Opinion | Help Desperate Women, and Give the Homeless Dignity

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By Michelle Goldberg

Opinion Columnist

This article is part of Times Opinion’s Holiday Giving Guide 2022. Read more about the guide in a note from Opinion’s editor, Kathleen Kingsbury.

Reporting this column, I frequently speak to people who work at nonprofits, since they often serve those whose lives are caught up in the currents of our politics. For this year’s holiday giving guide, I want to highlight two small organizations that have particularly impressed me this year.

Because of the end of Roe v. Wade, I’ve spent even more time than usual in 2022 writing about reproductive rights. For those inspired to donate by outrage over abortion bans, there are many great options, from giants like Planned Parenthood to local, grass-roots abortion funds. To that list, I’d like to add the Brigid Alliance, because it’s helping to fill a need that’s been terribly exacerbated by the Supreme Court’s decision: funding travel for people who need abortions.

Odile Schalit, a social worker in New York, started the Brigid Alliance in 2018 with just herself and a part-time coordinator. “What was clear at the time was that travel was becoming the primary barrier to abortion access,” she said. As states ratcheted up abortion restrictions, many women had to trek, sometimes across multiple states, to end their pregnancies, which could be prohibitively expensive.

The Brigid Alliance stepped in, booking plane, bus or train tickets and funding child care, hotels and meals for people who needed to go long distances for abortion care. It now has 15 employees and helps upward of 125 clients a month, and is expanding so that next year it will be able to work with about 200 a month.

Not surprisingly, demand for the group’s assistance is increasing. Women typically get connected to the Brigid Alliance through either abortion clinics or abortion funds, organizations that help cover the price of the procedure for those who can’t afford it. Since Roe was overturned, referrals are up 50 percent. Often, Schalit told me, women are being forced to wait weeks or even a month for appointments, because the clinics that are still standing are all booked up.

It’s hard for me to imagine the horror of carrying an unwanted pregnancy for weeks longer than necessary, potentially edging close to a state’s cutoff date. Even more awful, though, would be missing a desperately needed appointment because it costs too much to get there.

Incidentally, the Brigid Alliance is named after St. Brigid of Kildare, who, according to one hagiography, laid hands on a woman who got pregnant after breaking a vow of chastity, causing “the fetus to disappear without coming to birth, and without pain.” Apparently, the “abortion miracle” was a motif in early medieval Irish Catholicism. A lot of people could use such miracles right now.

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