Abortion rights are in trouble. Here are 9 actions you can take to protect them.

It's been a tough start to 2017 for abortion rights.

Photo by Olivier Douliery/Getty Images.

Just days into office, President Trump reinstated the Reagan-era "global gag rule" that strips aid to nongovernmental organizations that offer (or even discuss) abortion services with patients. On Jan. 24, the House of Representatives approved a bill that would make the anti-abortion Hyde Amendment permanent. Trump's choice for secretary of Health and Human Services is staunchly anti-choice. And Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) introduced a "heartbeat" ban on abortion (almost certainly meant to provoke a legal challenge to the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision).


Like I said, it's been a tough start to the year for abortion rights — and it's only January.

With so much happening all at once, it's easy to feel lost and unsure how best to show your support. Luckily, there are ways. Many ways.

First off, it's important that those of us who support reproductive rights recognize that we're not alone. According to the Pew Research Center, the majority of Americans (57%) believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, the highest level of support in more than 20 years.

So let's say that you're part of that 57%. Now what?

Here are nine real things you can do and groups you can support in the fight for abortion rights in the U.S.

1. Support national and local abortion funds by donating or participating in fun fundraising campaigns.

Most people who want to support family planning, abortion rights, and factually accurate sex education donate to Planned Parenthood. And that's great! Keep doing that! But if you want to support an organization specifically to help make abortion more accessible, you should check out the The National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF). Abortion funds help individuals who need abortions, but can't afford them, pay for them. When you donate to the NNAF, your money is going directly to help people exercise their constitutionally protected right to an abortion.

In the past, people have found creative ways to help fundraise for abortion funds. For example, there's the Taco or Beer Challenge modeled after the Ice Bucket Challenge. Another fun way to help is by signing up for events like the annual National Abortion Access Bowl-a-Thon (which will be back this April).

A graphic from the 2016 TOBC. Image from NNAF/Tumblr.

The NAFF centers around tenets of intersectionality, autonomy, collective power, and compassion for people in need of abortion. The group provides support to around 70 organizations throughout the country (many of which you can donate to directly if you'd like — they'd probably appreciate that).

2. Support reproductive rights and abortion advocacy organizations.

There is a long list of groups fighting for safe, legal, and accessible abortion throughout the U.S. — some better known than others. Of course, there's Planned Parenthood (a group that seems to be under near constant attack from anti-choice politicians), NARAL Pro-Choice America, the National Abortion Federation, and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

Other organizations to consider supporting include the National Organization for Women, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), All* Above All, A is For, Backline (known for their national pregnancy talkline), the Sea Change Program (a group working to reduce stigma), Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equality (URGE), the National Black Women's Reproductive Agenda, the Lilith Fund (helping abortion-seekers in Texas find access), DKT International (the largest family planning organization in the developing world), the Haven Coalition (a New York-based group providing travel and lodging assistance for women traveling to New York for an abortion), the National Women's Health Network, the Women's Global Network for Reproductive Rights (WGNRR), Ipas (a group dedicated to ending preventable deaths and disabilities from unsafe abortion), PCIGlobal (a group focused on ending physical, sexual, and mental violence against women), and the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health.

3. Participate in abortion storytelling campaigns.

You or someone you know has almost certainly had an abortion. While the "1 in 3" estimate that's often tossed around is almost certainly a bit high, the fact is that abortion is more common than you probably think. Unfortunately, abortion remains pretty stigmatized by society, and that's why it's so important that those who are willing and able to speak up about their experiences do so.

For many people, having an abortion isn't really a huge deal and the overwhelming majority (95%) of those who have had one don't regret it. Still, because of the stigma surrounding it, many might not feel comfortable discussing their experiences. You can help change that!

Whether it's participating in social media campaigns like #ShoutYourAbortion, telling your story through a site like We Testify, or hosting a teach-in through the Abortion Truth Project, sharing abortion stories plays a powerful role in battling the stigma that surrounds the procedure.

