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With Roe v. Wade expected to be overturned, underground Aunties Networks seek to help women obtain legal abortions

Auntie Network USA offers aid to women seeking abortions
Auntie Network USA offers aid to women seeking abortions 02:25

CHICAGO (CBS) -- With the U.S. Supreme Court widely expected to overturn Roe v. Wade, thousands of women are reaching out to underground support groups for help.

The groups are known as Auntie Networks, and they specialize in helping women obtain safe and legal abortions. CBS 2 Investigator Megan Hickey spoke with two organizers as they were preparing for the justices' decision.

Lisa in Texas and Vlada in Oregon are administrators for the nearly 10,000-member Facebook group Auntie Network USA. The group is dedicated to offering aid to patients seeking safe, legal abortions.

"Our mission is to help women and there's absolutely no law and no power on this earth that's going to stand in the way," said Vlada.

Lisa noted that mission often meets with hostility.

"I've absolutely gotten, you know DMs, from - I mean, unfortunately, women telling me I'm like the devil incarnate, or that I'm like the worst of existence," she said.

Auntie Network USA helps arrange rides and other transportation to states with access. The group also finds its so-called "nieces" a place to stay, and helps them with comfort items after the procedure.

Vlada and Lisa have been working to connect volunteer "aunties" across the country to "nieces" in need since 2019. They saw a surge in membership after Texas' near-total ban on abortion went into effect.

In October of last year – about a month after the Texas law went into effect – Hickey spoke to a woman who came all the way to Chicago for an abortion.

"It was just so much more pressure on me, even with the situation at hand," she said. "No woman should ever experience something like this."

Lisa and Vlada are predicting another surge if Roe v. Wade is officially overturned.

"Now that we have like a system that works - and we know it works, and we know it's safe - I think it's okay for us to talk about it a little bit. I think also to give people a sense of hope - you're not alone," said Lisa.

There are other Auntie Networks out there — including a subreddit with more than 77,000 members. But Lisa and Vlada say their program is a bit different because they verify everyone's identity via video chat.

"We do most of our work behind the scenes," Vlada said.

When it comes to so-called "safe haven" states like Illinois, Auntie Network USA has about as many volunteers here as they do in neighboring states - where access will likely be cut off if Roe v. Wade is overturned.

Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan are all among the 26 states that are certain or likely to ban abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Iowa, Kentucky, and Missouri are also on the last – which would leave Illinois completely surrounded by states where abortion would no longer be legal.

Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, and Wyoming are also on that list.

"I tell people like, 'Why do you do this?' I say, this is a hill I will die every single time," Lisa said.

"I will join Lisa up there on the hill," added Vlada.

Illinois Right to Life said they are well aware of the growth of the "Aunties" movement. A spokesperson issued this statement:

"The growth of the 'Aunties' movement perpetuates the fear which permeates the pro-abortion movement: Fear of other's opinions, fear of poverty, fear of the unknown. The 'Aunties' Reddit thread, while filled with seeming care, has an undercurrent of this fear. Women facing untimely, unplanned pregnancies deserve hope, they deserve solutions that will help them as well as their children. They deserve better than abortion."

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