An Interview with Ariel from Baltimore Doula Project and Baltimore Abortion Fund

The Maryland Abortion Access Alliance may be the newest abortion access organization in Maryland, but we are joining many other amazing organizations that have been doing this work for years! So that you can learn more about some of the other organizations doing this work in Baltimore, we did an interview with Ariel McIntosh, who is the Abortion Support Program Coordinator with the Baltimore Doula Project and a Case Manager with the Baltimore Abortion Fund. Read on to learn about her work with these organizations, and why she’s excited to see MAAA joining in!

Tell us a bit about the abortion access landscape in Maryland. What role do organizations like BAF and BDP play?

Maryland has a lot of privilege when it comes to abortion access! In 1992, Maryland codified legal abortion, which means abortion will remain legal in Maryland even if Roe v. Wade is overturned and abortion is not guaranteed federally. State Medicaid in Maryland also covers abortion (in most cases). For a smaller state, we have a fair number of abortion providers who are based at a mix of independent (“indie”) clinics, hospitals and Planned Parenthood. Maryland is also home to one of the few clinics that provides later-abortion care. However, these providers are primarily located near the DC and Baltimore metro-areas, which means many Marylanders are driving hours to receive care and face barriers to access because of the lack of abortion providers in more rural and coastal areas of the state.

Organizations like the Baltimore Doula Project (BDP) and the Baltimore Abortion Fund (BAF) work to support people seeking abortion in overcoming barriers to access. BAF provides funding to people receiving abortion care in Maryland, which includes both state residents and people traveling to Maryland from other states or abroad. Our volunteer case managers work with callers to connect them to financial resources, other abortion funds, and liase with practical support organizations to support callers who need transportation, lodging, childcare, or other support. BDP provides emotional support to people having abortions in Maryland through our volunteer abortion doula program. Our doulas volunteer in shifts at three clinics we are partnered with and connect with clients interested in our services while at the clinic. During the pandemic, BDP has not been able to have volunteers in the clinics but we have begun creating and providing post-abortion care kits for clients through one of our partner clinics. The kits include comfort and practical supplies, as well as affirmation notes that seek to counteract stigma our clients may experience. We hope to continue building this program with support from community partners. BDP also provided practical support in the past, prior to the creation of MAAA, and continues to act as an informational resource for folks conducting practical support.

Do a lot of people come to Maryland for abortions? Why?

Yes! People travel to Maryland from all over to receive abortion care and there are a number of reasons for this. Maryland sees a lot of people traveling from bordering states because our clinics might be closer or offer the earliest appointment. People also come from southeastern states that have been more aggressively targeted with abortion restrictions. And again, Maryland has one of the few clinics that provides later abortion care for those further along in their pregnancies. The limited number of clinics that provide this service means people are forced to travel longer distances to receive later abortion care, despite the fact that it is a safe and normal procedure.

What are the biggest barriers to abortion access in Maryland?

Funding continues to be one of the largest barriers to access. An abortion can cost anywhere from $300 to many thousands, and it is usually an unexpected, time-critical expense that many people need help covering. Even with Maryland Medicaid covering abortion, many people aren’t eligible or have an insurance provider that does not cover abortion care. There are also many other costs associated with abortion care in addition to the cost of the procedure itself. People may have to take unpaid leave from work and/or pay for childcare while they are at their appointment. For those coming from further away, they may also have transportation and lodging costs on top of all the others mentioned.

Another huge barrier many people face is transportation to and from the clinic. Most clinics require people to have an escort with them for the duration of their appointment depending on the medication they are receiving. If someone doesn’t have anyone they trust to accompany them, they are left searching for a ride. This is made especially tough due to the stigma that still surrounds abortion. People may not have anyone in their life they feel safe sharing their abortion experience with and this is where pro-abortion advocates can step in to provide safe, compassionate practical support. The pandemic has also limited people’s ability to rely on others for in-person support, even if they do have people they trust. Other common barriers we see are a lack of childcare, lost income, housing insecurity, language barriers, and more.

What excites you about having a practical support network in the state?

I’m excited that people will have the support to access the abortion care they need! I’m also excited to see a space where people can enter into abortion support work and learn more about the ways they can fight for a world where abortion is truly accessible, safe, and stigma-free. This work takes community and commitment and I’m excited for fresh voices!

What does a liberated, just Maryland (and world!) look like to you in terms of reproductive justice?

A “just” Maryland looks like one where people have access to the resources they need to make the decisions that are right for them and their families out of a place of abundance. People who have abortions would always be supported unconditionally throughout the process and people would get to decide if, when, and how they start a family. In a just world, people would receive support from their communities and the government and would not have to worry about food or housing insecurity. People would live free from state violence at the hands of police and the prison industrial complex and feel empowered to live the lives they want, safely and unapologetically.