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Online communities mobilized after the Roe leak, saying they are not just pro-choice, but 'pro-abortion'

Lindsay Dodgson   

Online communities mobilized after the Roe leak, saying they are not just pro-choice, but 'pro-abortion'
  • Online communities mobilized after the Roe leak by connecting people to resources.
  • Sex educator Jimanekia Eborn said the rallying shows "a movement of power right now."

When the news broke that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark ruling for abortion rights, could be overturned, TikTok and Twitter erupted.

Sex educator and trauma specialist Jimanekia Eborn told Insider social media discussions where most people were hearing the news, connecting people to resources or recommending creators to follow. It became like using "walkie talkies" to coordinate what to do next, she said.

"It feels like underground communication," Eborn said. "But it's an accessible one — you don't have to have a secret password or go down a dark alley. It's just like, oh, I have this app."

Social media platforms such as TikTok have become the primary place where millions of people get their news and analysis of current events. It's also where individual users team up to gather information when divisive issues arise, and this week saw users creating lists of abortion clinics that need donations and calendars of upcoming protests to protect reproductive rights.

TikTok can be rife with misinformation, and it can be hard to keep up, Eborn said. But it's also a place where different communities and generations with the same views find each other, where police brutality is documented, and where language evolves to keep debates current and people informed.

"I think people are now understanding what their skillset is because everyone's not going out to protest — everyone is not built for that," she said. "It allows you to feel like you're included in the fight in whatever way."

Social media has become the place for rallying and mobilizing people over the Roe leak

Amani Wells-Onyioha, a partner at political organization Sole Strategies who focuses on reproductive rights, told Insider social media has been extremely useful in raising awareness for what the end of Roe v. Wade would mean, and connecting people together so they would know how to access abortion if it suddenly became illegal in their state.

Wells-Onyioha follows several accounts that are run by people who escort patients in and out of abortion centers, as anti-abortion protesters yell at them through megaphones.

"I'm sure those organizations are still gonna fight to protect women's access to abortion," Wells-Onyioha said. "I know that's comforting for a lot of people to know and easy for them to find."

People are also becoming more deliberate with their language. On Twitter, a movement of pro-choice supporters and activists have started saying they are not just pro-choice, but "pro-abortion."

In these situations, "words matter," Eborn said, because clarifying the verbiage "has a heavier weight." It's also ammunition against trolls who accuse opponents of being vague.

"When we're continuing to use that language we're reinforcing it and making more of a stance," Eborn said. "Sometimes abortions are necessary and it can be life or death, and we want to support that."

Older and younger people on TikTok are getting involved in this conversation, which Eborn added proves wanting autonomy over reproductive rights is not a "generational" issue, but "a human" one. More of these conversations are happening out in the open, partly thanks to the wide reaching nature of apps like TikTok.

"In general, people are becoming just more comfortable with themselves," she said. "Sex ed conversations to become more normalized. People are learning to ask more questions about their bodies. I think that is what's changing."

Despite the energy, the news cycle is a lot to take in for many

Social media has a knack for turning hugely complicated issues into bite-sized tweet- or TikTok- length chunks, but the relentless news cycle can be brutal on any platform and emotionally distressing. Wells-Onyioha said that she has noticed people grieving over the US and "what we have worked so hard to become over the past 50 or 60 years."

"I was born in 1993, so I've never existed in a world where abortion was just completely illegal," she said. "Especially the Gen Zers, people who are 16, 17, 18, who are the most active on TikTok. That probably has never crossed their mind."

Eborn said she has also seen people "crumbling" at the news, and sexual assault survivors having trauma responses. Survivors are often "walking around holding their breath," she said, waiting for the other shoe to drop. In the last two years particularly, there has been little recovery time, she said, with the ongoing pandemic, and reproductive rights being threatened.

Eborn said this whole week has been tiring, but she was amazed to see how quickly people rallied after the leak and said "absolutely not."

"We're not just gonna sit and let you decide what happens to my uterus, to my body," she said. "It's draining, it's exhausting, but there's also this movement of power right now that I think is really beautiful."


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