4. Call your legislators at both local and national levels.

Calling your legislators is one of the best ways to show your support or opposition to any issue close to your heart. Is your representative pro-choice? Give her a call. How's your senator planning on voting on an upcoming bill? Give him a call. It's important to remember that our elected officials are meant to represent their constituents — that means you!

There are some great guides too. Former Congressional staffer Emily Ellsworth's "Call the Halls" guide is a tremendous resource to have at the ready. If you're the type of person who struggles with phone anxiety, here's a really cool Tumblr graphic. And if you need help coming up with a script or finding the right number, check out 5 Calls.

It doesn't have to be boring either! Maybe you can organize a call or postcard writing party with friends, complete with drinks, food, and prizes where you get together and contact your reps.

5. Run for office. Yes, you.

The day after the massive global Women's March, 500 women in Washington, D.C. gathered to discuss taking the energy from the march and channeling it into a political movement. The group worked together with EMILY's List to learn the basics of getting involved in politics, and you can too!

As our new president has shown us, no prior political experience is no problem. But you don't have to run for president or Congress to make a difference. Consider getting involved with smaller local races if that's more your speed. Getting involved on a state, county, or municipal level can help make a real change in the world.

6. Promote comprehensive sex education.

Photo by Ted Aljibe/Getty Images.

It turns out that there are a couple surefire ways to reduce the number of unintended pregnancies in the world (which, in turn, has the effect of reducing the number of abortions as well): ensuring access to contraception and improving the type of sex education we provide in schools. In fact, a recent study found that abortion is at an all-time low, and it appears to be a direct result of an improvement in both of those areas.

One obvious way to get involved in setting the agenda for sex education is finding a spot on your local school board (see point #5) or at least attending the board's meetings with the public.

7. Talk to friends and family about why abortion rights matter to you.

Large-scale projects dedicated to helping change public opinion using celebrities and stories from strangers about why pregnant people should have the ability to make their own decisions about their bodies are one thing, but there's nothing quite like hearing something from someone you trust. Sure, it might be a bit awkward, but at the end of the day, it might help reduce stigma (see point #3) and inspire others to feel more open in discussing the topic.

The National Network of Abortion Funds put together a quick guide on talking to your loved ones about abortion.

8. Volunteer as a clinic escort.

It can be hard for some people to feel safe and comfortable walking into an abortion provider's office. Protesters can make going to a clinic a scary event, but that's why clinic escorts exist.

Clinic escorts are individuals who help guide patients and staff in and out of abortion providers' offices, offering distractions to patients and just generally trying to reduce what can be a traumatic time. Planned Parenthood recently shared information on how to become a volunteer clinic escort.

Additionally, you can support the Clinic Vest Project, an organization that provides brightly colored escort vests to volunteers for free.

9. Vote. Really — vote.

Photo by Ringo Chiu/Getty Images.

One of the most direct things you can do to help influence policy is to become an informed participant in the democratic process. It's an unfortunate fact that more than 92 million eligible voters stayed home this past Election Day. The presidential election, itself, came down to around just 80,000 votes spread out over three states. Your vote matters!

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Photo by Sam Carter on Unsplash
white sheep on green grass during daytime

Heroes don't always wear capes. Some sport a viking beard with a tank top.

A video went viral on Twitter yesterday of a man who in my mind shall be called Sheep Thor. In the video, Sheep Thor steps out of his car after seeing a helpless lamb struggling to release itself from the death grip of a barbed wire fence. We see Sheep Thor step out of the car and grab both sides of the sheep with his bare hands, gently trying to pull it out.

Alas, no buck wouldn't budge. The camera zooms in on the poor beast, still stuck in the fence, and Sheep Thor gives a narration that would fill Crocodile Hunter fans with nostalgia. "So he's got this barbed wire here, he's got his horns caught behind the wire...gotta be careful." He then takes a horn and gingerly works it back through the wire. Despite Sheep Thor's requests to "hurry up buddy," the ram doesn't seem too keen on aiding his rescuer.

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