that, because you're not going to make that trip all in one day.

Unknown Speaker  7:15  
And then time off work, which could account for lost income, childcare costs money, because most people who get abortions are parents.

Unknown Speaker  7:26  
And so we're just looking at the total cost increasing by a lot. There are some, you know, transportation networks, where they have volunteers who are driving people, and we're looking into that possibility. But a lot of people just don't want to get in a car with a stranger to go get super private, intense kind of medical

Unknown Speaker  7:49  
experience, which is like, you know, for some people, it's intense, because that's the way they're feeling about it. But for a lot of people, the intensity is sort of imposed by them by this state structure, and it's making a private process. Yeah.

Unknown Speaker  8:06  
So, you know, we're trying to raise extra funds, we were, we were scrappy, small group, we don't have a big budget. And, you know, we haven't had to fund a lot of travel, we haven't had to find a lot of

Unknown Speaker  8:21  
lodging and things like that. We have, you know, purchase hotel rooms for houses, clients, who are, you know, having medication abortions, just so they have a comfortable place to be. But this is a whole different animal. So we've been working really hard to, to get ready for this, and we're doing a lot of fundraising because, you know, the costs are basically going to double for sure, if not more for that for the for the procedure in the process of getting there. One of the questions that I have for you, and we kind of talked about this before we started recording today is I think, like, when we think about abortion, of course, we think about it, well, most of us marketing all of us we think about the barriers to access and those things, but also I think like kind of what also

Unknown Speaker  9:15  
activates me around you know possibly roaming overturned is that it is already lead already inherently and abortion work, like some danger that comes with it.

Unknown Speaker  9:28  
And when I say danger that comes with it, I think is danger on the client side, right, like trying to navigate, especially if they have to do things in a way where they can't express what's going on to their community, or having to support people so there's like this danger of like trying to navigate but also trying to make sure people don't find out. Right and like what will come up if people find out about you seeking an abortion. But I also think for like providers and for for doulas, for midwives for you know

Unknown Speaker  10:00  
organizations like yourself volunteers, there's also this other level of danger that comes with, you know, either like sometimes people getting physically harmed or locations being, you know, destroyed and all that. So I guess like, my concern is like, with this possible overturn a row, that that danger is going to increase.

Unknown Speaker  10:23  
And yeah, like what that's gonna mean for everyone involved in, in this conversation but I was wondering like, could you give us some thoughts around maybe something that you have experienced or what your fears are beyond even just someone accessing abortion, but also on the back end of being a volunteer and being in the work?

Unknown Speaker  10:44  
Yeah, that's a really great question. I think a lot about that sort of increased risk for our clients who are trying to hide that, you know, or just keep this private, in between them and their doctor. Because there's not employment protections for people seeking abortions, we are an at will employment state.

Unknown Speaker  11:05  
And people,

Unknown Speaker  11:09  
their partners might, you know, be against it, they might be in a domestic violence situation. So there's just all these factors, it's really hard to explain flying out of town for two days.

Unknown Speaker  11:22  
So I have a lot of concerns about that. As for our crew,

Unknown Speaker  11:27  
we take security actually, so seriously. And we always have just because Tennessee is such a hostile environment to do this work.

Unknown Speaker  11:37  
On New Year's Eve, actually, here in Knoxville, where I'm located, our Planned Parenthood health center was arson. And

Unknown Speaker  11:47  
the year before that, or, actually, I mean, earlier that year in January of 2021, somebody shot through the front door, and shattered the front door.

Unknown Speaker  12:02  
And so we have these incidences of violence.

Unknown Speaker  12:07  
There was also a, you know, a suspicious package at the remaining abortion clinic in Knoxville the other day that caused them to close and lose a whole day of appointments, which is really hard, because,

Unknown Speaker  12:20  
you know, being the remaining clinic, they've absorbed all of the patients that would have been served by the Planned Parenthood that was burned down.

Unknown Speaker  12:29  
So losing a day is really rough, because they're scheduling patients a couple of weeks out. And

Unknown Speaker  12:37  
you know, as it is, it's just

Unknown Speaker  12:40  
really, really difficult. So

Unknown Speaker  12:43  
all of these sort of physical threats are present. On top of that, you know, we have friends at a sex ed organization, based here in Appalachia called sexy Celexa that were doxed by Chris Ruffo. And the, you know, anti CRT crowd.

