Incensed by the spate of legislation severely limiting abortion rights in several states, the manager of a hotel in a small Michigan town posted an unusual offer on Facebook last month.
“Dear sisters,” Shelley O’Brien began in a post addressed to those who live in the states that have or are trying to restrict access to abortion. “We cannot do anything about the way you are being treated in your home-state,” she wrote. “But, if you can make it to Michigan, we will support you with several nights lodging, and transportation to and from your appointment” for abortion services.
The “support” includes staying at the Yale Hotel for free.
O’Brien, 55, runs the hotel in Yale, Michigan. According to The Detroit Free Press, the community near the state’s eastern boundary is perhaps best known for its annual Bologna Festival, which takes place every July. It’s a largely conservative town with a population of under 2,000.
O’Brien, a mother of three and a grandmother of seven, told CNN on Saturday that she felt compelled to take a stand after watching such states as Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Ohio and Kentucky pass bills that seek to significantly impede a woman’s access to abortion.
Efforts also have been made in Michigan to restrict abortion rights, including introduction last month in the state Legislature of a so-called heartbeat bill that would ban the procedures after a fetal heartbeat is detected ― a point when many women remain unaware that they are pregnant.
“Women should have autonomy over their own bodies,” O’Brien said. “If we do not have control over our own bodies, then this is not a free world.”
In her Facebook post, which garnered thousands of reactions, O’Brien promised that she’d provide several nights free lodging at the Yale Hotel, as well as “transportation to and from your appointment” for out-of-state women seeking an abortion in Michigan.
Speaking to the Free Press last week, O’Brien clarified that her offer “extends to anybody” seeking an abortion who may need support, including women who live in parts of her own state where abortion providers are few and far between. The paper noted that there are no abortion providers in Yale, but women can find such services an hour’s drive away.
O’Brien said no one had yet taken her up on her offer, but she has a room set aside for when someone does. She told CNN that she’d dubbed the space “Jane’s Room” in honor of Jane Roe, the pseudonym given to Norma McCorvey, the plaintiff in the Roe v. Wade case that in 1973 established a woman’s right to an abortion throughout the U.S.
“The only way this is going to change is if people are willing to risk something,” O’Brien, who’s been called a “baby killer” for her views, told CNN. “The reason they get away with stuff like this is because nobody wants to make waves, nobody wants to give up anything for it.”