This spring, Megan Jeyifo was in the car, dropping her 7-year-old twins at school, when a radio news story mentioned abortion. That’s when Jeyifo’s daughter turned to her brother and matter-of-factly said, “Mom had an abortion.”
“She did?” he responded.
“Yeah,” said her daughter. “She got pregnant, she made herself unpregnant, and then she had us.”
“Oh my God, it is that simple,” Jeyifo remembers thinking. Abortion didn’t have to be shameful, she realized. It could be something people talked about openly. Jeyifo, the executive director of the Chicago Abortion Fund, has come to believe that access isn’t enough — destigmatizing abortion is just as essential.
A week later, a Supreme Court draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked to the press. Jeyifo was heartbroken. But she was also prepared. CAF, which provides financial and logistical support for people seeking an abortion, had for years been dealing with increasingly strict restrictions in the Midwest and beyond. And this year, anticipating Roe’s demise, Jeyifo began building the infrastructure to meet an expected increase in demand, expanding her staff from four people to 15 and deepening ties with more than 50 clinics across seven states.
Sure enough, Roe fell — and around the country, a deluge of new restrictions and outright bans on abortion followed, sharply increasing demand for CAF’s services. In 2019, the year Jeyifo took the helm, the organization helped 824 people; in the first nine months of 2022 alone, it had already heard from 4,700.
“I started this work thinking we would win. I don’t think we will win now,” Jeyifo, who turns 40 in December, says. But she isn’t totally pessimistic. “The people who make me hopeful are our staff and our volunteer case managers.” These are people who spend their time on the phone with clients, offering tangible support — and affirming that the difficulty of getting an abortion doesn’t reflect the morality of making that decision.
Jeyifo’s kids know she’s had an abortion in part because she’s made a point of speaking publicly about it. For her, abortion isn’t just a private, personal experience; it’s also a family matter. That is why CAF funds not just medical procedures and transportation to them but also things like toys and snacks for kids. Jeyifo recalls how one woman traveling here for an abortion in September was planning to leave her two kids and sister in the car while she went in for the procedure. Jeyifo suggested instead that CAF pay for a room in a hotel — one with a pool, so the kids could look back on their trip to Chicago with their mom as a fun experience. “You should be able to access abortion 15 minutes from your house. That is not the current reality,” Jeyifo says. “But what can we offer to make the situation better for you, your kids, and your sister?” There’s no shame in that.