Unknown Speaker  13:07  
And, you know, experienced just incredible harassment.

Unknown Speaker  13:13  
And, you know, that's ongoing. And, you know, we're very aware that we could be a possible next target, target and like, the digital realm.

Unknown Speaker  13:27  
We locked down our socials for a little while after that happened.

Unknown Speaker  13:32  
And just kind of took it really easy, and open them back up once it felt safe again. But

Unknown Speaker  13:40  

Unknown Speaker  13:41  
there's so many layers that go into this work, I think, you know, people here on the outside, you think like, oh, maybe, you know, a volunteer is willing to help, you know, someone gets to the clinic, but it's like, no, it's these levels of security, for ourselves, for the organization for the people that we work with, like, there's the, you know, combativeness from people and providers.

Unknown Speaker  14:04  
Would you like to talk about a little bit around

Unknown Speaker  14:08  
what we talked about earlier?

Unknown Speaker  14:13  
Things like, that is such a good example of like, when we think about abortion access, we think about, you know, just like specifically abortions, but there's also these other things that are going to be highly affected legally, but also with people just making decisions around what they want to do and not to because of what's happening in the world. So if you would like to share that, I would love that. Yeah, so when I got on this call, I was pissed. Because I had just gotten off the phone with a client who, you know, had sent money to buy Plan B, and the Walgreens that was in walking distance to her and she can't drive what would not sell it to her without a doctor's prescription. And she was like, I don't have a doctor you know, like they're

Unknown Speaker  15:00  
There's so many barriers to accessing reproductive care from just like not having insurance, or having insurance, but it's through someone else, be it your parents or your spouse or something that's not supportive of you accessing reproductive care. And they're monitoring the care that you're getting.

Unknown Speaker  15:23  
And, and like

Unknown Speaker  15:27  
a failure to access preventative care is what leads to a need for abortion. And then that's difficult to access as well. And so that is what leads us to these situations of forced birth. And people see this as a failure of people for getting pregnant. But there are so many small failures along the way of their being failed by our medical system, and being able to access the preventative care that they want, and that they're seeking out. And it is just so tragic. And it makes me so angry. And I was able to direct her to our local abortion clinic, which was within walking distance to get to get emergency contraceptives, but she shouldn't have had to.

Unknown Speaker  16:19  
Yeah, it's tough, right? And it's like, that piece around, like, there's going to be, you know, if this happens, there's going to be a lot of legal change, for sure. But also, it's going to influence people to do what the fuck they want to do. Right? So it was like, nope, not giving you a plan B. Because I don't feel like it. And it's like, what can we do about that? Right? Like, what can we do about that, especially in a state that supports this kind of existence just kind of being?

Unknown Speaker  16:46  
So it's just yeah, it's infuriating. Another question that I have for you is, the reality of it is that, you know, when we make well, when they aren't gonna say we wish we could they make abortion, illegal abortion is still going to happen. Right? It's just not we're taking away the option for a safe and or accessible abortion options. So I guess, you know, with that being said, Do you want to speak a little bit to self managed options, as well as just anything that comes up for you in that space of like, people are going to still have abortions? It's just not having the option to have any safe space?

Unknown Speaker  17:30  
Yeah, absolutely. Well, you know, what's not safe about self managed abortion is not the process or the medication or anything like that, but what you know, the, the increased risk is legal, because it is illegal to obtain this medication and self induced abortion.

Unknown Speaker  17:51  
In most states in the United States.

Unknown Speaker  17:56  
What they need to defend themselves from is not, you know, coat hangers, and back alley abortion, but actually the state.

Unknown Speaker  18:06  
And so,

Unknown Speaker  18:10  
you know, self managed abortion with pills, if we know that it's safe and effective. There's various ways to take this medication. Organizations like Plan C pills are really good about disseminating this information, they have an incredible directory that allows people to sort of select where they live, and that gives them their options to purchase medication from online pharmacies.

Unknown Speaker  18:39  
That can send it to them where they live. And

Unknown Speaker  18:44  
that is all well and good. But in doing that, it's very, very important for people to protect themselves digitally. To to browse using, you know, browsers that don't collect their data, like duck duck go to utilize Virtual Private Networks known as VPN, so it can

Unknown Speaker  19:07  
bounce your IP address off of a totally different country. And, you know, so it's, it's not tied to your browsing activity on your IP address.

