Nearly four months after the landscape of abortion access dramatically changed in the United States, Michelle Colon, a founder of the SHERo abortion fund in Mississippi, sat in a friend’s kitchen on a weekly call with activists from other red states. She wore an “Abortion Freedom Fighter” T-shirt and constantly checked her phone in case someone in crisis was calling. “People think that with the closing of the clinics, we also closed our activity,” she says. “It is the opposite; we are trying to survive, as women now need our help more than ever.”
I come from Poland, a Catholic country whose abortion laws are among the most restrictive in Europe. Inspired by the protests that took place in 2016 to oppose further limits on abortion in my homeland, I began covering reproductive health care around the world. Over the past six years, I’ve photographed and interviewed women who suffered because of such laws, as well as doctors, lawyers and activists in Poland, El Salvador, the Philippines, Egypt, Germany and Ireland.
I spent the first few months of this year in Ukraine, where I documented both human rights abuses against the Ukrainian people and their inspiring defiance. On trips to the American South in the months following the reversal of Roe v. Wade, I found the same combination of strength, pain and resistance.
I traveled mainly to Southern states, and to Illinois, where many women from the South now go for abortions. I met with abortion rights and antiabortion activists, with social and clinic workers, and with women who’d had abortions or carried unwanted or health-threatening pregnancies to term. Though these are often difficult stories to tell, I saw incredible determination in the women with whom I spoke.
Kasia Strek is a photojournalist based in Paris and Warsaw.