An Unlikely Form of Abortion Rights Protest: Crossword Puzzles

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Three women sit around a rectangular kitchen table, each working on individual laptops. They are all wearing sleeveless tank tops with rainbow colors on the front.
The editors of fundraising puzzle pack, 'These Puzzles Fund Abortion Too': Rachel Fabi, Brooke Husic and Claire Rimkus. (Courtesy of Rachel Fabi)

"I have been angry and anxious about reproductive rights for a long time," says Kate Chin Park, a custom furniture maker from Oakland. "And unfortunately, because abortion services have been made so scarce in many places, donations from private individuals are a really important way to try and get people access to the care they need."

Chin Park is one of four Bay Area creatives who constructed crossword designs for These Puzzles Fund Abortion Too, a pack of 16 puzzles created to raise money for reproductive rights, which launched on March 1. Chin Park describes her fellow puzzle-builders on the project as "the most interesting, envelope-pushing, brilliant, and funny people writing crosswords today."

Chin Park's contribution was an acrostic titled "Intolerable!" that she designed with her friend Chris Piuma. "I'm appreciative that this project specifically seeks to benefit people in severely under-served areas," she says. "I'm just extremely grateful to be a small part of it."

TPFA2.

These Puzzles Fund Abortion Too (TPFA2) is the follow-up to a 2020 crossword pack curated by Rachel Fabi. Fabi is an assistant professor of bioethics and humanities and regular New York Times crossword contributor, based in Syracuse, NY. She was inspired to launch the project after seeing similar packs by Queer Qrosswords and Women of Letters. After donating a single crossword design to a 2019 fundraiser for the Baltimore Abortion Fund, Fabi suspected a full set would have a much greater impact. It did—These Puzzles Fund Abortion went on to raise nearly $65,000.

"The 2020 pack raised so much more money than any of us expected," Fabi tells KQED Arts, "so this year I decided to do it again."

Sponsored

Fabi shared editing duties this time around with her friends and fellow puzzle-makers Brooke Husic and Claire Rimkus. "They have been absolutely instrumental to its success," Fabi emphasizes. "Both iterations of TPFA drew on our constructor friends, and we wanted to feature a mix of established constructors and newer voices. It may be a coincidence that so many are from the Bay Area, [but] I think there is a lot of constructing talent there."

a crossword puzzle designed to look like the female reproductive system
"Mass Hysteria," a puzzle constructed by Rachel Fabi and Rebecca Goldstein, uses grid art to depict the female reproductive system. (Courtesy of Rachel Fabi)

Other Bay Area contributors include Rebecca Goldstein from Albany, who made "Mass Hysteria"; Enrique Henestroza Anguiano from Oakland, who built "Fair & Right"; and Kate Hawkins, also from Oakland, who created “safe, legal, and now by mail."

Hawkins' puzzle, as the title indicates, contains several answers on the theme of emergency contraception. A product manager who regularly constructs puzzles for publications like the New York Times, USA Today and The Atlantic, Hawkins says she jumped at the chance to be part of the project.

"When the opportunity arises to do a thing I love," Hawkins says, "to support a cause I believe so deeply in—access to abortion and reproductive care for everyone—well, I don’t think I’ve ever responded to any email faster. I hope this puzzle pack helps raise funds and encourages donations, especially at a time when access to these basic human rights is unfortunately in jeopardy."

Hawkins says she has been blown away by the tight-knit nature of the crossword constructing community since she joined their ranks in 2019. "This community is filled with awesome people who are incredibly generous with their time," she says. "The level of talent far exceeds the number of paid publishing opportunities, which, for better or worse, has led to a vibrant indie scene. That includes some very organized folks wrangling puzzle packs like this into being."

TPFA2 has already raised more than $30,000, and will be available until the end of May. Donations will benefit seven reproductive rights organizations: the Baltimore Abortion Fund, Tampa Bay Abortion Fund, Kentucky Health Justice Network, New York Abortion Access Fund, Midwest Access Coalition, Eastern Massachusetts Fund and Indigenous Women Rising.

"I'd love for this pack to raise awareness that reproductive justice means more than just protecting Roe v. Wade," Fabi says. "Even though someone may have a legal right to an abortion, that right is meaningless without the ability to exercise it."

"Ideally though," she concludes, "my dream is to live in a world where access to abortion care is guaranteed to everyone who chooses it."

'These Puzzles Fund Abortion Too' can be purchased at the National Network of Abortion Funds website.