Unknown Speaker  19:18  
And then also, using encrypted technology to discuss it, if it has to be discussed digitally at all. So signing up for an email address with a company like protonmail that's encrypted. Because I think, you know, a lot of places do

Unknown Speaker  19:41  
give prescriptions and whatnot via email. So you, you don't want to just use your regular Gmail with your full name attached to for sure.

Unknown Speaker  19:53  
And if you need to talk to people about it on your phone, you should definitely be using an encrypted messaging app like signal

Unknown Speaker  20:00  
Well, and utilize that disappearing messages feature. But you know, we encourage people, if they have folks in their support system that are that can be there for them through this process that they,

Unknown Speaker  20:14  
you know, have these conversations in person when they can or over the phone.

Unknown Speaker  20:20  

Unknown Speaker  20:22  
you know, we're also there to provide, you know, information and education about it.

Unknown Speaker  20:30  
Sure, to the people,

Unknown Speaker  20:33  
and have conversations to have those conversations.

Unknown Speaker  20:36  
Because we are, you know, through protected speech, able to share that information with people. And we do have it

Unknown Speaker  20:45  
and plenty of resources as well. And then there's other hotlines like MA hotline, that are staffed by doctors that are able to give you medical advice. And early on. Yeah, and really help you with that process. If people have questions, but but the instructions are clear, the process is,

Unknown Speaker  21:10  
you know, pretty simple. It's, it's just like,

Unknown Speaker  21:16  
getting a medication, abortion at a clinic, the same to medications, same process, you're just doing it at home.

Unknown Speaker  21:25  
I love that. Thank you for that. And we're going to want to name that resource and the description.

Unknown Speaker  21:30  
One of the questions, I'm gonna have so many questions, but we are limited time, we can't be here all day.

Unknown Speaker  21:38  
So one of the things that I've been focusing on in my work is my like, new framework of being a birth name, terrorists, which is a birth worker, who is very much so forward thinking very much it's an innovation, honoring what has existed, and also filling the gaps of like, where we need to go. And so when it comes to this conversation around abortion access, especially with the, you know, lingering, looming idea that roe may be overturned, what do you think the future of abortion access looks like? Right, like, what does it I guess, like, what does it what does it need to include maybe that maybe didn't have to include at this current moment? What is working? Well, what we need more of but you know, what is that like, ideal future even with, even with Roe possibly not being present anymore? But, you know, what is the future of abortion access and in your mind,

Unknown Speaker  22:37  
you know, I think an ideal future and a post roe future are super different for me, but

Unknown Speaker  22:45  

Unknown Speaker  22:48  
thinking through like, ideal, realistic, you know, I do think SMA is is a big future,

Unknown Speaker  22:57  
people are not going to want to fly out to DC into Illinois for their procedures.

Unknown Speaker  23:05  
And, you know, in places like Mexico, you can walk into a

Unknown Speaker  23:12  
pharmacy, and you can ask for misoprostol. And you can self manage your abortion at home legally. And you don't need a prescription, you just Ask a Pharmacist. But here in Tennessee, you know, we just had someone ask a pharmacist for illegal over the counter drug? And they said no. So I, you know, I think I think the future really could be. It's, you know, the, what the present is for a lot of people living in the world.

Unknown Speaker  23:43  
Because it could be normal, you know, having abortions as normal, it's as old as reproduction. People have been doing this stuff forever, and they're gonna keep doing it.

Unknown Speaker  23:53  
And so I do think self managed abortion is a feature. As for clinic abortions, you know, we're seeing states with protections kind of really increased their capacity. They're building new clinics, there's a new clinic opening in Maryland soon.

Unknown Speaker  24:11  
That will also be able to provide late term care, which is incredible, because there's only three clinics in the country that can take patients after 30 weeks. And those are situations that are you know, very few people are getting an elective abortion after 30 feet 30 weeks, they're in situations that are life threatening and dire. And very, very, very sad. And so empowering those people and offering them good quality care where they live. I think that is

Unknown Speaker  24:41  
really important for the future of abortion.

Unknown Speaker  24:45  
And I think, yeah, just de-stigmatizing it and normalizing it.

