Just after Thanksgiving of last year, I embarked upon a mailing project that I thought would be more fun than sending out the same lame Christmas photos of my increasingly surly children: I would send a postcard of support to every abortion clinic in America.
The idea came from comedian Lizz Winstead, who Tweeted that abortion providers could use some cheering up in the wake of the November 27 attack on a Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood that left three people dead. Her feminist action group, Lady Parts Justice, was sending postcards because security concerns precluded actual cards or letters. This by itself is a good reason to send a card of support: clinic staff has good reason to be fearful of opening their mail. Their mail!
I still had a pile of promotional postcards left over from the 2014 launch of my book The Radical Housewife, and this sounded like the best possible way to use them. Armed with a roll of postcard stamps, a couple of pens, and the website of the National Abortion Federation (NAF), I set out to write a message to every clinic in the country.
Here’s what I learned, should you decide to take on this goodwill gesture yourself.
- Get out your wallet. Postcard stamps are significantly higher than they were twenty years ago, when correspondence via kitschy postcard was the way I kept in touch with my friends in the dark days before social media. As of this writing they are 35 cents a pop, and like regular postage are marked “forever” so that their value can be readjusted as the government sees fit. If you’re thinking about doing this project I suggest you buy them in a rolls of a hundred; you’ll need that many stamps, which is both good and bad news.
- You may need an Advil. The good news about having so many clinics to write to? You will get a cramp in your wrist from writing “reproductive freedom is a family value!” on hundreds of cards because you thought that printing out a sticker with that message would lack the warmth of your increasingly messy handwriting. This cramping, as well as the demands of everyday life, will make it impossible for you to complete this project in the time frame you imagined. I aimed for winter holiday cards, but came closer to St. Patrick’s Day greetings. Yours could make it by Halloween!
- You may also need a rage-soothing cupcake. The bad news about having so many clinics to write to? Without heading to Google, I can guesstimate about 150 million people in the United States with the ability to get pregnant. There are about 500 abortion clinics to service that population. And no thanks to the laws known as Targeted Regulation of Abortion Providers (TRAP), burdensome and unnecessary regulations are piling up on practices, forcing them to close at an alarming clip. Many clinics listed on the NAF website are no longer in business.
- Stalkers keep thorough records. I was able to learn more about these clinic closures no thanks to an abortion provider stalking site called AbortionDocs.org. This site had more up-to-date information about abortion providers than the NAF did, which is a testament to their truly mad obsession with terrorizing these people until they crack—or until they are murdered by maniacs able to find their home addresses on AbortionDocs.org. A disclaimer on the site states that “it is in no way meant to encourage or incite violence of any kind against abortion clinics, abortionists, or their staff,” which is pretty rich from a site that has creepy photos of doctors just trying to walk to their cars. The group behind AbortionDocs, Pro-Life Nation, is led by Troy Newman, who has publicly announced that killing abortion doctors is “justifiable defensive action.” These stalkers are nothing if not thorough; every time I had a question about whether a clinic was operational, they had the information I needed.
- Location, location, location. There are a lot of clinics in cities like Chicago and New York, but there isn’t a single one in the state of Wyoming. North Dakota, South Dakota, and Mississippi have one clinic each. I’ve never been to the Deep South, but the Dakotas border my home state of Minnesota, and I can tell you from experience that these states are big. Good Lord, they are big! Traversing them is no joke. I can’t imagine the anxiety of a pregnant tour guide at Mt. Rushmore who needed to travel 400 miles to Sioux Falls in time for the first appointment at Planned Parenthood that would be a state-mandated 72 hours before the appointment for the actual procedure. That doesn’t sound like a “choice” to me; it sounds more like a forced vacation. Given the “choice,” I would prefer to spend a week on a Caribbean cruise, not sitting around Sioux Falls. Even the most loyal South Dakotan would probably agree with me.
- As always, it helps to be rich. Several clinics advertised “private and concierge services,” which in Miami means getting the procedure done twice as quickly, and in Las Vegas means “ultra-privacy,” for which you must pay in cash. Wealthy women had access to medical abortions before Roe v. Wade, and they’ll have it even if the unthinkable happens and President Trump appoints more anti-abortion justices to the Supreme Court. I need another cupcake.
- Feminists are awesome. There is an abortion clinic in Iowa City named after radical anarchist Emma Goldman. I had no idea!
I may have endured cramps, costs, and cupcake-induced indigestion, but those annoyances pale in comparison to the very real threats facing abortion providers and their staff every day. Winstead and Lady Parts Justice had it right—we owe them our gratitude, and it’s on us to show it. Grab a pack of cards from your local stationer and get writing!