- Lexi Dotson-Duffault is a 24-year-old resource coordinator for Women Have Options Ohio.
- Dotson-Dufault helps pregnant women find and travel to safe and legal abortion care.
- This is her story as told by the writer Fortezza Latifi.
This directed article is based on a conversation with Lexi Dotson-Duffault, a 24-year-old resource coordinator for Women Have Options Ohio. Conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
One month after my miscarriage in 2019, I started working as an intern with Women Have Options Ohio – also known as WHO/O. I worked my way up and, after graduating from college, became a resource coordinator for WHO/O, helping pregnant women in need. to access abortion services.
One of the things I do at work is help people who need to travel out of state to get abortion services.
In Ohio, abortion is legal for up to 20 weeks unless the patient’s life is in danger, so sometimes at WHO/O we help people go to Michigan, Illinois or Pennsylvania for care. But bringing people to other states for abortion care can get really expensive, and sometimes we work with other organizations to raise money to get someone to see.
There is a lot of detail that goes into a patient crossing state lines for abortion care
There are transportation costs, housing costs, childcare costs, and sometimes they have to take time off work. It’s a lot, and we’re here for people throughout the whole process. A lot of work goes into helping someone get care.
When someone first contacts me for abortion care, I ask where they are and try to find out how long the pregnancy has been, because that helps us know which clinics will serve them. (There’s this site called AbortionProvider, where you enter your progress and location to find an abortion provider. It’s really helpful, but sometimes people don’t have a secure internet connection — or any internet connection at all.)
From there, I ask if they have any safety concerns. It feels like I’m a non-certified social worker sometimes. Ask if they have anyone who can drive them to their appointment and if they need financing to help with housing and transportation costs.
If we help people cross state lines to get abortions in Ohio, they generally go to Michigan or Pennsylvania. We are fortunate that other abortion funds and organizations will help us when we have to bring patients into their country.
The prospect of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade is terrifying for abortion professionals
If this change happened, we would be completely overtaken by the amount of cases we have to take over. And I can’t help but think that if Michigan loses access, and we send patients to Michigan, where will the Ohioans go? Travel time and cost will add terribly.
If there are more barriers to providing care, people will stay pregnant longer than they want – and then will need care in states with fewer restrictions. I have seen people have to sell their cherished personal belongings to get money for sponsorship. Even if you have insurance, abortion is often left out of coverage.
If Roe fell against Wade, our ability would extend far 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 to focus on putting out the fires every day when it comes to abortion access and laws targeting 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’ve already got hate mail in the clinic, and the harassment of abortion workers in general is increasing. According to the National Abortion Federation, cases of violence toward abortion providers rose from 95 in 2010 to 1,627 in 2020. We only expect that number to rise further if Roe v. Wade is dropped.
Working in abortion care is clearly emotionally exhausting, but it is very rewarding. My favorite part of this job is being able to overcome the inner stigma I faced from having a miscarriage.
I grew up in a conservative family and went to a Catholic school until I went to university. I didn’t know anything about sex, my body, or abortion, except for the negative things that put me to shame. When I was pregnant and decided to have an abortion, I felt very lonely. I made this decision for health reasons, and I sometimes think that if I wasn’t sick I would have continued my pregnancy just because of the stigma I faced. For me, this is very sad.
I want people to know: There is nothing wrong with your abortion
This is a normal medical procedure. You are valid, and your choice is correct. Anything you feel about it — whether it’s sadness or relief — is valid.
I don’t want people to feel as lonely as I did, and in the work I do, I can hold people’s hands as they go down this path. I can’t imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t have an abortion. It allowed me to have the life I wanted, and I want that choice for everyone.