Sadly, the abortion landscape looks decidedly different now than it did when the Brigid Alliance began operations. On June 24, the Supreme Court struck down Roe vs. Wade, which returned the right to abortion to the states to decide and has left an estimated 21 million people (and counting) without legal access to abortion procedures.
With 22 states now having restrictive or highly restrictive abortion policies, Schalit tells Well+Good that her approach to leading the Brigid Alliance will follow the credo she has carried throughout her career: the idea of meeting people where they are, wherever they are. “I’m taking stock of the fact that I, as a provider, am not the expert. I have the resources, care and inclination to make sure the person I’m talking to who It is not has those resources knows what is available to them and receives as much generosity and attention as possible,” says Schalit.
Schalit’s life vocation has been based on the idea of service long before he started getting a paycheck. “I’ve been interested in pregnancy and pregnant people and reproductive health since she was a little person,” she says. “For a while, I thought she would make me an OB/GYN, and then in college I became more and more interested in women’s health in psychology and child development.”
Schalit then had a brief stint in the film industry, where she spent a couple of years casting and styling, before returning to reproductive health. “The threat [of my career] there was interesting. This wasn’t so much a departure, but a really vital moment in realizing that what I loved about my work in film, what I loved about studying psychology, and what I would eventually come to love about becoming a birth doula and a abortion doula and working towards becoming a social worker, it was meeting people where they are.
This self-philosophy requires constant evolution, which is why Schalit has been thinking critically about how the Brigid Alliance fits into the abortion care landscape since day one. “My role has been changing since day one and has really grown in importance and complexity with the increasing complexity of the work we do and the volume of people who now need our services,” says Schalit, who oversees Brigid Alliance operations. strategy and communications. She began developing services based on her personal experience as a social worker in an abortion clinic (and her training in sexual and reproductive health programs). “I knew that transportation, housing, childcare and local knowledge would be, at a minimum, necessary for a service like Brigid,” she says.
“The practical support, this notion of addressing all the factors related to how someone travels to get their care, is something that has been woven into abortion access organizations for a long time.” —Odile Schalit, executive director of the Brigid Alliance
After Schalit cut back on offers she knew would be most helpful to those seeking abortions, she began reaching out to abortion funds and volunteer networks to learn as much as she could. “The practical support, this notion of dealing with all the factors that surround how someone travels to get their care, is something that has been woven into abortion access organizations for a long time. Brigid launched, there we only had a few [organizations] who focused solely on travel and practical support,” says Schalit.
Schalit initially worked with organizations like the Texas Choice Fund and the Northwest Abortion Access Fund to create a “schedule model” that would take on the financial and logistical burdens of traveling for an abortion. This model involves connecting people with coordinators who work with them throughout the abortion care process: scheduling and paying for procedures and travel to receive them, arranging for child care if needed, and providing support along the way. of process.. (Currently, the average Brigid Alliance itinerary costs about $1,250 and helps people travel an average of 1,000 miles to get the care they need.)
Her experience collaborating with other abortion care networks helped her discover what needs were already being met through existing services, and where there were critical gaps that the Brigid Alliance could help fill. One of the main things that sets Brigid Alliance apart from other abortion access organizations, she says, is the conscious decision to focus on people seeking care for later-stage pregnancies. “We knew there were more resources out there to help people travel for abortion services earlier in pregnancy. There were far fewer [resources] for people who need to seek abortion services later in pregnancy, and that’s because those providers are more difficult to access. It is more expensive. It is more complicated. It is a longer journey. It’s more dating days,” says Schalit.
Despite Roe vs. Wade is in the past, Schalit says the organization’s services have remained largely the same. What is changing is demand. “Our services were really, in that sense, designed for the time we’re in right now, where people can’t access abortion care in their own states and have to travel hundreds, if not thousands, of miles. on average to get to your nearest abortion provider,” she explains. This service has been relevant for years, as states with Republican-dominated legislatures have slowly undermined abortion rights by enacting strict (and medically unnecessary) regulations designed to close clinics and reduce access. But now, with millions more people without access to legal abortion in their states, Schalit says the need is greater than ever. “Now we have to navigate how to scale and grow our team and capacity as quickly and deliberately as possible without damaging our organization,” says Schalit.
Right now, this means getting a lot of calls from attorneys, coordinating with other abortion-focused nonprofits to make the experience of scheduling and receiving an abortion as seamless as possible, and acting as coordinator herself whenever she can. “As a social worker, I am always drawn to service. From the dobbs decision [the ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade]I started working with clients again because we were so overwhelmed,” says Schalit.
Yet even as the daily work becomes increasingly complex, Schalit finds herself focusing on the future of reproductive care and how the Brigid Alliance will continue to serve. “In Brigid’s early days, she used to give speeches where at the end of the speech she would say something like, ‘And we’ll be here until we’re no longer needed.’ Now, fast-forwarding four years, I’m ending my speeches by saying, ‘We’ll be here for the next few decades and beyond,'” says Schalit. “I have to assume [that] We’re going to be here in a year, in two years, and in five years.”