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According to Roe, the network of people who help others with abortions sees itself as an “underground.”

NAMPA, Idaho (AP) — Kimra Luna was waiting in a long mail line with the latest shipment of “abortion aftercare kits” and received a text message. A woman who took abortion pills three weeks ago was worried about bleeding – and had to tell a doctor about the cause.

“Bleeding doesn’t mean you have to go in,” Luna replied on the encrypted messaging app Signal. “Some people bleed on and off for a month.”

It was a typically busy afternoon for Luna, a doula and reproductive health activist in a state with some of the strictest abortion laws in the country. These laws make the work a constant struggle, the 38-year-old said, but they draw strength from a makeshift national network of helpers — clinic navigators, abortion fund leaders and individual volunteers who have become a supporting cast for people in restrictive states who seek abortions.

“This is the underground,” said Jerad Martindale, an activist in Boise.

Abortion rights advocates worry that Idaho is a harbinger of where other states could go. Here, abortion is banned at all stages of pregnancy with very few exceptions, and a law signed by the governor but temporarily blocked prohibits adults from helping minors leave the state for abortions without parental consent. Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments about enforcing its hospital emergency abortion ban in Idaho.

Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, said such laws protect the unborn. Although she doesn't know if anything can be done to stop people from helping others have abortions, she said, “I certainly wish they wouldn't do it.”

But Luna and others consider their mutual aid work essential to the community.

“I couldn't live with myself if I was just scared and didn't do the things I do,” said the single mother of three boys, who uses the pronoun they. “I know I’m called to this.”

Luna helps implement Idaho Abortion Rights, which launched in 2022 with additional bail money raised after she was arrested at a protest. A longtime activist, they strongly believe that abortion pills should be accessible and once brought them to the steps of the State Capitol to prove that residents can still get them online. They recently got a face tattoo showing a mailbox with abortion pills falling out of it.

Luna is a full-spectrum doula who assists with both births and abortions. Most abortion work occurs remotely, providing support, advice, answers to questions, and referrals to resources such as abortion funds.

“We have always found a way to make sure people get help, no matter what the help is,” Luna said of her group.

This also includes caring for people after abortions. One April morning, Luna assembled aftercare kits on the couch, pink and purple braids falling in front of their faces as they filled packages with supplies like sanitary pads, Advil, over-the-counter stomach medications, and red raspberry leaf tea.

In places where abortions are legal, navigators at clinics offer similar logistical help. Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains has three navigators for its 21 clinics, one virtual, in Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. They handle about 1,000 calls a month — some from patients from abroad who have to drive up to 17 hours for treatment, said Adrienne Mansanares, the organization's president and CEO.

Abortion opponents are trying to discourage people from terminating their pregnancies and instead turn to centers that they say also offer support such as pregnancy information, parenting classes and baby supplies.

For someone “who is not sure what to do next and wants to find out what resources are available to them if they want to carry the pregnancy to term, there is support” at about 3,000 locations across the country, said Tobias of the Right to Life Committee . “This is definitely the better way.”

Some people facing an unplanned pregnancy find answers online, like DakotaRei Belladonna Frausto, a 19-year-old student at San Antonio College in Texas. They were looking for an abortion a few years ago, came across a Facebook group, and eventually decided to create their own private Facebook group where people could share resources and experiences about abortion.

In April, about two dozen people gathered at a community center in Boise to help Luna put together boxes of emergency contraceptives, condoms and information about abortion access.

Stephanie Vaughan, 39, said she had an abortion at 17, when having a baby might have prevented her from going to college and getting a good job.

Martindale recalled how a friend had an abortion when she was a teenager. He and his wife Jen now devote much of their free time to abortion rights in Idaho; They have thousands of packages of emergency contraceptives available for you to donate.

“It’s a community responsibility,” Jen Martindale, 48, said.

The next morning, the Martindales took reproductive health products to local stores, which offer them for free. Her first stop was Purple Lotus, a clothing and accessories store.

Worker Taylor Castillo immediately opened a box: “Pregnancy tests? Oh good,” she said. “They flew!”

Castillo said she was happy to help. When she suffered a miscarriage in 2021, her doctor prescribed the same pills used in medication abortion. She wonders what would happen if she needed them today.

“Everything is burning now,” she said. “The good thing is, there are mutual aid programs that are willing to work for us.” ___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Science and Educational Media Group of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Anna Harden

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