When it comes to advocating for abortion access online, the digital realm is just as full of hazards as it is possibilities. For every campaign that attracts media attention, there is bound to be anti-abortion sentiment that crosses the line into cyber-harassment and trolling. Every person who tells their abortion story has to prepare for online attacks, potential doxxing, and rape and death threats.
Abortion rights focused organizations like the National Network of Abortion Funds (NNAF) have also experienced cyber terrorism at the hands of anti-abortion hackers. Given this, it may come as a surprise for some to see a group of gamers fundraising for the abortion access movement. Kahlief Adams’ social justice gaming podcast SpawnOnMe highlights gamers who are doing exciting political work as well as demonstrates the capacity of an abortion funding organization to join a new kind of conversation on a social justice podcast.
Kahlief’s podcast is focused on transforming gaming and the gaming industry so that it can be more inclusive to people of color and all marginalized groups. Beyond this life-long goal, Adams strongly believes, “We can do charitable things in gaming space too!”
Under the “activist gaming” platform he created called “#Spawn4Good,” Adams organized his first social justice event, held last year on Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend in order to attract people who are interested in racial justice into learning about abortion access and funding for people of color. In video game terminology, to “spawn” is to gather in a large group for a singular purpose – an appropriate metaphor for the kind of activism Adams has accomplished. The event was called “Gaming Against Police Brutality” and, in support of #BlackLivesMatter, served as a fundraiser for the Eric Garner Fund. This is how he describes the event:
“I wanted for a weekend to combine two things I love, gaming and political activism. Why not take that time to educate gamers on what I and many saw as a huge societal issue that wasn’t being addressed? I’d been wanting to do this for a while because a constant conversation I hear across age groups from gamers is, ‘I don’t want politics in my games.’ And I wonder ‘What world do you live in where politics doesn’t touch you?’”
One important thing Adams has in common with NNAF is the idea that reproductive justice goes hand in hand with racial justice — when people of color are excluded from online spaces like gaming, it equates with exclusion and injustice that happens on all scales due to the political and socio-economic systems that currently exist. These barriers are so big that they must be breached from every possible angle. That’s how POC (people of color) gamers can support an abortion funding organization like NNAF where the majority of the direct funding they provide for abortion and related needs goes to people of color.
Reproductive justice advocates recently marked the 39th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal Medicaid funding of abortion and continues to create enormous barriers for low-income women of color and other marginalized communities seeking abortion access. In a time of historic income inequality, with a continuing gender and race-based wage gap and policies that have slashed spending on education and social services, 13 million people of reproductive age rely on Medicaid for their health care. This problem was recently addressed by presidential candidate and former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who called for the repeal of the Hyde Amendment.
Yamani Hernandez, Executive Director of the National Network of Abortion Funds, also made a statement in which she emphasized that, “We at NNAF know that a choice that you can’t access is not really a right — it’s a privilege…. We encourage all candidates for office, especially those at the highest echelons of power, to spend time learning about the harmful effects of the Hyde Amendment and other restrictions that make abortion a right for those with economic means, but coerce those without into parenting against their will and plunged into deeper poverty. We also continue to advocate for those politicians to embrace a full spectrum of robust economic support that will help ensure we’re all able to truly exercise our reproductive options and choices, regardless of our income or where we live, to make the decisions we know are best for ourselves and families.”
Adams called upon his network of POC gamers to support for the same reasons Hernandez described. He explains: “I’ve been following repro work through social media for a while, and while there are other gaming charities, not many (if any) are talking about the issue of abortion access or reproductive rights. So I wanted our second fundraising event to focus on abortion funding, rights, and access.”
The live streaming event will start on Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend January 16th at 12:00pm ET and end on Jan 17th at midnight PST. Significantly, the event falls just a few days before the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade on January 22nd. During that time, a series of gamers, mainly women of color, will be streaming as they game and fundraise on Crowdrise towards a goal of $5,000. Many of the games they’ll play will be a mix of well known franchises and newer independent titles with limited violence. In between, lots of facts, infographics, and stories will be shared with an audience who may find out something new about abortion rights in the U.S. The link to the live stream will be: Twitch.tv/spawnonme
“We’re holding the event on MLK weekend because it’s a time when lots of people are reflecting not just on the views of MLK, but on social justice in general. It’s something people are going to be thinking about if you’re in that progressive space, and that’s our audience. And the idea that most people don’t necessarily know the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade is coming up just a few days after that weekend is a nice way to remind people. The fact is that people of color are thinking about abortion access in a way other folks might not be. It’s difficult raising funds for something people feel is controversial, but it’s totally not controversial.”
Adams is right. Knowing that at least one in three cisgender women will have an abortion during the course of their lives means abortion is a necessary part of our healthcare system and should be included in everyone’s insurance coverage. Until the day when restrictive policies like the Hyde Amendment are repealed, NNAF and organizations like it will continue to provide funding for people who need it in order to access abortion.
For more information on the event you can visit SpawnOnMe’s website at http://spawnon.me/spawn4good/.
Contact: Kahlief Adams: Kahlief@spawnon.me
National Network of Abortion Funds: firstname.lastname@example.org