Web3 activists fight for reproductive rights with NFTs, DAOs and protests

Web3 community members are fighting back against the United States Supreme Court’s ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade. 

On June 24, 2022, the landmark court case that previously assured the right to have an abortion was overturned, sparking a backlash among reproductive rights activists in the U.S.

Some activists have turned to Web3 solutions, creating decentralized autonomous orginzations (DAOs) and nonfungible token (NFT) projects focused on raising awareness for women’s reproductive rights.

One of the earliest of these efforts was demonstrated by Nadya Tolokonnikova, a member of the performance activist group Pussy Riot. Tolokonnikova told Cointelegraph that about three weeks ago, members of Pussy Riot and UnicornDAO — a group redistributing wealth and visibility for women-identified and LGBTQ+ people — staged a protest at the Texas State Capitol in response to the leaked draft opinion demonstrating the Supreme Court’s eventual decision to overturn Roe v. Wade. She said:

“The protest was called ‘Matriarchy Now.’ We dropped a giant 45-foot banner from the third floor of the Texas Capitol building in Austin displaying this message. We then minted this an NFT, which was the first political performance art piece we used to raise funds for women’s reproductive rights.”

“Matriarchy Now” protest. Source: Pussy Riot

Crypto fundraising to support reproductive rights

Yet, this effort was just a start for Pussy Riot and UnicornDAO. Tolokonnikova said that the groups launched another NFT collection on July 7 to further support reproductive rights — this time in response to the official overturning of Roe v. Wade. Known as Proof of Protest, John Caldwell, co-founder of UnicornDAO, told Cointelegraph that this NFT collection allows users to “buy feminism” in order to demonstrate their “proof of protest.” 

“Proof of Protest” NFT project. Source: Pussy Riot

According to Tolokonnikova, the visual “bottles of feminism” purchased from this NFT drop stay on the blockchain forever, becoming an integral part of a person’s digital identity. She said:

“Years from now, no one will be able to tell you that you did nothing when womb-owners’ rights were taken away from them. Own your proof of protest. Burn the patriarchy. Rage at the systems of oppression that tell you they own your body. If you don’t have a womb, rage for the rights of your mother, I bet you have one.”

The Proof of Protest NFTs, which launched on Lens Protocol — a Web3 social graph built on the Polygon blockchain — have already been collected by over 1,300 individuals, demonstrating the importance of women’s reproductive rights within the Web3 community.

Bradley Freeman, social growth manager at Aave — the development team behind Lens Protocol — told Cointelegraph that the Pussy Riot NFTs were minted as publications on Lens Protocol and become NFTs once they are collected, which is essentially the same concept as liking a social media post. “Lens Protocol believes in ‘collecting’ content across the web, which makes NFT minting as simple as posting or liking a post,” he explained.

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All funds raised for Pussy Riot’s Proof of Protest NFT drop will support reproductive rights organizations through LegalAbortion.eth, the Ethereum wallet created by UnicornDAO, and Endaoment, a public charity foundation. Alexis Miller, head of donor engagement and strategic partnership lead at Endaoment, told Cointelegraph that the foundation distributes crypto proceeds to seven organizations across America that support reproductive rights. She explained:

“LegalAbortion.eth is a Web3 Ethereum wallet that any NFT creator, decentralized application or decentralized finance protocol can use to donate crypto. The wallet contains a multisignature feature that requires multiple private ‘keys’ or users to sign a transaction, ensuring that multiple key holders remain accountable to one another. All multisig signers for LegalAbortion.eth have agreed upon the ultimate destination of all funds received, Endaoment’s Protect Reproductive Rights fund.”

Miller shared that Endaoment’s reproductive rights fund raised $55,000 from crypto donors immediately following the leaked draft opinion calling for the overturn of Roe v. Wade. “The foundation then distributes these funds equally to the nonprofits we partner with, which include the Center for Reproductive Rights, Fund Texas Choice, SisterSoung Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective and others,” she added.

Although crypto fundraising for women’s reproductive rights organizations only began in May, Miller mentioned that Endaoment has already granted a total of $425,000 to various nonprofits dedicated to helping women. “We have raised this amount between individual donors and through our community. Endaoment’s Protect Reproductive Rights fund has raised $87,000, which includes $17,000 raised through LegalAbortion.eth, along with $42,000 raised through CowgirlDAO, which is selling an NFT collection to support abortion access,” she said.

Although this number is considerably low when compared to other crypto fundraising initiatives — like efforts to support Ukraine in its current conflict, which have already raised millions in crypto donations — Miller believes that funds from donors and partner projects will continue to flow. “We also have a Ukraine fund where we have raised much more in funds, but when the draft opinion was leaked we saw incredible activity, and we saw even more activity when Roe v. Wade was overturned,” she said.

