On their Instagram, artist Madeline Horwath's stickers are being sold to benefit Yellowhammer Fund, funding abortion in Alabama, Mississippi, and the Deep South. (image courtesy the artist)

Last week’s Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was nearly 50 years in the making, with conservative lawmakers working for decades to undermine the ruling through legal loopholes and disinformation. As the future of abortion becomes uncertain in the United States, arts workers and reproductive rights organizations are collaborating on educational resources for accessing safe treatment and evading surveillance. 

Graphic design by Nina Yagual (image courtesy the artist and the Center for Cultural Power)

Some states have already banned or restricted abortion, with others expected to follow suit in the coming weeks, but people can still have FDA-approved pills like mifepristone and misoprostol mailed to them. Plan C promotes these services on colorful posters and stickers available for free download, with QR codes linking out to a state-by-state database. Founded in 2015 by women who developed the Plan B pill, the campaign provides research and shipment information for anywhere in the country — including states criminalizing abortion, where police still need a search warrant to open mail. 

“We reject any ruling or law that prevents people who are pregnant from accessing abortion, which should be normal medical care,” Plan C Co-Founder Elisa Wells said in a statement sent to Hyperallergic. “These laws disproportionately impact people of color, those with limited financial resources, youth, the LGBTQ+ community, immigrants, and others. We call on providers and advocates across the country to resist these unjust laws and help people access care, including through alternative supply systems, like Aid Access and mail forwarding.”

Plan C provides printable stickers in English and Spanish. (image courtesy Plan C)

Downloadable bilingual posters from the Digital Defense Fund, designed by artist Hazel Mead, describe privacy measures abortion seekers can take online, such as installing a virtual private network (VPN) and downloading encrypted messenger apps like Signal. Another set of printable stickers and posters by Women Help Women illustrates the abortion pill process in several languages, including Arabic and Haitian Creole. Many of these organizations connect the struggle for reproductive agency with bodily autonomy more generally, including transgender rights concurrently under attack. 

Detail from We Testify comic by Sage Coffey (image courtesy the artist and We Testify)

Free comics by We Testify, an organization dedicated to abortion storytellers, detail personal testimonies of self-managed abortions. One comic, “Transition” by Sage Coffey, relays a transmasculine nonbinary person’s experience with an unexpected pregnancy, which occurred before their coming out. Rendered in shades of the transgender flag, Coffey’s work describes failed methods of self-induced miscarriage, such as parsley, tea, and Plan B (one panel includes a disclaimer that the morning-after pill does not cause abortions) before seeking help from the greater community, which quickly comes to their aid. The final panels show how the treatment helped them affirm their gender identity, concluding with the phrase, “Everyone loves someone who had an abortion.”

A page from the DIY Doula zine with artwork by Mweya Waetjen (image courtesy The Doula Project)

Over the years, art collectives have put together free zines in preparation for this moment, most notably DIY Doula: Self-Care for Before, During, & After Your Abortion by The Doula Project. As Director of the Digital Defense Fund Kate Bertash wrote earlier this year, many US zines are influenced by those that emerged from the Latin American “Green Wave” movement, which has defied longstanding government clampdowns for decades. These materials, Bertash writes, “counteract the corporate search engine paradigm” and “hold the promise of an alternative system of information, one which reaches across a broad range of organizations, libraries, community spaces, and institutions even beyond reproductive healthcare spheres.”

Many online resources link to donation forms for national organizations, but arts collectives have also partnered with local groups. For example, Feminist Collages NYC collaborated with the DIY collective Fund Abortion Not Police on monochromatic wall murals across the five boroughs. The large-scale text pieces promote Plan C, Mail Aid Access, and ineedana.com, with messages claiming “Your right to abortion doesn’t come from the state, it can only be limited by the state” and “Aid and abet abortion, we will not comply.”

Feminist Collages NYC collaborated with Fund Abortion Not Police on wall murals across the five boroughs. (photos courtesy Feminist Collages NYC)

Some individual artists have uploaded their work on social media with instructions for contacting local representatives and locating appropriate abortion funds. Micah Bazant’s recent poster, adapted from his painting “Everyone Loves Someone Who Had an Abortion” (2020), was made available for free download in collaboration with Forward Together, Blkfeminist Advisors, and the Abortion Care Network. On Instagram, Sarah Epperson made her technicolor illustrations into posters and stickers, with all proceeds going to the National Network of Abortion Funds. Her “Wheel of Scotus” piece mocks the Supreme Court’s seemingly random and gamified legislation process in the aftermath of their rulings on New York gun law, Miranda rights, and federal abortion.

Likewise, on Instagram, cartoonist Mads Horwath set up a fundraiser around their fiery “Never Calm Your Tits!” illustration. All proceeds from the sale will go to the Yellowhammer Fund, which serves Alabama, Mississippi, and the Deep South. In an email to Hyperallergic, Horwath detailed their creative process and expanded on artists’ responsibility in not just raising awareness but producing material results.

“These stickers came to me when someone told me to calm my tits and I refused,” Horwath said. “I wanted my tits to be bouncing off the walls and breaking windows — I want seismologists to refer to my tits as The Ashkenazi Phenomenon. But a viral cartoon alone, I am sorry to say, is not going to provide the funds for an Alabama resident paid minimum wage to drive to and stay in Illinois for an abortion plus providing extra money for the days they will have to take off to get said abortion.”

Other organizations are working against the spread of anti-abortion propaganda. The Center for Cultural Power, for example, is uplifting sex-positive artworks by Nina Yagual, Angelica Frausto, and Elizabeth Blancas, among others. Spirited graphic designs portray queer people of color standing together and link to local organizations like SisterSong, California Latinas4RJ, and the Afiya Center. The Center’s latest animated video, “Some Reflections on Abortion,” interweaves interviews with Aimee Arrambide of Avow Texas and Amanda Beatriz Williams of Lilith Fund with footage from protests over the last few months, speaking to the growing coalition between artists and activist groups.

These campaigns follow an artistic tradition dating back to the 1980s, when artists like Barbara Kruger and Guerrilla Girls took their art into the streets to defend women’s rights. It is worth noting that the National Organization of Women’s “Keep Abortion Legal” sign, once held by Norma McCorvey (aka Jane Roe) on the steps of the Supreme Court, has re-emerged during protests this year. Rather than promote personal branding, as a recent article shamelessly suggested, these forms of protest art emphasize collective action to assure the public that help is still out there.

The Latest

Required Reading

This week, the Getty Museum is returning ancient terracottas to Italy, parsing an antisemitic mural at Documenta, an ancient gold find in Denmark, a new puritanism, slavery in early Christianity, and much more.

Billy Anania

Billy Anania is an editor, critic, and journalist in New York City whose work focuses on political economy in the cultural industries and the history of art in global liberation movements.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.