Unknown Speaker  24:51  

Unknown Speaker  24:53  
being in a space where where we can be candid with each other about the fact that we've had abortions and the fact that

Unknown Speaker  25:00  
People are having abortions.

Unknown Speaker  25:02  
And especially with young people, because young people are having abortions, but they're so discouraged from learning about it or talking about it.

Unknown Speaker  25:12  
Yeah. And it becomes like, the thing to talk about when it's a crisis, right. Like it's a critical time, versus like having that information prior to, I mean, obviously, for adults, too, but definitely emphasizing that part with young folks.

Unknown Speaker  25:27  

Unknown Speaker  25:28  
I just want to see a world where

Unknown Speaker  25:33  
we have Care on Demand. And it's uncomplicated.

Unknown Speaker  25:38  
And we're able to support each other through that process. And I think abortion doulas of the future.

Unknown Speaker  25:44  
I think that, you know, being there for someone who's having an abortion is such a fulfilling experience. It really deepens your relationship.

Unknown Speaker  25:56  
Helping somebody just like find their autonomy and to to

Unknown Speaker  26:02  
take back control over their body and their pregnancy outcome.

Unknown Speaker  26:07  
And I want to see more people in this work. I want to see more people, you know, investing in the training and the knowledge that it takes to do this work. But also, it's not a you know, it's not that hard. It's actually pretty simple just to be there for the people in your life. And I think building out these networks of care and holding each other.

Unknown Speaker  26:32  
Is is the future as well.

Unknown Speaker  26:35  
Yes, I'm here for that. Yes. Abortion, doulas. Listen, I'm biased. I'm a doula.

Unknown Speaker  26:42  
But yes, abortion, doulas. I mean, I think any reproductive health experience, I think like doulas, just like bridge such a gap

Unknown Speaker  26:52  
that is so necessary and so valuable. And in regards to abortion and other reproductive health experiences. So I have one last question for you.

Unknown Speaker  27:05  
Cuz I think it's important to talk about this as well, is the work that we do, and the work that you're doing in specific can be very exhausting, it can be very traumatizing, it could be is work that very much keeps you activated, right, and not always in the best ways.

Unknown Speaker  27:26  
So my question to you is, like, as we are going through this, this, this time, and possibly moving into a time of post row, how are you taking care of yourself,

Unknown Speaker  27:38  
there's always going to be, it's always going to be a request, there's always gonna be someone in need, there's always going to be something like that part never ends, right. And it's so easy for us as people who care about this, and who do this work, to, to just keep going, keep going, keep going keep going at the expense of our own health and our own well being a lot of time. But you know, trying to add person on a mission to kind of get away from that right of being like the sacrificial lamb for the cause, and being more of like, in community in a way where we can trade off and we can do whatever we need to do to take care of ourselves. So yes, my big question to you is, how are you taking care of yourself?

Unknown Speaker  28:19  
And how are you going to maintain that through these times?

Unknown Speaker  28:23  
That is a really good question. I gotta be transparent, I have not been sleeping. Since the news.

Unknown Speaker  28:30  
In that part has been really hard because my body's tired. I have so much to do. But one thing that I think now Nexus brigade does really well is we have something we call a caring Committee, which is our doulas caring for doulas and also abortion providers. And so, when stuff is going down, our caring committee is working to support us and whether that's like a meal or just dropping off some flowers.

Unknown Speaker  29:02  
You know, whenever I've been in crisis, or you know, been going through it, like I've always got a doula at my door, with whatever it is that I need.

Unknown Speaker  29:11  
And I think we really need more of that. And then we also try and support our abortion providers as well.

Unknown Speaker  29:18  
When we can with our caring committee, and, and that's more you know, submitting yourself to to care that's like releasing yourself into the care of your community, which is something I'm really practicing

Unknown Speaker  29:34  
because it's it's hard It takes it's like a trustful.

Unknown Speaker  29:42  

Unknown Speaker  29:44  
Yeah. And as we're taking care of myself, I just

Unknown Speaker  29:50  
I don't know I've been trying to get into my relationships, and just spend time with my friends and you

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The Birth Neoterist Newsletter
The Birth Neoterist Newsletter Audio Files
A collection of interviews on Designing and Creating the Future of Birth.
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