Moreover, the difference these funds are making for recipient nonprofit organizations is noteworthy. Rebecca Dreke, chief operating officer of Fund Texas Choice, told Cointelegraph that when the six-week abortion ban took effect in Texas last year, the organization saw an increase in donors. She added that there were a handful of individuals asking if Fund Texas Choice accepted crypto donations as well. She said:

“We started to look at accepting crypto donations at that time, but it felt overwhelming. So it was serendipitous when Endaoment reached out to us asking if they could help provide us with crypto donations as a third-party nonprofit intermediary. We have received almost $100,000 in funds since they set up crypto donations for us.” 

Dreke added that all funds received are distributed in U.S. dollars, making it easy for the nonprofit to accept. In regard to how the funds will be spent, Dreke explained that donations received will be put toward enabling the mission behind Fund Texas Choice. “We are still dedicated to ensuring equitable abortion access to any Texan that needs it, but we now must examine how this relates in terms of complying with the law.” 

In addition to funds currently being raised to help women navigate their reproductive rights, a number of other projects are in the works. For example, Web3 enthusiasts and a community of activists recently launched ChoiceDAO. Sahar Afrakhan, a core member of ChoiceDAO, told Cointelegraph that the project launched in response to the overturning of Roe v. Wade and aims to help nonprofits and grassroots organizations dedicated to women.

“Our first mission is to raise over $1,000,000 in 26 days for frontline organizations fighting for access to reproductive healthcare. We know this is a decade long fight and we also know that to win, we are going to have to activate new people and new ideas,” she said. Afrakhan mentioned that ChoiceDAO will soon start accepting crypto donations.

Adriana Arce, chief operating officer and founder of the media company Hauss, also told Cointelegraph that she is launching an NFT project to raise funds for both women creators and the National Network of Abortion Funds organization. The project is called Nice F*cking Titties, or NFTs for short. “This project allows women to showcase their breasts or be fully nude in order to demonstrate liberty over their bodies,” Arce said. According to Arce, 5% of the profits generated from “NFTs” will be donated to the National Network of Abortion Funds, while 20% of the profits will go back to the women participants.

Challenges may hamper fundraising 

While it’s notable that the Web3 community is launching initiatives to help support reproductive rights, it remains questionable as to how these projects will be received. For example, the male-dominated culture of the crypto community may find these projects less critical in comparison to other fundraising initiatives. Tolokonnikova is aware of this. However, she believes women’s rights are something the entire Web3 community should take into account:

“We were aware of this reality when we decided to choose crypto as one of our tools for activism. But this isn’t only about women’s rights. It’s human rights. It’s everyone’s right.”

The current bear market is also cause for concern, as donors may be less capable or willing to donate due to bad market conditions. Fortunately, Miller remarked that LegalAbortion.eth hasn’t seen any changes with their endowments. Part of this is due to the fact that LegalAbotion.eth accepts donations in Circle’s native stablecoin USD Coin (USDC).

“Many of the funds we opened last year contain USDC, so people haven’t lost money. People donating in USDC also have the same amount of money to grant to us since the stablecoin is tied to the U.S. dollar,” she noted. And, although ChoiceDAO hasn’t begun accepting crypto donations, Afrakhan mentioned that the community behind the project believes that women’s reproductive rights will be a decade-long fight. Therefore, they are “looking far past the current market conditions.”

How effective will crypto donations prove to be?

Challenges aside, it’s important to examine the overall effectiveness of crypto donations being raised to support women’s reproductive rights. For instance, while crypto donations reached new heights in 2021, industry experts believe that more can be done to help ensure women’s voices are heard. 

Tolokonnikova, for example, explained that she believes the best course of action would be for women to form a nationwide strike.

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“All women in America should stop working to show the world what it would be like without women’s participation. Everyone could then see how the world would suffer without women,” she remarked. Although a general strike would surely make an impact, Tolokonnikova thinks that crypto fundraising is a good initiative at the current moment. “I think this fundraising is effective because it helps real people solve real problems,” she said.

Echoing this, Afrakhan noted that she hopes ChoiceDAO and other social-impact DAOs like UkraineDAO will define the upcoming generation of activists. She said:

“Our hope is that this new model of activism goes beyond reproductive healthcare. Think Fundraising 3.0. Many nonprofits and social movements are hamstrung by capital. We hope to change that by unlocking the potential of the global community in Web3. Any movement can and should tap into this.”

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