What made you want to start a regional website on abortion access?
The University of Washington School of Medicine has 6 campuses across the 5 state region, Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana, and Idaho. Students do clinical rotations throughout the region and are exposed to differences in healthcare access across this region. Abortion access in particular varies dramatically. Seattle, for example, houses many clinics with options for second trimester abortion care; the rest of the region is quite rural, forcing patients to travel far distances to access care or utilize telemedicine and medication abortion by mail options.
With rapidly evolving abortion legislation and the prospect of Roe v Wade being overturned, communities across our region will feel the effects of new abortion restrictions very differently. We wanted to create a resource medical students and other providers can use throughout the region to understand local laws and resources in order to support patients seeking abortion care. The site includes the basics about abortion care and resources patients can turn to as they consider all of their pregnancy options. Because each state has its own abortion laws, our state profiles outline the legal landscape, insurance information, and local resources. The website also includes tools for providing inclusive care with pages on gender-affirming abortion care, trauma-informed abortion care, teen-friendly reproductive care, and more.
We know medical students provide valuable care to patients and we hope sharing this resource empowers our peers to become advocates for abortion care in medical school and beyond. Check out our site at www.pacificabortion.org.
What were some challenges in building the site and how did you overcome them?
We decided a website would be the best format for this resource to allow easy updates, but most of us didn’t have any experience creating one. We spent some time researching different platforms and eventually settled on WordPress because it was the cheapest and relatively easy to use. Learning how to build the website took some getting used to and thankfully we had team members who were interested in website design.
Building the content itself was another challenge. We gathered a team of 11 students across the 6 campuses and met regularly to decide the content, delegate who would write which pages, and traded content to review several times before we actually uploaded the pages. The work was all done remotely so students across the region could contribute. We then sought feedback from other students and providers and are adjusting the website accordingly.
We are more than happy to provide guidance for other students who want to create their own website and they can reach out to [email protected] to be put in touch with us.
How do you think working with students from other states impacted the website?
Working with students across the our region expanded the range of information and experiences represented on the website. Each student suggested topics to include from their own observations of challenges unique to their home state. Together, we filled in the potential knowledge gaps in providing abortion care so our final website would be useful for providers across the region. Collaborating also created a sense of solidarity during a difficult and fractured moment in abortion policy and rhetoric across our country. It was a huge comfort to know that students from every corner of our five state region cared intensely about ensuring abortion access in their communities. We were able to process our anger and grief together and channel those emotions into our project.
How do you hope the website impacts people in your region?
With the recent news about SCOTUS likely overturning Roe vs Wade in the ruling of the Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization case, we anticipate an exacerbation of the existing disparities in abortion access across our region. In states like Wyoming and Idaho, it is likely abortion will be banned almost entirely if Roe is overturned. When this happens, it will be even more essential that healthcare providers are informed about their patients’ rights and options for abortion, regardless if they are able to provide abortion in their home states. For example, providers will need to know how patients can access medication abortion by mail or how to call an abortion fund to help fund travel to another state. Providers will also serve a critical role in providing non-judgmental, compassionate guidance to patients seeking abortion care who will be facing powerful stigma and fear. We hope this website will be a tool providers can use as they navigate these uncertain times and serve as advocates for patients in their communities.
What are some tips you would share with others interested in building a website for their region?
Invite students from across the region to collaborate on the website. If your region includes multiple states, try to make sure you have at least one contributor from each state. We also were able to include general information about abortion counseling, advocacy, inclusivity etc. that was not region-specific in part because we had so many collaborators with unique interests. Reach out to departments within your school and to local organizations to see if they’d be interested in featuring your website on their lists of resources for providers or students.
It is easy to feel overwhelmed and hopeless as we face terrifying changes in abortion legislation. As medical students, our voices serve a valuable role in advocacy for our patients and communities. You have the power to confront fear and stigma with truth and to share the resources within your community that will continue to make abortion possible.