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A charity helping women circumvent Poland’s strict abortion laws got an influx of donations after a TikToker put the spotlight on it

May 18, 2022, 11:00 AM UTC

Last week, U.K.-based TikTok influencer Max Klymenko posted a video of himself calling Abortion Support Network, a group that helps Polish women seek abortions despite the country’s tight restrictions on the procedure. In a video of the call, he made a €7,000 ($7,300) donation, enough for 100 packages of abortion pills to be sent to Poland or to fund around five abortions for women seeking them elsewhere. 

The video has since garnered over half a million views, giving the group greater visibility. Over the same time, Abortion Support Network says it has seen an influx in donations, which it partly attributes to the TikTok clip. 

Klymenko, Ukrainian who has lived in the U.K. for the past decade, told Fortune that he was prompted to post his TikTok video after learning about Poland’s abortion laws, among the strictest in Europe. Since the 1990s, Poland has only allowed abortions in the case of rape or when a mother’s life is at risk.

Klymenko, who has 2.5 million followers on TikTok, was particularly concerned about Ukrainians caught up in the war fleeing to Poland and who are seeking abortions but are unable to access care. In his TikTok clip, he says he’s heard reports of Ukrainian women being raped by Russian soldiers and getting pregnant.

“This is close to my heart because this could be a friend of mine, this could be my family” Klymenko says about his focus on abortions.

Before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Klymenko’s TikTok account was a mix of life hacks, news, and career advice. But since March, it has shifted to mostly discussing the war.

Abortion Support Network, or ASN, is among six organizations in four countries that make up Abortion Without Borders, a Poland-based initiative helping Poles access abortions either in the country via abortion pills or abroad in clinics. In 2020, Poland, a country of 37 million, only performed two procedures based on rape.

“Abortions Without Borders is set up in such a way to protect the people who are in Poland from criminal prosecution,” says Mara Clarke, ASN’s founder. In Poland, it’s legal to manage your own abortion, but illegal to help someone else access one.

“One of our colleagues is actually facing three years in prison for helping the woman in Poland get an abortion,” Clarke says. 

She says ASN uses donations to pay the salaries of its helpline staff and to directly fund abortions. “All of our work has always been funded by individuals,” she says.

While most women are able to use pills to induce abortions, anyone pregnant for over 12 weeks must travel abroad, says Clarke. 

“The cost of a second trimester termination is between €885 and €2,450 depending on how far along you are in which country you get an appointment in, plus the cost of travel and accommodation,” she says.

Between March 1 and May 15, 397 women displaced by the Ukraine conflict have contacted ASN for help, on top of the organization’s usual number of clients. 

Says Clarke, “We have been overwhelmed with the generosity of people who are horrified by the situation in Ukraine and the situation faced by people from Ukraine who need abortions who find themselves in the country with the second worst abortion law in all of Europe.”

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