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Last week, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, ending the decades-long constitutional right to abortion and effectively rendering legal abortions unavailable in large swaths of the United States.
Within days, members of the crypto community sprang to action, forming decentralized autonomous organizations (DAO) and non-fungible token (NFT) projects aimed at raising funds (in crypto, of course) for pro-choice organizations.
ChoiceDAO – whose core contributors include the founder of Girls Who Code and former core contributors to ConstitutionDAO and Ukraine DAO – is attempting to raise $1 million for various reproductive rights organizations. LegalAbortion.eth, an initiative by UnicornDAO, offers would-be donors a wallet to which they can send crypto donations, which will then be converted to fiat and sent to seven preselected pro-choice groups. CowgirlDAO is selling an NFT collection to raise funds for abortion access, with a goal of $3 million.
The crypto community’s response so far has been tepid compared with other collective fundraising efforts. Donations to pro-choice campaigns so far have been a trickle compared with the outpouring of support for Ukraine following Russia’s invasion. (At least $20 million in crypto was donated to Ukrainian military and civilian causes within three days of the start of that conflict, and the sum now stands at $135 million.)
Nadya Tolokonnikova, a member of Russian feminist activist group Pussy Riot and the leader of UnicornDAO, told CoinDesk that she thinks the crypto community should be more vocal about the loss of bodily autonomy in the wake of Roe’s overturn.
“I’ve seen people who identify themselves as libertarians and support people’s rights and non-invasion of governments into people’s rights and people’s bodies – they support things like Canadian truck drivers, but now are being silent about what’s happening to women,” Tolokonnikova told CoinDesk.
“I want to encourage people to be more empathetic, because I know that the space still disproportionately consists of mostly men,” Tolokonnikova added. “Maybe it’s more difficult for them to get connected to a problem that does not concern them directly.”
A missed opportunity for crypto?
Some privacy and crypto advocates, including Fight for the Future’s Lia Holland, see the industry’s underwhelming reaction to the end of Roe as a missed opportunity to showcase the real-world utility of crypto.
“This may be the moment where the rubber meets the road on the promises that crypto and blockchain make,” said Holland, who serves as campaigns and communications director for Fight for the Future. “We have not truly seen DAOs – or crypto, quite frankly – in the U.S. prove themselves as tools for marginalized people to fight oppression directly and evade state surveillance on the scale that surveillance is about to be conducted.”
Holland told CoinDesk that, in the case of abortion access, the utility of Web3 could go far beyond fundraising.
“Digital rights activists are concerned that we will see similar deplatforming, both in terms of financial and essential health information and support that we saw in the wake of the passage of FOSTA-SESTA,” Holland said, referring to a controversial law meant to stymie sex trafficking, which led to a wave of censorship and deplatforming at Web2 companies.
Big Tech’s censorship of abortion information has already begun. Facebook and Instagram have cracked down on posts offering abortion pills, deleting them and banning the transgressors. Facebook’s parent company, Meta (FB), told employees last Friday they were not allowed to openly discuss the ruling on Slack.
Though Holland doesn’t discount the role of fundraising (“It’s a good thing to be doing,” she said), the real benefit could come from establishing a place to share information and offer support without the risk of surveillance and deplatforming that comes with Web2 platforms.
“There could be – and I think, so far has been – an opportunity lost [for the crypto community] to respond to a moment like this by saying, ‘Bitcoin fixes this’ or what have you, which is essentially the conversation that happened when OnlyFans said they were going to stop hosting sex workers under pressure from payment platforms,” Holland said.
“We need the signal of crypto to be acting strongly and responsibly, to provide real utility for the people and organizations that very well may be about to need it the most we’ve ever seen in the history of the internet,” she added.
For its part, ChoiceDAO hopes eventually to become more than a vehicle for crypto fundraising.
“The goal is to kick-start a flywheel of participation that causes the DAO to continue to grow and work on important initiatives in the future,” a spokesperson for the DAO told CoinDesk.
“At the end of the day, focusing on pure capital discounts the community – which in many ways can be more powerful than money.”